Identifying & Getting Rid of Crabgrass

You had a beautiful spring green up, but as summer waves hello, so too do weeds. One weed, in particular, has become quite the nuisance…. Crabgrass!

These broad blades emerge in tuffs across your well-manicured grass, marring your sleek, clean lawn with chaotic, unmatching clumps of green.

Spot and stop crabgrass in its tracks with these tips from our team at Green Sphere:

What Does Crabgrass Look Like?

Crabgrass

A weed is a weed, right? After a while, they all start to look the same!

Luckily, there’s only a handful of common lawn weeds here in the Northeast— and we know how to identify and treat them all. Crabgrass, in particular, isn’t too hard to pick out from the bunch.

Here are some quick ways to identify crabgrass from your actual grass or other lawn weeds:

  1. It looks like a stinking crab! The easiest way to identify crabgrass is to remember the root its name: crab. This weed likes to sprawl out and extends its grass shoots from a center stem, resembling the long legs of a crustacean. It even grows low to the ground, just like a crab hugs the ocean floor. Some people also comment that crabgrass resembles the shape of a star, but they didn’t name it stargrass, now did they?
  2. Check the blade width. Crabgrass will typically boast wider blades than any other common grass type in Massachusetts. But don’t be fooled by their seedlings: crabgrass can have a very thin blade when it initially sprouts, resembling a small corn plant until it gets the nutrients it needs to mature.
  3. Feel for coarse texture and pointed blades. Is it coarse to the touch? Are the ends of the grass blades pointy, almost sharp? There are two types of crabgrass: smooth and large. Funny enough, the “smooth” crabgrass isn’t that smooth at all, it’s just not hairy like the large variety. Both types of crabgrass will feel rough against the soft skin of your fingertips and can feel prickly when you poke the blade tips.
  4. Spot the fold line. Crabgrass blades have a fold line down the center of the “leaf.” Look for a distinct indentation.
  5. Search for clumps. This lawn weed grows in large clusters or clumps, commonly on the edge of your lawn or in thin areas where it can spread.

Crabgrass vs. Look-alikes

Crabgrass can resemble a number of other weeds or species in the grass family, depending on the region you live in.

For instance, crabgrass is often mistaken for bromegrass or tall fescue, even goosegrass. Many of these grass-like weeds have a coarse feel and spread aggressively.

Here in Massachusetts, many homeowners often mistake patches of creeping bentgrass for crabgrass. This type of grass is often used on golf courses and has flat blades that sometimes resemble crabgrass, except bentgrass blades often roll up. Seeds can be blown into your property from a neighbor’s lawn mower, and it doesn’t take long for a small patch to spread.

When trying to identify crabgrass, look for the five clues we outlined above. If you’re still unsure, consult a professional landscaper. They’ll be able to spot the weed and offer some solutions for killing the invader.

Getting Rid of Crabgrass

Crabgrass

Crabgrass seeds can begin germinating in the spring when soil temperatures reach roughly 55 °F, and it grows quickly in hot and dry conditions. This is why you’ll commonly find it growing along the edges of driveways, roads and walkways, it loves the radiated heat.

Isolated clumps of crabgrass can be plucked if caught early summer. With your hand or garden tool, pull the plant and its roots out of the soil. Dispose of the remains; never compost them! The seeds can linger in your homemade fertilizer and come back when you nourish your landscape later.

If spot weeding is overwhelming and you’ve got patches all throughout your lawn, you’ll likely need a good herbicide to kill the crabgrass. Be sure it’s safe to use with your particular grass, or consult a landscaping expert about the ideal solution.

Preventing Crabgrass from Growing

This weed loves areas it can spread, and thrives best in thin or bare patches on your lawn. Thick, healthy grass is its worst enemy!

Keep crabgrass away with these tips:

  1. Mow correctly. Here are some summer mowing tips, perfect for keeping your grass strong and vibrant.
  2. Keep your grass hydrated. Know when to water, how much to use and how to maintain moisture to keep dry-loving crabgrass away.
  3. Reseed bare patches. If grass has died or is weary in certain spots, aerate and reseed those areas so crabgrass doesn’t have a chance to make that exposed dirt a home.
  4. Lay down a pre-emergent herbicide or fertilizer with crabgrass preventer. The trick is finding the right window to do this, because applying too early can be ineffective and too late can mean missing the stage of germination when the herbicide works. Waiting for the second or third mowing of spring/summer is typically a good rule of thumb.

Strengthen Your Turf

The key to keeping crabgrass away is building a strong, full turf with deep roots— leaving no space for weeds.

Our turf fertilization program begins early spring, treating your landscape with a pre-emergent crabgrass formula, as well as grub control and fertilizer to maintain a healthy lawn.

Explore our services, or download our free Fertilization ebook for everything you need to know about nourishing your grass, the right way.

Guide to Fertilization

Topics: Crabgrass Prevention