Most homeowners have a long list of weeds that pop up and become a nuisance. Sometimes, it’s challenging to figure out which one you’re dealing with.
Crabgrass is a common weed that always makes the list. The name probably sounds familiar. However, you may have questions about what it is or what it looks like.
Others may worry about how it’s different from other weeds they might find on their lawn. Today, you’re going to learn about it and figure out how to kill it naturally.
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What Does Crabgrass Look Like?
Crabgrass is very invasive. When it spreads, your healthy grass can’t grow and might also die. Plus, the grass must compete for nutrients and water from the soil.
There are various crabgrass types. The most common variety looks like a light green, coarse clump of grass. In fact, it earned its name from the sprawling stems, roughly resembling crab legs.
However, other lawn weeds can look like crabgrass. Here are some distinguishing differences between look-alikes and crabgrass:
- Tall Fescue – The main difference here is that tall fescue is a dark green and grows throughout the year. Crabgrass is lighter and stops its growth in the fall.
- Quackgrass – Quackgrass grows up straight. However, crabgrass grows low to the ground and has widespread stems.
- Johnsongrass – With Johnsongrass, the plant is taller, and the leaf blades are wide. There is also a white line going down the middle of the leaves.
- Nimblewill – This weed has narrow, short leaves with a bluish-green color. Since it’s a warm-season grass, it can appear brown and dead in early spring and winter.
When Is the Best Time to Kill Crabgrass?
Many homeowners notice that crabgrass has sprung up and is overtaking the lawn. If you can wait through the summer, it naturally dies in fall. As the temperatures drop, it turns brown and becomes sticklike.
In the winter, you don’t see it growing on the lawn. It also stays dormant throughout the spring. If you can wait, you can reseed in the spring and use various preventative methods to keep it from coming back.
However, if you notice crabgrass growing in the lawn, it’s time to kill it. The first step is to know the plant’s life cycle so that you can eradicate it.
Crabgrass seeds begin germinating when the spring soil temperature reaches 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7°C-15.6°C). Through summer and fall, it produces more seeds to increase numbers.
Since you want to use organic control methods, you have to wait until the weeds are big enough. That way, you can hand pull them at the roots. Do this in the spring before you amend the soil and reseed it with grass.
5 Tips on Getting Rid of Crabgrass without Chemicals
Many gardeners don’t like to use chemicals on their lawns. It’s dangerous to breathe them in and use them. However, it can also damage the grass seeds and prevent them from growing.
Before you learn how to get rid of it naturally, you must know the facts about crabgrass. These include:
- Grows annually from a seed every year
- Loves dry, hot weather, thriving in 80-degree temperatures (26.7°C) and higher
- Picks up steam and grows faster as the lawn grasses start dying
- Takes advantage of any bare patches in the lawn
- Loves those especially hot areas by walkways and driveways
While chemicals can get rid of the crabgrass quickly, they aren’t ideal. They are unsafe and don’t control or prevent the weed from returning. Here are the top tips for eradicating crabgrass without chemicals:
1. Pull It
You can pull the crabgrass out of the ground by hand. To do that, you must first soak the soil. Water that area with a garden hose or sprinkler.
Wait roughly 30 minutes, so the water soaks in. Use a weeding tool or pitchfork to remove young crabgrass. Make sure it’s big enough to take out from the root.
If there’s a large amount of crabgrass, this can take some time. However, it’s a labor of love and can help your lawn be healthier and more beautiful.
Before doing anything else, cover bare patches with sod or compost. This is just a quick fix. You’re going to reseed later.
2. Mow the Lawn Higher
From now on, when you mow the lawn, don’t go lower than 3 inches throughout the spring and summer. Crabgrass requires light to germinate. Tallgrass can shade the soil and keep it cooler.
This means that the weeds can’t germinate and start growing. Crabgrass only takes off when you mow very low or scalp the grass in summer. If you open the lawn to more light, more crabgrass can grow.
3. Reseed the Lawn
Add grass seed to the bare patches on the lawn. It’s often best to over-seed the area in the fall. However, you can reseed in spring or summer if necessary, but make sure to choose the right product.
It’s best to add some organic compost to the area first. Work it deep into the soil to incorporate it. This is going to provide more nutrients for the grass.
Once you seed the area, you should add some straw on top. That way, it keeps weeds from germinating and keeps the soil moist. On top of that, birds can’t easily eat the seeds you’ve sown.
It’s also important to water the newly seeded area many times a day. However, this depends on your soil conditions and heat level. Just make sure that the soil stays moist until the grass seeds sprout.
Whenever the grass gets long enough to mow, you can irrigate deeply and less frequently. Crabgrass is a shallow-rooted weed. Therefore, if you water a lot and for shorter periods, it thrives better.
4. Prevent Future Crabgrass Growth
It is important to fertilize your grass. Use a corn gluten meal product in the spring. Studies have shown that it offers pre-emergent benefits, and it’s safe and non-toxic.
The pre-emergent properties mean that it prevents weed seeds from germinating. If you apply it correctly after your grass seeds germinate, it can control crabgrass.
As the new grass grows, you may have to pull more crabgrass. However, if you inspect the lawn weekly, it shouldn’t take too much time. You’re going to notice fewer weed sprouts with time.
5. Bag It Up
Usually, gardeners keep the lawn clippings where they are. Sometimes, you might rake them to all areas of the lawn. This is a great fertilizer and can put more nutrients into the soil.
However, if you’ve removed a lot of the crabgrass, you don’t want the seeds to go back into the ground. Therefore, you may want to bag the clippings after mowing the crabgrass. That way, you get rid of the seeds and prevent germination.
Bonus Tip: Stay Calm!
Often, it’s hard for gardeners to be calm because their beautiful lawn is now ruined. However, it doesn’t have to stay that way. Don’t beat yourself up about killing the crabgrass in August.
It’s an annual grass. That means it’s going to die in fall or winter, anyway. Focus on killing it at the beginning of the next growing season for best results.
How to Prevent Crabgrass in Garden and Lawn
Most professionals recommend using pre-emergent herbicides to prevent crabgrass from growing again. However, it’s full of chemicals and toxins that are dangerous to the soil and you.
It’s possible to find organic herbicides, but they might not be effective. Overall, it’s better to use natural prevention methods to avoid health issues and damage to the lawn.
Everyone knows that prevention is easier than curing something once it happens. That definitely applies here. The best thing you can do is to have a healthy, thick turf.
That’s going to prevent crabgrass from germinating and establishing itself. With that, it can’t spread out to the rest of the lawn.
Typically, crabgrass thrives in dry, poor soil. Therefore, you should make sure that you keep it watered sufficiently and give it extra nutrients that the grass needs.
Here are a few other tips to consider:
- Aerate the lawn once every year. This adds more oxygen to the soil to help the grass grow and establish roots.
- Dethatch the lawn if you see buildup. You want more grass than anything else.
- Use an organic fertilizer or compost. Spread it around with a rotary spreader or a rake. You can do this twice a year to grow a thick lawn and reduce weeds.
- Make sure that you over-seed the bare patches of earth in early spring/fall. Bare spots can quickly fill with crabgrass or other weeds.
Crabgrass is an annoying weed that can pop up at any time. Though prevention is key, you may need to get rid of it first. These tips are sure to help you remove crabgrass and reseed the lawn.
When you do that, crabgrass doesn’t stand a chance and can’t start growing. However, you also have to know the ways to prevent it from returning.
Now, you have the right ideas and can get the tools and products for the job. Though it can take some time, you don’t have to use chemicals to eradicate crabgrass.