A Complete Homeowner’s Guide to Crabgrass

Most people like some greenery in their garden, and growing grass is the most common way of adding greenery to your garden. While some people have expansive lawns, others just have a small patch of grass outside their home. Grass is aesthetically pleasing, and it can create a fantastic surface for children and pets to play outdoors. Many people are surprised to learn that there are many different varieties of grasses. These come in various shades of greens or yellows and grow to different lengths at different speeds. Therefore, some are more suitable for gardens and lawns than others, as some are only suitable for growing in the wild. One variety of grass that you might see in your garden is crabgrass. So, is this a grass variety that you want in your garden, or something that you should try to get eradicate from your garden? This complete homeowner’s guide to crabgrass tells you everything you need to know.

What is Crabgrass?

The official name of crabgrass is Digitaria. Other names for this type of grass include finger-grass and fonio. This grass grows naturally in both hemispheres in climates that are temperate, tropical, and subtropical. Some types of Digitaria species and their seeds are eaten as food. However, most crabgrasses are considered weeds and lawn pests. According to Scotts, Crabgrass is among the most common lawn weeds found in the United States.

What Does Crabgrass Look Like?

The first thing that you need to know about crabgrass is what it looks like as this will help you to identify it and decide whether or not to remove it from your garden. The Garden Counselor says that it is quite tricky to identify crabgrass as it has the ability to adapt its appearance to different environments and growing circumstances. It is also often confused with other common weeds. The following information should give you some idea of whether it is crabgrass that you are dealing with in your garden or not:

  • The blades of crabgrass are approximately 0.25-inches wide, and this will make it stand out from lawn grass as this has narrower leaves.
  • The stem will grow up in the middle, but the blades angle outwards.
  • The seedlings quickly develop side shoots that grow out as separate branches.
  • Most crabgrasses are a paler shade of green than lawn grass.
  • The seedlings start out a lighter green and then the color deepens as the crabgrass matures.

How Fast Does Crabgrass Grow?

How fast crabgrass grows depends on its growing conditions. Factors that impact on growth include the amount of moisture the weed can get and if it is growing in direct sunlight. Another factor that impacts the speed of growth is the other plants with which the crabgrass is growing as they are competing for the same space, moisture, nutrition, and light. They will grow fastest if they have an open space and direct sunlight.

Varieties of Crabgrass

According to Gardening Know How, there is a total of 33 species of crabgrass. However, many of these are only found in tropical or subtropical environments. The two most common varieties found in the United States are:

  • Short crabgrass- Originally, this was native to Asia and Europe. However, it is now rife in North America. The blades of this grass are smooth and hairless, and it grows to approximately six-inches high.
  • Long crabgrass- Sometimes call hairy crabgrass or large crabgrass, this species was native to Africa, Asia, and Europe. If it is not mowed, it can grow to a height of two feet as it grows so quickly.

There are also two varieties of crabgrass that are less common that are also found in the United States. These are:

  • Southern crabgrass- This is one of the few species of crabgrass that is native to the United States. It is similar in appearance to long crabgrass, but the blades are slightly wider and hairy.
  • Asian crabgrass- Sometimes called tropical crabgrass, this species differs from the others as it has seed head branches that stem from the same place as flowers.

Further to the aforementioned types of crabgrass, there are several more crabgrass species found in the United States that are less common. Many of these are named after the area in which they are most commonly found. These include:

  • India crabgrass- This is a smaller species of crabgrass and the leaves measure less than one-inch in length.
  • Texas crabgrass- These thrive in hot seasons and they prefer dry or rocky soil.
  • Blanket crabgrass-It has short and hairy leaves.

Does Crabgrass Damage Your Lawn?

Sometimes, people are concerned that crabgrass is damaging their lawn. They worry that it will take moisture and nutrients away from the good lawn grass or that it will damage the roots and shade the good grass blades. However, GoodNature points out that crabgrass will not do any harm to the desirable grass as it does not crowd it out.

Is Crabgrass Something That You Would Want to Grow in Your Garden?

Crabgrass is something that most people do not want to have growing in their garden. It stands out from the lawn grass, thus making it look untidy. It is a sprawling weed that can take over large patches of your lawn and spoiling its aesthetic appeal. However, there are others that argue that crabgrass is just a natural grass that is doing no harm. If you are not overly concerned with the appearance of your garden, then it will do no harm to leave it where it is growing. In most circumstances, people prefer to prevent, control, or eradicate crabgrass from their garden.

Does Crabgrass Only Grow on Lawns?

Although crabgrass is described as a lawn weed, this is not the only place that crabgrass can grow. It will grow anywhere if it has enough moisture and light to thrive. It is very easy for the seed to spread beyond your lawn and lay dormant until spring. Therefore, you may notice patches of crabgrass sprouting up in your borders and between paving stones.

Is it Possible to Prevent Crabgrass from Growing?

If you find crabgrass undesirable and do not want it to grow on your lawn, then you may wish to take preventative measures to make sure this weed does not invade your garden. Lowes describes how this weed grows and the measures you can take to prevent it from growing in the first instance. Lowes explains how crabgrass seeds lay dormant in winter and then it sprouts up in spring. They suggest using a pre-emergent herbicide, and the following tips will help you with this process.

  • Apply the pre-emergent herbicide at the end of winter when the ground temperature rises above 60-degrees Fahrenheit. If you cannot measure the temperature, look for shoots beginning to appear in your garden.
  • The time when you can apply will vary depending on weather conditions as you will need to apply it earlier if you have had a warmer winter than usual.
  • If your lawn is newly seeded, mow it three times before you apply the herbicide as this will stop you from damaging the grass seedlings.
  • Follow the instructions on the herbicide and apply it uniformly across your lawn.
  • Always check which weeds a pre-emergent herbicide is intended to treat before use.
  • After you have applied the herbicide, do not aerate or de-thatch the lawn as this can break the chemical barrier.
  • After using herbicide, you should not re-seed your lawn for at least three months.
  • If you have just installed sod or there is already crabgrass present on your lawn, then you should not use a pre-emergent herbicide.

Can You Prevent Crabgrass Without Using Pre-Emergent Herbicides?

Although it is not possible to entirely eliminate the risk of getting crabgrass on your lawn, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk without using pre-emergent herbicides. This is because crabgrass is an opportunistic weed that grows better in certain conditions. By removing these conditions, it is less likely that crabgrass will grow. Some tips include:

  • Get rid of any bare spots on your lawn by sowing grass seeds.
  • Reduce the amount of salt in your lawn because crabgrass loves salty soil. You can do this by aerating your lawn each year.
  • Keeping your lawn a little longer will reduce the likelihood of crabgrass growing, according to university studies. The best height is between 3.5 and four-inches.
  • Crabgrass loves moisture, so avoid watering your lawn too often.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass

You need to take different steps and use different products if the crabgrass is already present on your lawn. DoMyOwn gives some excellent advice on how to get rid of crabgrass using a post-emergent herbicide.

  • Always read the instructions on the post-emergent herbicide as the instructions for use can vary.
  • Try to treat the crabgrass early in its growth cycle because it is much easier to control younger plants. By July, they will probably be too large to kill.
  • To prevent damage to the grass, you will need to water the lawn before applying the herbicide, unless it has recently rained.
  • Do not mow your lawn immediately before or after application and avoid applying if there have been recent drought conditions or when temperatures are higher than 85-degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The next year, try to take preventative measures instead. If you are too late or you were unsuccessful, repeat this process each year.
  • If crabgrass appears and you do not want to use post-emergent herbicides, then you can try hand-pulling the crabgrass. However, this is time-consuming and not the most effective way to rid a lawn of these weeds. This is partly because the roots may remain and also because there are seeds that you cannot see.

Are There Other Undesirable Lawn Weeds?

Crabgrass is not the only variety of grass that you should keep an eye out for and try to eliminate them from your garden. Other common lawn weeds listed by Scotts include:

  • Dandelions- These are a weed that most people can recognize as their bright yellow flowers are well-known. The petal of the flowers turn white and form a puffball that gives the seeds flight in gusts of wind. The leaves of dandelions are edged with teeth and the leaves grow horizontal to the ground. They can grow from spring through to fall.
  • White clover- Also called the three-leaved clover, this weed has bright green leaves in crescent shapes. They are most likely to appear in thin lawns that are grown on nutrient-poor soil from spring until fall.
  • Creeping Charlie- You will see this weed appear on your lawn in spring. Also called ground ivy, this weed has dark green leaves with scalloped edges. The flowers that bloom in spring are purple. This weed grows best in shady and moist areas.
  • Annual bluegrass- The name of this weed does not describe it well. It grows in short grass during spring and early summer in short thin grass, and its blades are short and bright green.
  • Oxalis- The alternative name for this weed is wood sorrel. The leaves are similar to clover in shape, and the yellow flowers bloom in spring and summer. They tend to grow on lawns that are very dry and thin.
  • Dollarweed- Pennywort is another name for this weed, which grows in warmer regions and prefers bare, moist, and shady lawns. The leaves are round with wavy edges and the flowers are white and bloom in the summer.

Crabgrass- The Final Verdict

Crabgrass is an unsightly lawn weed, although it will not do any harm to your lawn. There are several ways you can prevent and remove crabgrass, including using herbicides and taking extra measures to care for your lawn.


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