How to Get Rid of Crabgrass

By Amanda Lutz | January 22, 2024

Crabgrass weed in the middle of a green lawn

Getting rid of a crabgrass problem quickly can prevent damage to your lawn’s appearance and quality. By implementing professional crabgrass removal tactics and exploring do-it-yourself (DIY) methods, you have an opportunity to kill crabgrass for good.

Understanding how crabgrass spreads and what can eradicate it is key to keeping a beautiful and healthy lawn. Our guide explains how to prevent, identify, and treat crabgrass to keep your lawn healthy and beautiful during the growing season.

Overview of Crabgrass

Crabgrass is an annual warm-season weed grass type that rapidly grows and reproduces. Since each plant can produce up to 150,000 grass seeds, this weed easily overtakes large lawns and causes significant problems for homeowners.

Crabgrass invades bare spots of earth on your property, steals nutrients from your lawn, and destroys other vegetation in your yard. It may look like lush new grass at first, but it becomes brown when temperatures start falling.

Without effective preventive measures and professional elimination tactics, this pesky grass can make a gorgeous lawn unsightly in just a few months.

Identifying Crabgrass

Crabgrass may look like normal grass from afar, but it has several features that distinguish it from high-quality grass on your property.

Crabgrass leaves are pale green to yellowish with a distinct half-folded appearance. They have a pronounced midrib and parallel veins, which are visible on both sides.

As crabgrass matures, it produces seedheads known as panicles that consist of multiple branches radiating from a central stem. These seedheads can grow up to 6 inches tall and are often the weed’s most noticeable feature.

Crabgrass has prostrate stems that darken near the ground as their life cycle progresses. When you pull them out, you’ll see a fibrous root system.

The most common types of crabgrass in the United States are hairy crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) and smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum).

Hairy Crabgrass

Here are the key characteristics of hairy crabgrass:

Smooth Crabgrass

Here are the key characteristics of smooth crabgrass:

Preventing Crabgrass

One of the most effective ways to prevent crabgrass from destroying your lawn is to use a preemergent herbicide. This herbicide creates a barrier in the soil’s top layer that prevents crabgrass seeds from germinating and establishing roots.

To achieve the desired results, apply the preemergent herbicide before crabgrass seeds germinate. The ideal time to do this is when the soil temperature reaches around 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and stays this way for three consecutive days. Depending on your local climate, this can happen between March and June.

After applying the preemergent herbicide, lightly water the treated area. This helps activate the crabgrass preventer and allows it to penetrate the soil and form a barrier. Around half an inch of water is sufficient. Don’t overwater, as this can dilute the herbicide and reduce its effect.

Maintaining your lawn at the correct height can also help prevent crabgrass infestations. Set your mower blade to around 2.5 to 3 inches to achieve the ideal height. Taller grass shades the soil, making it harder for crabgrass seeds to sprout and grow.

Proper fertilizer application promotes healthy turf growth and reduces the space available for crabgrass to establish itself. Meanwhile, proper watering practices encourage deep-root growth. Water your lawn with around one inch of water per week, including rainfall. Water in the early morning to minimize evaporation and allow the grass to dry before nighttime.

Removing Established Crabgrass

Take immediate action if you notice crabgrass on your property. Depending on the extent of infestation and your available tools, you can either remove the grass on your own or hire a professional lawn care service.

DIY Methods

If crabgrass hasn’t completely overtaken your lawn, you can try some do-it-yourself (DIY) methods:

While DIY methods can be successful, crabgrass may still come back. Consider exploring professional prevention tactics before the next mowing season begins.  

Professional Lawn Care Services

Contacting professional lawn care services may be the best solution in cases of severe crabgrass infestations or when DIY methods fail.

Expert weed control services include the following:

Lawn care professionals combine selective preemergent and post-emergent herbicides, specialized equipment, and targeted chemical application to remove crabgrass and restore your lawn’s health.

Professionals can also offer ongoing maintenance to prevent future crabgrass infestations. This may include regular fertilization, weed control, aeration, and other professional lawn care practices.

Our Recommendation

Crabgrass is a strong weed that poses serious danger to your lawn’s health, appearance, and quality. The best way to avoid an infestation is to use preemergent herbicides that prevent the weed from growing and reproducing.

If you face severe weed growth, combine herbicides with targeted crabgrass removal methods. Once the grass is gone, consider reviewing your lawn maintenance methods to avoid reinfestation.

Crabgrass FAQ

What time of year does crabgrass germinate?

The time of year crabgrass germinates depends on your local climate. It usually happens when the daily soil temperature at a one-inch depth reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

How long does crabgrass live?

Crabgrass lives for three to five months from germination to seed production. It’s considered an annual weed, meaning that it completes its life cycle within a single year.

Does crabgrass come back every year?

Yes, crabgrass comes back every year. It usually starts growing in the early spring, dies in fall, and then returns next spring. If you’ve had crabgrass in the past, look into preventive measures to help with crabgrass control.

What is the best crabgrass killer?

The best crabgrass killer is a preemergent herbicide that works by preventing seed germination. For severe infestation, it’s best to pair an herbicide with targeted crabgrass removal methods.

How do you stop crabgrass from spreading?

To stop crabgrass from spreading, you need to implement a comprehensive strategy that includes preemergent herbicides, targeted removal tactics, proper watering techniques, and special law maintenance practices.