Crabgrass is one of the most tenacious weeds that a gardener has to contend with. Crabgrass control can feel like a running battle; with the right approach, though, you can get the better of this common nuisance plant.
Crabgrass is the common name for Panicum sanguinale, a fast-spreading and hard-to-eradicate weed. Named for its low growth and crooked stems that resemble crab's legs, crabgrass creates ugly bald spots on lawns and grassy areas and crowds out crops and flowering plants. When you mow your lawn too closely (down to half an inch), crabgrass reveals itself as thin, bare patches in the grass. Crabgrass thrives in hot and dry conditions, a characteristic that often gives it an advantage over other grass species and allows it to take over.
Crabgrass doesn’t only spread through growth; it is also a prolific seed producer. It only lives for a single season and dies off in the winter, but thousands of crabgrass seeds can live in the soil and produce many more weeds in the spring.
The best way to get rid of crabgrass is to kill or physically remove every plant from the soil. This can be easier said than done, given the spreading habit of crabgrass and the many seeds it produces.
If there are only a few crabgrass patches in your lawn or garden bed, you can get rid of this tenacious weed by hand-pulling or using a weeder tool. Crabgrass can regrow if any of the roots are left in the soil, so make sure to get as much of the root as you can.
For larger patches of crabgrass, you might want to consider smothering it with a thick layer of mulch or another object to block the sunlight. This is a good option if you're clearing the ground for a garden or flowerbed. Lay down a thick layer of mulch -- at least three inches -- and ensure that all the crabgrass is completely covered. You can also use black plastic, landscape fabric, newspaper, or paver blocks to smother the weeds. If there are other plants or grasses nearby that you want to preserve, make sure they're not covered.
For isolated patches of crabgrass, you can use boiling water to kill the plant. Make sure the soil is thoroughly saturated with water at boiling temperatures. This might require multiple applications to kill the crabgrass completely.
For a safe alternative to glyphosate or other harsh herbicides, you can also spot-treat crabgrass patches with a natural weed killer, such as Earth's Ally Weed and Grass Killer, made with sea salt, vinegar and soap. This solution is safe for use around children and pets.
Your first line of defense against crabgrass is a healthy lawn. Mowing too aggressively can damage the turf and encourage weeds to take hold. Don't mow your lawn any lower than three inches. If you do spot crabgrass emerging, remove it right away by hand-pulling or using a weeder tool. Re-seed and overseed your lawn if it starts to look a little thin. When bare spots emerge, repair them with grass seed or new sod.
Water your lawn regularly but not too frequently, making sure that the sod is thoroughly soaked. Finally, be sure to include soil aeration in your maintenance schedule to reduce compaction and help grass roots grow deeper, creating a stronger, healthier lawn.
If you struggle with crabgrass overtaking patio areas and mulch beds, turn to Earth's Ally Weed and Grass Killer. Using the power of sea salt and the sun, Earth’s Ally Weed and Grass Killer tackles not only crabgrass, but other common broadleaf weeds like dandelion, clover and ivy. This natural crabgrass killer solution is made from safe household ingredients and kills weeds down to the roots.