Having a beautiful backyard and a driveway surrounded by smooth green grass is every homeowner’s dream. But no matter how finely mowed your lawn is, crabgrass threatens to ruin it all. As a smart homeowner, you must take some time out to get rid of this lawn ruiner which does more than just making your home look unkempt. There are a lot of ill-effects of crabgrass on your lawns health which eventually impacts the value of your home. In this article, we will tell you all about crabgrass, why it is important to get rid of it and how to get rid of it.
What is crabgrass?
As homeowners, we may have gone to various home improvement stores and come across various sprays and tools that help deal with crabgrass. The question “what is crabgrass?” is bound to cross your mind. So, here is the answer: Crabgrass is an annual grassy weed that grows over your lawn.
Just like the name suggests, this grassy weed sprouts out like a crab’s legs making the whole lawn look like a wild green floor. While this grass weed is native to Europe, it is also very common in North America. It is more prone to growing on lawns that are dried out or burnt under the skin. If your lawn has bald spots where the soil is visible, it may be one of the breeding spaces for crabgrass.
Unlike your lawn grass or the turf grass which is perennial, this weed growth is an annual occurrence. Professional gardeners and home improvers suggest killing crabgrass as it impacts the health of your lawn and the quality of the soil under it. If left untackled, this invasive weed can cover up your lawn in no time.
Because of the myriad types of lawn weeds, identifying crabgrass can be tricky. It is a low growing green weed with a clump in the centre and stems growing out in different directions. The stems angle out to thin leaf blades which grow upwards as new blades appear. The leaves are usually of emerald green colour. If the plant grows out, you will notice purplish streaks on the stem.
Understanding the crabgrass cycle
The life cycle of crabgrass depends on its type and the climate. Usually, crabgrass grows in the months of Spring and Summer. Crabgrass grows by seeds and has an active tillering or branching rate. A single plant can produce more than 150,000 seeds in a season. These weed grass plants easily adapt to the mowing height and are capable of producing seeds at a height as low as 1/2-inch. In their germination duration, they easily get camouflaged under the lawn grass they go on to damage.
Once the weed seeds shed from the plant, they are dormant for some time. Seed germination is related to soil temperature. For the crabgrass seeds to germinate, the soil needs to be over 12.7 degree celsius for one week continuously. The seeds continue to grow from early spring to late summer when the days become shorter. After the vegetative time span, the growth slows down and plants begin their reproductive cycle. The plants that emerge in the earlier half of the growing season grow at a faster rate than the plants that germinate at the end of the growing season. While the frost eventually kills these weed plants, they still continue to harm your lawn while they remain there. Which is why it is important to get rid of them at an early stage.
Preventing crabgrass plants
If your lawn gets infested by crabgrass, it takes a lot of time and effort to get rid of it before you get your lawn ready for the summer time out. As a smart homeowner, you must try to prevent it first. Here are some ways in which you can protect your lawn by proper crabgrass control:
- Ensure proper height during mowing: If your lawn has a turf grass, set your mower at a 3-inch cut. For lawns with Southern zoysia grass, the mower should be set at a height of at 1 to 2 inches. . Mowing higher allows the grass to shade and cool the soil thereby making the conditions difficult for the germination of crabgrass. If your lawn has a turf grass, set your mower at a 3-inch cut. For lawns with Southern zoysia grass, the mower should be set at a height of at 1 to 2 inches. . Mowing higher allows the grass to shade and cool the soil thereby making the conditions difficult for the germination of crabgrass.
- Safeguard your lawn: It is always better to have professional advice on the prevention of crabgrass. If you have seen early growth of crabgrass, treat your lawn with various sprays and soil pesticides. Depending on the type of your lawn grass, you can choose from a variety of sprays that help prevent the further growth of this weed.
- Remove the saplings at an earlier stage: It is easier to get rid of this weed grass at its early growing stage than it is in its mature stage. If they are visible to your eagle eye, you can also hand pluck these saplings and then treat this area with a chemical. Since this task requires proper identification of the weed grass and application of the chemical, taking professional help is always advised.
- Avoid adding fertilizers to your lawn during summer: The fertilizers you add in summer months may not fertilize your lawn grass but help aid the germination of weed grass instead. These fertilizers make the overall temperature of your soil higher which makes the soil conducive to weed growth and reverses crabgrass control.
- Treat the bald spots: If there are some parts of your lawn that do not have a grass cover, plant new turf on it and water it properly.
- Use herbicides at the right time: Herbicides help curb the growth of one or two saplings or of the sapling we see at an early stage. Use herbicides during the months of April and May when the temperature of the soil gets over 12 degrees celsius.
Before knowing how to get rid of crabgrass, getting to know how to maintain your lawn and keep it free from weed is important.There are some simple steps that you can take to make your lawn healthy and free of weed grass. Here are a few ways in which you can do so:
Deep water your lawn: If you deep water your lawn in the early months of spring, it will help keep the soil cool and stop new weed grass saplings from growing.
Mow your lawn regularly: Do not let the grass run wild on your lawn. Mowing the lawn properly keeps the moisture balance and allows the wind to run through soil. This helps in proper maintenance of your lawn and enriches the soil.
Keep your grass green: If your grass has dried out, ensure that you plant fresh grass and maintain the new grass regularly.
Killing existing crabgrass plants
If you find your lawn covered with crabgrass, you need landscaping professionals to scrape it away from your lawn and revive the perennial grass beneath it. There are many tools and sprays that work as crabgrass killers. Getting rid of this grass can be a tedious and tiring process, even if one sapling or plant is left behind, it can regrow and make the whole lawn work a wasted effort. That is why, many homeowners go for proper inspection and removal of this weed grass in the early months of summer. Since this grass easily camouflages with your lawn grass, it is important to properly identify and remove this grass before it germinates rapidly.
Here are the steps involved in crabgrass removal:
Hand pluck the saplings: You need a garden wender tool to pluck the clumps out by their very roots. The claw and plunger on this tool goes deep down the soul and plucks the roots out. During this process, it is important to ensure that the neighbouring or underlying grass is not rooted out.
Treat the area with chemical killers: If the infestation is at an early stage, you can use post-emergent herbicide to treat your lawn. If the infestation has covered the whole lawn, you need chemical treatments. Depending on the type of grass you have, you must choose the appropriate chemical treatment/spray. Most sprays take 1-3 days to treat your lawn after which you must use tools to get rid of the waste and dried leaves. After spraying the treatment, wait for the prescribed time before watering your lawn.
Repair the lawn damage: Usually, getting rid of crabgrass can leave many bald spots on your lawn. Plant new perennial grass seeds to treat your lawn and prepare it to be enjoyed again by deeply watering it.
- What causes crabgrass?
Usually crabgrass is caused due to an increase in the temperature that makes the soil conducive for the germination of its seeds. This is why when the season changes to late spring and summer, many lawns see the growth of crabgrass. The increase in its infestation is caused due to the lack of moisture in the soil and due to bad soil health. This grass can also be caused by overwatering or clogging of the soil. If your mower is set at a lower blade, you can experience the growth of this weed grass in the months of summer.
- Will vinegar kill crabgrass?
Many homeowners use vinegar sprays for crabgrass control. However, vinegar does not help treat the root of these weed plants. Moreover, vinegar does not help in getting rid of major lawn infestation which requires sprays, tools and manual labour.
- When should you kill crabgrass?
Removing crabgrass at an early stage is always better as it helps keep the rest of the lawn safe. Killing the crabgrass in the months of April and May is recommended by many home improvers and landscapers. This helps reduce the cost, effort and time that you may have to put in during later stages when infestation has grown to the larger lawn.
- Does mowing crabgrass spread it?
No, mowing the lawn at the right time and at the right height helps curb the spread of this weed grass. If mowing is not done properly, the seeds start tillering and branch out the rest of your farm.
- Does baking soda kill crabgrass?
Baking soda is helpful in killing crabgrass at early stages. However, its effectiveness also depends on the stage at which the weed grass is and the general soil type of your lawn.
- Why is crabgrass so bad?
Crabgrass is considered bad because once it hits your lawn, it requires constant efforts to remove it year after year. It usually feeds on the nutrients of the grass below thereby making your lawn look dry and lifeless. If this weed grass grows in full bloom, it happens to make the whole lawn look wild.
This opportunistic plant grows in the summer and establishes itself in the lawn if unnoticed. In its earlier stage, it is difficult to identify this plant and due its rapid germination rate, getting rid of crabgrass in earlier stages is important.
While this grass is an annual growth, it acts like a perennial infestation which requires seasonal investments.
This grass usually has cosmetic ill-effects that may hamper the overall real estate value of your home.
- Do I need to pull dead crabgrass?
Yes, pulling crabgrass is always recommended. This allows your perennial grass to grow properly and make your lawn look fresher and greener. Many landscapers suggest that removing the dead crabgrass helps in giving wider space to the underlying grass.
- What is the best time to apply crabgrass preventer?
Spring is the best time to apply crabgrass preventer on your lawn. This is when the temperature of the soil goes a little over 12.7 degree celsius making it a suitable climate for this weed plant to grow.
- Do crabgrass roots die in winter?
The frost usually kills this weed grass. During the winter months, crabgrass is in its dormant stage and they start germinating again in the winter months if not treated properly.