Buckle up! This article is jam packed with adventure, rabbit trails, sarcasm, and education about crabgrass! We are taking a departure for a couple weeks from our ‘The Grass IS Greener Over There!’ series. I wanted to address crabgrass in a two-part article as we have a daily inquiry about crabgrass this time of year. When you are done reading, you are going to be an expert on crabgrass! This week is all about the myths of crabgrass! The next article will delve more into identifying crabgrass and differentiating it from other grassy weeds.
Often times, with these crabgrass inquiries, homeowners are concerned that they have gotten the dreaded grassy weed! A new and unusual grassy weed has shown up in the lawn so they try and investigate a little before they call us. “My mower told me it was crabgrass” “My neighbor said it was crabgrass” “It’s been there since March!”
All of these statements and more lend me to believe a homeowner has fallen victim to misinformation.
“Step Aside Homeowner!
Weed Man is Here!”
(Before I continue, I want you to know that if you call our office, regardless of the weed, or what one might think the weed is, Weed Man is here to eradicate your weeds!)
Trust me when I say it is NOT crabgrass, at least not at this time of year. Even though its early May, some of our technicians have been known to say that they would bet their children that it is NOT crabgrass. We will be seeing it soon, with temps getting close to 90 this week, it should START the germination process SOON, but we won’t be seeing poke through the soil just yet for a few weeks. If you think you see it now, I might say with a smile, “Virtually Impossible”.
You might be skeptical in our confidence. Can I be blunt with you? If you actually have real crabgrass in your lawn, then the laws of nature have ceased to exist in your lawn. Perhaps you have more confidence in your mower, or neighbor. You need a new mower who has better knowledge of his profession/industry, and maybe stop listening to your neighbor – at least in regards to weed identification. My comments obviously are a bit unsparing, and not meant to make one upset. I just want to be very clear that we are confident without any reservations that you do NOT have crabgrass. We are the weed professionals after all!
How do we know it is NOT crabgrass? Why are we so certain, and, if not crabgrass, then what? You still have an unwanted weed in your lawn. There are a lot of ‘myths’ concerning crabgrass, including that it is too expensive to deal with if you don’t catch it early. I will deal with some of these myths later, but I can certainly understand the concern about getting the ‘crabgrass’ in your lawn treated. The last expense a homeowner wants is replacing areas in the lawn due to an out of control weed. To take care of it, we need to identify it, and sometimes that begins with knowing what it is NOT.
Two reasons it is NOT crabgrass:
- Crabgrass is an annual warm season weed. Crabgrass does not hang out year round. It grows in June and lives through August, and generally dies in September/October when it gets cool. If you are seeing a weed you think is crabgrass in March, it is a different weed.
- Crabgrass will germinate when SOIL (not air) temperatures are greater than 55F° to 60F° for 7-10 consecutive days, and continues until soils reach 95F°. Crabgrass has to have consistent SOIL temperatures about 55F°. Soil temperatures are always lower than the ambient air temperature. The first 3 days of May have overnight lows in the 40s. Even with warmer than normal temperatures, it just hasn’t been warm enough for crabgrass to even germinate. Alternatively, when the soil temps cool down in the fall, crabgrass can only survive on the sugars it has stored up in its root system. Once depleted, it will die and decompose.
The weed you are seeing in the lawn is most likely another type of grassy weed. Unfortunately, there are too many different types of weeds that look like crabgrass for us to discuss here. Fortunately, if needed, Weed Man can inspect the weed and help identify it. Again, once identified, you will know how it is best treated.
A good portion of grassy weeds, are easily treated, however there ARE some perennial grassy weeds that are difficult to treat. Weeds commonly mistaken for crabgrass are goose grass, poa, or Bermuda grass. The MOST common weed we see mistaken for crabgrass is quackgrass. Yes, QUACK like a duck. In fact, quackgrass is technically a grass, it’s just really unsightly, so it is considered a weed. Refer to our previous article on the definition of a weed.
Quackgrass is a perennial grass that lives year round for several years. It can slowly spread and take over areas of your lawn if the surrounding grass is weak or nonexistent. The only type of chemical that will eradicate it would be a grass killer, or round up type product. The down side of this is that it will also kill your perennial lawn as well. The alternative is to dig out the quackgrass and plant a desirable grass in the same area.
<—Quackgrass (Not Crabgrass)
There currently is no selective herbicide that will eradicate quackgrass and not kill desirable grass at the same time. If someone formulated one, they would be rich beyond their wildest dreams. The selective herbicides on the market today will only ‘help’ ‘limit’ the spread of quackgrass at best. If anyone is telling you that it can be treated, then be very cautious. Either they are uninformed or are looking to sell you a ‘easy’ solution for a problem that can only be dealt with by doing the hard work involved in it.
Alas, we are getting too far afield. Let this information be a sneak-peek into next week’s article on identifying crabgrass impostor. Let me return back to the subject at hand. Even though, it is still a little too early to see crabgrass, we are fast approaching its growing season. I want you to be prepared to deal with it! There is a lot of misinformation about crabgrass and I wanted to address some of the most common myths:
- Crabgrass is a generic term for an unknown weed. Completely untrue, although a common reality. Many times it is used to describe an unknown weed, without realizing it is a common name for the real plant, Digitaria.
- Once germinated it’s too expensive to deal with – It CAN be expensive, but it does not have to be. Post-Emergent treatment with chemicals can be expensive, but there are other ways to help deal with crabgrass. A change in watering habits and mowing habits will help limit its spread. Mow at a higher level. Crabgrass LOVES, LOVES, LOVES lawns that are cut at a short level. Crabgrass also LOVES frequent short watering. IF you are watering too frequent and mowing too short you are inviting crabgrass to come live in your lawn. Changes in your mowing and watering are should not increase any amount of money you are spending on your lawn. Also crabgrass pulls out of the soil root and all very easily. Pulling weeds, albeit not fun, is always free. Still it is better to treat preventatively when you can.
- Once germinated crabgrass cannot be controlled. This is definitely not true, see the above myth.
- If pre-emergent is not applied in April, it’s too late. Definitely not true. Again, the germination process has not even started yet locally. There is still lots of time to get that pre-emergent down. Crabgrass does not germinate all at once either, so even if you get pre-emergent down a little late, it will still help with crabgrass germinating a little later in the season.
- You have to apply pre-emergent twice to make it effective – Definitely not true. This myth is close related to the previous myth about applying early – In fact, most store bought pre-emergent products are good for about 90 days under perfect conditions. If you are applying at the beginning of April, you will no longer have a barrier in your soil at the end of June. You will have all of July and August to potentially worry about. Most dishonest companies will again tell you to apply early in April so they have an opportunity to sell you more product in early summer. One application of professional grade pre-emergent timed just right will last you the summer (in ideal conditions), when crabgrass will be germinating.
- Areas treated with pre-emergent are 100% protected/immune areas to crabgrass. I wish this myth were true! It would make life so much easier for a homeowner. Pre-emergent is the best and most effective tool that you have against crabgrass, however, it works very much like an immunization. Even the best pre-emergent products will only take care of 90-95% of the seeds germinating in the soil. Some will still slip through. The good news is that crabgrass can be treated chemically post-emergent as well.
- It’s been on my lawn since last year/or March – False! Crabgrass is an annual weed. It germinates from a seed in soil, grows, lives, goes to seed, dies, and decomposes all from late May to early October. Crabgrass is physically gone from lawns by the time December rolls around and will not show up until June, generally speaking.
The long/short of it is that crabgrass is real, but not present on lawns yet as it is too cold. You can treat it preventatively, and if it shows up later in the year, it can be treated as well. Stay tuned for next week’s article to learn how to identify crabgrass and its behaviors as well as some other unwanted weeds. Trust the experts who care for your lawn, call Weed Man if you are worried about crabgrass in your lawn. Whether it is crabgrass, or it’s a different weed, we are here to help take care of ALL your weeds! #wecareforyourlawn 208-888-9911 www.weedmanboise.com