What is Crabgrass?
Crabgrass or ‘Digitaria’ as it is also known is a grass native to warmer areas and/or tropical regions. It is most commonly known as crabgrass but can also be called finger-grass. No one likes crabgrass, it is a weed and you don’t want it in your nice looking lawn. That is why we have dedicated this page to being the ultimate resource on how to get rid of Crabgrass from your backyard. In saying that, the seeds from the fonio variant of Digitaria can be roasted and crushed into a flour for eating as porridge or even for use in the fermentation of beer.
Crabgrass originated from Eurasia and is seen all across the USA. It is an annual weed, meaning that it germinated, seeds and then later dies all within a twelve month period.
Fonio is popular is some parts of Africa for its food uses, both for humans and also for cattle. In the USA however, it is mainly known as a weed and has little practical benefits.
Crabgrass has finger-like inflorescences hence why it is sometime referred to as ‘finger-grass’. It is also known as summer grass or water grass. It is sometimes confused with goosegrass.
The different types of crabgrass are known to grow to around 6 inches or 2 feet tall if you don’t mow them.
If you have any suggestions for additional crabgrass hints/tips/advice please contact us.
How did I get crabgrass in my lawn?
If you have a thin lawn that doesn’t receive much water and you don’t fertilize it often and/or it doesn’t have any thorough drainage, you will probably suffer from crabgrass growth. The bad news is Crabgrass can produce hundreds and thousands worth of seeds annually which means it is very quick to spread. Late Spring and early Summer is peak germination time for the seeds. Crabgrass will usually die off in Autumn.
Crabgrass will quickly spread from a root low on the ground throughout your backyard lawn. It loves summer conditions because of the hot, sunny, and dry nature of summer days.
Crabgrass control options
There are a few different options to ensure your lawn is crabgrass free.
Keep your lawn healthy
If your lawn is naturally healthy than crabgrass won’t be able to grow. Healthy grass will prevent crabgrass from being able to grow given that crabgrass ceases in Autumn and then needs open patches on the lawn in order to be able to germinate in Spring. Keep your natural grass nice and healthy and never worry about crabgrass again!
Use a preventative herbicide
You can stop crabgrass from growing in the Spring via the use of a herbicide type treatment. There are many popular brands so we won’t go through and name them all here but you should be able to find one easily at your local flower shop, or local hardware store. Most have an active ingredient of dithiopyr or siduron. These herbicides will be in a granular form whilst some come in liquid form. They are known as ‘preemergent herbicides’ and are basically a protective shield for your lawn. The only last point we will mention on herbicides is if you regularly aerate your lawn, do it before you apply the herbicide, as doing so afterwards will ‘puncture’ or ‘break’ the protective shield. It is important to use a preventative herbicide as once the seeds are in the soil they can remain viable for up to 3 years.
As a side note if you want something more natural you can use corn gluten. It is proven to stop crabgrass seed germination and has the added benefit of being a great fertilizer for the grass you want to keep at the same time.
Go a higher setting on your lawn mower
Flick your lawn mower blade setting to one higher to encourage a thick and solid lawn. A thick lawn will assist with preventing crabgrass lawn seed germination. A thick lawn will work to shade the soil which can stop sun from hitting crabgrass seeds. The morale of the story here is, similar to the other tips on this page, keep your natural grass healthy and you will already be half way towards stopping crabgrass from taking hold. If you have mowed your lawn that is currently infected with crabgrass, ensure that you wash your lawn mower blades before mowing again to prevent the spread of seeds. If you want to learn more about the correct lawn mower height to use please check out this website.
Give your lawn a deep water
Don’t be shy with the water for your lawn. Natural grass needs water to stay healthy and if you don’t do it often enough, or for long enough, the grass roots don’t become as strong as they can be. Weakened grass roots means that the grass isn’t at its healthy peak and therefore you are leaving the door open for crabgrass to start growing. When you water your lawn, give it a good 5 inches or so of water. Crabgrass itself is fairly shallow rooted so don’t water frequently as it loves this. Water deeply and on a non-regular basis.
Pull them out by hand
Who said traditional methods can’t still be used! Forget about all those fancy gardening tools and/or latest herbicides and pull out any emerging crabgrass by hand. If you get it early enough you will prevent it from spreading and taking hold of your lawn. The best part about pulling weeds out by hand is that it does no damage to the environment and gets you outdoors into the fresh air.
Go a synthetic lawn
If you have tried everything on this list but you are still unable to control crabgrass then maybe going a synthetic lawn is for you. In all seriousness, they are becoming more and more popular and modern artificial grasses are looking more realistic. We have put this last on the list as there is no maintenance required for synthetic grass so you can just throw your hands in the air and I ‘I tried to grow a real lawn but I failed’ and rest easy knowing your synthetic grass will always look good.
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Landscaping About.com
- Classic Backyards
Sorry we just couldn’t resist posting this photo to end on a funny….this is what crabgrass isn’t