Crabgrass is an annual lawn weed with long stems that grow in clumps that resemble crab legs. It is coarse in texture and light in color. Some variants of crabgrass have purple stems, which makes them easy to identify. Crabgrass often begins to pop up during the late spring and early summer. As the soil temperature begins to rise and more rain begins to fall, it creates the ideal environment for crabgrass to grow. Many find crabgrass to be a tricky weed to pull out due to its tough stems and roots. However, there are a number of steps you can take to get rid of crabgrass, keep it away, and achieve a beautiful lawn!
Why Should Crabgrass Be Removed?
In the summer, many cool-season grasses go semi-dormant due to the heat, which allows crabgrass to take over. Crabgrass can also thrive even in sandy or compacted soil and very hot weather. Once crabgrass takes over, it creates excess competition for water and nutrients. Many people also find crabgrass ugly due to its long stems and tendency to grow in clumps. It also turns brown once it dies, which can ruin the look of an otherwise green lawn.
Use Pre-Emergent on Crabgrass
The easiest way to get rid of crabgrass is to prevent it from growing in the first place. This can be done with the product Crabgrass Pre-emergent or preventer. These use a chemical called Prodiamine to prevent the germination and root development of crabgrass without causing extensive harm to the surrounding turf. When used properly, pre-emergent should last anywhere from four to five months. Pre-emergent comes in both liquid and granular forms. Using a liquid gives you the evenest distribution on top of the grass. However, a granular form is easier to spread if you do not have a sprayer.
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When and How to Use Pre-Emergent
Pre-emergent is best added to lawns before crabgrass has begun to grow. Early or mid-spring are good times. It is also common to spread a small amount of pre-emergent two or more times during the year. If you decide to use crabgrass pre-emergent, make sure to read the instructions carefully. Even though it is a selective herbicide, too much of it can harm your grass. You may not be able to use pre-emergent if your lawn is especially new. Different brands may have different concentrations, so they will give you a suggested amount to use per every 1,000 sqft. or so. Furthermore, many grass species have different tolerance levels to the herbicide, so pay attention if any amounts differ by grass type.
Pre-emergent herbicides only help to prevent these weeds and don’t do anything to kill the plants once they have grown. Even if you already have mature crabgrass plants, you may find crabgrass pre-emergent helpful because it still will prevent new ones. Luckily, you can still take several steps to get rid of these that have already germinated.
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Pulling by Hand
Pulling up mature crabgrass plants is a very difficult task because of their tough roots. Oftentimes if you try to pull it up, it will not remove the entire plant. If any of the root systems remain in the soil, the crabgrass will grow back. Because these weeds has open seed heads, pulling at the plant may even help to spread its seed. However, it is possible to pull these grass up by digging around the weed with a trowel or spade and pulling up some of the surrounding soil with it. You will likely need to do some patch repair once the weed has been removed.
It is, however, easier to pull up crabgrass while it’s still a seedling and its roots have not developed completely. Furthermore, these immature seedlings have closed seed heads, so pulling them is not at all harmful. If you can identify the seedlings well and catch them at the right time, pulling the weeds may be a good option for you.
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Using Selective Herbicides
Another option would be to use a selective herbicide. When using a non-selective herbicide like RoundUp, you do run the risk of damaging the surrounding grass, especially if the application is not perfect. Make sure to look at the ingredients of your herbicide; most products with quinclorac will be perfect for crabgrass treatments. Do note that quinclorac does not do well on all turf types, so be sure to identify yours ahead of time. Also, many of these herbicides may need a second application if they do not kill everything on the first try.
A Final Note
Remember when dealing with any weed, you should prioritize the health of yourself and your grass. Even though these weeds can hurt your lawn’s health as well, you do not want to damage it further. If your lawn is already stressed or dormant, avoid dealing with herbicides; either use non-herbicide methods or wait until your lawn is in a healthier condition. Also, make sure to apply these herbicides when it is dry and not extremely hot. Read all product safety information and take the right precautions to keep yourself safe as well.
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