This time of year, crabgrass rears its ugly head in countless gardens. That’s why so many of us are frantically Googling how to get rid of crabgrass right now. Crabgrass essential looks like a patch of unkempt grass, with leaves that spread out in different directions to resemble a crab. It is an annual weed that can be quite a problem to remove from lawns and patios alike, as can Lion teeth.
These plants will not only survive, but will flourish in hot, dry weather, making them a nuisance despite heat waves. Add to that, crabgrass is bad news for your lawn – it will weaken and limit the nutrients your lawn receives, leading to stunted growth. Also, if left unchecked, crabgrass will spread its seed before it finally dies in the fall, so you could end up with the same problem next year. Don’t worry though: here we’ll walk you through how to get rid of crabgrass step by step, while keeping your precious lawn unscathed.
If your lawn has seen better days, be sure to also check how to revive dead grass and read about it Best time to water the lawn according to experts.
1. Manually pull out weeds
what you will need
• Weeding tool
• Gardening gloves
• Post-emergent herbicide
• Pre-emergent herbicide
If you’re only dealing with a few sporadic clumps of crabgrass, you can remove them by hand with a dedicated tool, such as Grampa’s Weeder ($39.99, Amazon (opens in a new tab)). This will remove each brush in one move. While this method works well for small, immature sections of crabgrass, which you should pull out as soon as you spot them, you do need to be careful if your crabgrass is well established.
If you try to remove a large clump of crabgrass with a hand tool, you might as well uproot a portion of your lawn thanks to the deep root system. On top of that, if your crabgrass has visible seeds that are about to scatter, you could be doing more harm than good, as the seeds will likely fall out and germinate in the hole you just made.
If your crabgrass is likely to cause any damage when removed, use a chemical treatment as mentioned in step two. If the seeds are already exposed, then there is little point in removing the weed as it will only make the problem worse. In this case, it’s best to let it die back naturally in the fall and then treat the soil in the spring, as described in step three.
Be sure to seal any weeds you remove in a garbage bag; seeds can still spread and grow even from here.
2. Chemical treatment
This is another popular method of treating crabgrass and other weeds, and is ideal for widespread growth. Post-emergent herbicides are generally sprayed directly onto the crabgrass rather than onto the entire lawn.
There are a wide variety of treatments available at most department stores, but when choosing one, make sure it’s safe to use on your lawn. You can do this by looking at the label and the list of ingredients. We recommend Scotts TouchUp Weed Control for your lawn ($22.49, Amazon (opens in a new tab)).
This method is ideal if you don’t want to damage your lawn while pulling up crabgrass. However, don’t bother applying it if the grass has already gone to seed. By the time the herbicide takes effect, the seeds will have spread and the treatment will have been wasted.
3. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide
If you want to avoid such an extensive problem next year, you can apply a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring with a spreader. Also known as crabgrass prevention, this will prevent the seeds from germinating when the time comes, ultimately preventing crabgrass growth. Note that you shouldn’t bother trying to grow grass seeds if you are using a pre-emergent herbicide, most types will also prevent these seeds from germinating. Stick to summer or fall for reseeding in this case.
There are a variety of pre-emergent herbicides available at most department stores for the home, such as The Andersons Barricade Professional-Grade Granular Pre-Emergent Weed Control ($73.88, Amazon (opens in a new tab)). However, keep in mind that the key to your success is applying it at the right time and being persistent if you need to reapply it.
You should apply a preemergence herbicide in the spring when the soil is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the flowers are in full bloom. As a guide, you can apply it when it’s time to mow the lawn a second time in the spring. Please note that severe crabgrass growth may require more than one application. Check the herbicide’s label to confirm its shelf life if you think this may be the case. Remember, you don’t need to apply it to the entire lawn, just to the crabgrass hot spots.
If you want to use a natural alternative, cornmeal gluten is another option. This will slow the growth of crabgrass and other weeds. However, it is not as powerful as a chemical application and can be an expensive method.
You can complete your application by purchasing fertilizer that also contains pre-emergent herbicide. That way you can continue to apply it while promoting the health and growth of your lawn. These are not as widely available, but can still be found, such as The Andersons Dimension Pre-Emergent Weed Control with Fertilizer ($74.88, Amazon (opens in a new tab)).
4. Keep your lawn healthy
Finally, if you want to keep crabgrass at bay, it’s imperative that you keep your lawn as healthy as possible. First, make sure your lawn is watered and fertilized regularly, so that it has access to sufficient nutrients. This promotes a thick, strong lawn, which is less likely to be encroached upon by crabgrass. It is a good idea aerate your lawn also for the same reason.
Make sure to mow the grass at the optimal height as well. Use the highest setting on your lawnmower and aim to leave your grass three inches high. In this way, the blades of grass create more shade on the ground, which prevents the growth of crabgrass seeds. Any clippings can be left for natural fertilizer and additional shade.
Remember to cover any empty space in your lawn with fresh grass seed, otherwise you’re just leaving room for it to claim more crabgrass.
For more lawn tips, tricks and how-tos, check out our guides on how to plant grass seed, how to make your lawn greener, how to line your lawn, how to lay grass, 7 common lawn care mistakes which he probably commits. doing right now and 7 ways to revive dead grass.