What is Crabgrass?
Crabgrass is a weed that grows annually, usually in late spring. It’s a grassy weed that is aggressive and stubborn. The name “crabgrass” comes from the way the weed looks: low to the ground, with long leg-like stems. It’s labeled as a pesky weed because it’s hard to completely eradicate it from your lawn. Removing and preventing crabgrass should be an integral part of your lawn care program to ensure you protect your yard from ugly, harmful weeds!
Why Does Crabgrass Grow on My Lawn?
There are a few factors that come into play when determining the origin of crabgrass in your yard. Crabgrass looks for undernourished areas of the lawn that are undernourished — it flourishes in areas that are dried out, scorched by the sun, or thin. When it comes to crabgrass, the sunnier the spot, the faster it grows.
Common Road to Crabgrass
The area in which crabgrass prospers could already exist on your lawn. However, some lawn care mistakes can contribute to this, including:
- Mowing your lawn too short
- Watering too often
- Ignoring dry patches
The details in your lawn care routine could leave your yard vulnerable to crabgrass growth! It’s important to know the threat crabgrass is to your lawn, and pay attention to the sign’s weeds are already growing on your lawn.
Is Crabgrass Harmful to My Lawn?
Crabgrass thrives on allelopathy, which means it releases a toxin that suppresses the growth of surrounding plants. In short, it produces its own herbicide. This effect continues even when the crabgrass is dead! Crabgrass is not only harmful to your lawn but, honestly, it just looks bad. You work so hard to make sure your lawn and garden look great, and weeds just get in the way. While crabgrass lasts all spring and summer, dying in the fall, its impact is even more long-term. Even if you only have one single crabgrass weed, it will have produced thousands of seeds that will come back to haunt your lawn the following spring. Untreated crabgrass grows exponentially the longer it is left alone!
What Does Crabgrass Look Like?
Crabgrass gets its name from its stems and leaves, which look like crab legs. It’s a low-growing weed with a bunch-type growth habit. However, the more it grows, the more it adapts and can change in appearance. Since crabgrass is easier to treat the sooner it invades your lawn, knowing what crabgrass looks like can help you spot it, and remove it, sooner.
When crabgrass is a seedling, it looks similar to a corn plant. The “legs” or stems are spread out and form a star pattern. As the stems grow out to the side, shoots will form in the center, thickening the weed and creating a clump. If crabgrass is forming and your lawn is being regularly mowed, it might take a while for that clump to be visible, as it keeps being mowed down, but the crabgrass is still widening, spreading through your lawn!
A Growing Weed
The way crabgrass looks as it grows is dependent on its environment. Crabgrass loves the sun, so keep an eye out in those sunnier areas. Crabgrass is also one of the fastest-germinating weeds, which means it should sprout up before any others, making it easier to spot. The variation of sunlight crabgrass receives will dictate how thick the weed grows. But no matter how much sunlight it gets, the first sign of a growing crabgrass weed are those wide-spread side branches, looking like crab legs.
Smooth vs. Hairy
Fully-grown crabgrass usually looks one of two ways: smooth or hairy. Smooth crabgrass is common in the north. While its stems are still spread far and wide, they will be smooth, and there won’t be much height to the weed. Hairy crabgrass can be found across the United States. Its stems have hairy, stringy qualities and the plant grows more vertically. Believe it or not, hairy crabgrass can grow up to 48 inches high. Height isn’t the only factor in spotting hairy crabgrass, as the weed usually turns purple.
To better spot a crabgrass plant in its seedling stage, look for a lighter green color. As the weed grows out, it will sometimes show lines of purple along its stems. But the more it grows, the deeper the purple gets. Crabgrass tends to grow in drier spots, so it may have a blue-green hue, which points to a lack of moisture. Signs of color can help you identify crabgrass, but remember the plant adapts and may not have these features!
Crabgrass vs. Bermudagrass
You might be wondering: how can I tell crabgrass from Bermuda glass? They do share similarities, but the legs, blades, and stems of crabgrass are thicker than bermudagrass. So even if you believe you have a smaller, smooth crabgrass growing, compare the blades to indicate if the weed is present. Then, you can decide on how best to treat your lawn.
How Can I Remove Crabgrass from My Lawn?
There are a few steps to include in your lawn care to completely eradicate crabgrass from your lawn and a few different ways to do it. But first, you need to know the goals to achieve to have a fresh, crabgrass-free lawn:
- Make sure the crabgrass seeds do not spread
- Kill any crabgrass plants and remove the dead weeds
- Target bare spots and improve their soil
- Maintain healthy, nutrient soil to avoid undernourished spots (as they are prime crabgrass spots!)
- Keep your lawn high during peak crabgrass season
- Avoid over-watering
- Overall, keep your lawn healthy
- Use preemergence weed control in the spring
If you stay on top of these goals in lawn care, not only will crabgrass be out of your garden, your lawn will be the healthiest (and happiest) it’s ever been!
Seed Control for Lawns
We mentioned before that mowing the lawn can remove that clump in the middle of the crabgrass, which may lessen its appearance. But before you grab the mower, try a rake to move those crab-leg stems from horizontal, to vertical. Not only will this make it easier to remove the crabgrass, but also to prevent the seeds from spreading far and wide. Crabgrass seeds won’t immediately affect your lawn, but if left to spread, it could exponentially increase the amount of crabgrass your lawn has the following spring! Once the crabgrass is vertical, it’s easier to catch all the grass in your initial mowing.
Grip and Rip the Crabgrass!
If you see crabgrass in your lawn and identify it right away, the best thing to do is remove it with your hands ASAP! By using a removal tool or just your hands, you can make sure every bit of crabgrass is removed, executing the thorough job your lawn mower might not be able to handle.
Removing Dead Crabgrass
If you let your crabgrass live through the spring and summer seasons, or only identified the weeds at the end of the season, the weeds may have died before you had a chance to remove them. Dead crabgrass weeds still use allelopathy, which suppresses the growth of other plants, so it’s important to remove the dead weed to avoid any more negative effects on your lawn. Remember those purple streaks we mentioned in growing crabgrass? Keep an eye out for those in your own plants. Purple streaks in plants are a sign of lacking nutrients.
Thicken Your Lawn
Crabgrass loves those dry, under-nourished, sunspots in your lawn. That means one of the best ways to protect your lawn from crabgrass is to make sure those spots do not exist. The first thing to do is assess your lawn to see if there are any thin, dry spots. Those are what you want to target in your first step to preventing crabgrass growth. One of the easiest ways to thicken your lawn is to make sure you have a potent fertilizer. The Liquid Lawn Growth Booster will aid in the growth of the grass in those bare spots to even out your lawn again. A full, growing lawn means fewer weak spots for crabgrass to pop up.
Taller Lawn, Smaller Chance
Once your grass has grown and your lawn is fuller, your weekly lawn care routine may need to change during the prime months that crabgrass grows. Those months are mid-spring through summer. During this time, it’s important to leave your lawn tall. When mentioning common garden mistakes that lead to crabgrass, mowing your lawn too short was one of them. If the grass on your lawn maintains a healthy length then crabgrass seedlings won’t get the sunlight they need to grow. By focusing on keeping taller grass from mid-spring through early fall, you can prevent crabgrass from popping up. Don’t worry, once fall comes around you are free to mow the lawn short again.
Regulate Your Watering Schedule
Crabgrass needs daily water to thrive in your yard, so it’s best to avoid over-watering. You might be thinking: we just told you an under-nourished lawn is susceptible to weed growth, why would watering less be helpful? By using an expert lawn care regimen, a few days a week without water won’t harm your lawn. With the 16-4-8 Liquid Lawn Food, your soil will be enhanced. An enhanced soil holds onto water longer, and the Liquid Lawn Food gives it the nutrients it needs to stay green, strong, and continue to develop roots. Follow it up with the Liquid Lawn Energizer to give your lawn that just-watered freshness.
Crabgrass is an invasive weed that should stay far and away from your manicured lawn. By following a lawn care program dedicated to removing and preventing these weeds, your lawn will stay fresh, thick, and even all year long! Start protecting your lawn today.