Crabgrass might look harmless, but don’t be fooled, this invasive plant species isn’t a welcome guest to your backyard barbecue. Crabgrass is an annual weed that spreads quickly and doesn’t need roots to grow, so it can end up in all corners of your yard. It’s pretty tough— even up against a weed whacker or lawnmower, and since it dies every winter, it leaves unsightly bare patches in the spring. On top of all that, it’s odd horizontal growth pattern makes it a popular hiding spot for invasive pests, so that’s a double-whammy.
Taking a few simple steps to prevent crabgrass will save you time and effort in the long run, because getting rid of crabgrass once it appears can be a bit tedious. The best way to prevent it from popping up is by making sure your yard isn’t an ideal environment for crabgrass to live. A lawn that’s healthy and well taken care of is better equipped to resist weed problems. Crabgrass seeds love hot dry weather, so simply turning the sprinkler on or watering your lawn regularly will help keep it crabgrass-free.
During summer when grass is growing particularly fast, you might be tempted to cut it extra short to avoid having to cut it again for a while. The problem with that is, short grass exposes the soil to more sunlight, and this will create the hot, dry conditions that crabgrass thrives in. Instead, leave your grass a little longer and trim it regularly on one of the top settings for a longer trim.
Pre-emergent weed preventers can be used in the spring to help keep the crabgrass at bay. If your lawn is already pretty healthy and clear of weeds, it’s not really necessary to resort to using an herbicide. However, if your lawn has had some problems in the past, and if you’ve got some dry bare patches from the previous year’s weeds taking up residence, you might want to opt for some weed preventer. Weed preventer stops the seeds from germinating, so spreading a thin layer across the surface of your yard should do the trick.
Since it just stops the seeds from sprouting, you want to make sure you apply the product early enough, because if the crabgrass seeds have already started to germinate, weed preventer isn’t going to do much good. Aim to apply the product once the ground has warmed to around 60 Fahrenheit, but early enough to avoid letting the seeds germinate. Usually once trees have started to bud, it’s a safe time to apply weed preventer. If your lawn was seeded recently, try to wait until you’ve mowed your grass three times before using any herbicides, because this could stop grass seeds from developing as well. Avoid using herbicides altogether if you recently sodded your lawn.
Crabgrass grows long and strong during the hot summer months, and instead of a pre-emergent herbicide, you’ll need a post-emergent one. This type of herbicide can actually do some damage to your grass, so you’ll want to apply it strategically, and sparingly. To help protect your lawn, water it well the day before applying the product, so the roots are safeguarded. Follow the directions on the packaging very carefully, and only apply it to the crabgrass, not in the surrounding area. Do it on a day that’s warm and sunny, because if it rains soon after application or it’s under 60 degrees outside, it might not end up working properly or will get washed away. When you’re done, wait five days and then check your lawn to see if any more crabgrass has appeared. If it’s all clear, you’re good to go, but if you notice any new growth, you can go ahead with another application.
Chemical treatments are quite effective at eliminating crabgrass, but ideally, they should only be used as a last resort, so remember to take good care of your lawn throughout the spring and summer. This way, you can prevent that pesky crabgrass growth before it starts.