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Digitally generated image of grass blades under a blue sky by Stock Exchange user, weirdvis.
I am not a weed vigilante. I do not obsessively seek to control the weeds in my yard. "Live and let live" is usually my philosophy.

Some weeds, however, are just begging for a fight. They spread everywhere and are super-tough to eradicate. Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.) has to be one of the top weeds on most gardeners' lists. It's pretty harmless-looking, pretty even. But it spreads relentlessly by seed, taking over patches of lawn and spreading into garden beds.

Got a crabgrass problem? Check out the following tips and reign it in!

1. Grow a healthy lawn. A thick, healthy lawn means that weeds -- not just crabgrass -- can't grab a hold. What? Lawn not thriving? Crabgrass can only spread where it can get a toe-hold. If your lawn is not thriving in a particular area and crabgrass (or other weeds) are starting to take over, consider planting something else in that spot.

Remember to pamper your lawn if it is struggling. Add a little fertilizer in the fall, and over-seed bare spots to stop weeds from getting established. Water less often, but when you do crack out the hose, give it a deep soaking to encourage strong roots.

2. Consider the location. Often the problem is too much shade. Consider replacing the grass with some other low-growing groundcover such as ivy. If the problem is too much sun -- perhaps on a tough, dry slope -- consider heat-loving perennials such as daylillies or ornamental grasses instead.

3. Mow low. It's recommended that lawns be mowed fairly high to prevent stress to the individual grass plants. If you can, however, mow areas of crabgrass really short over summer. This prevents flowering and re-seeding.

4. Hand-pulling. It's not high-tech, but it works. Wear gloves, grasp each plant at the base, as close as possible to the soil, and pull slowly but firmly. Always wait until right after a generous rainfall before hand-pulling weeds. That way you can coax the entire plant, roots and all, out of the ground.

The only problem is, some weeds are easier to get out of the ground than others, and crabgrass is one of the tough ones. You can try grasping them with a pair of pliers for better leverage.

5. Try herbicides. Crabgrass can be chemically controlled with pre-emergent herbicides applied in late winter, before new growth begins in spring. "Weed-and-feed"-type products often contain pre-emergent herbicides for crabgrass control. The website About has excellent, detailed advice for using pre-emergent herbicides on crabgrass.

If it's already spring or summer and you're staring at a big sprawling patch of crabgrass, you might want to use a regular herbicide such as Roundup. Just be careful where you spray it, because this stuff will kill your lawn, too!

For more weed control tips, check out Gary's step-by-step guide to removing tough weeds. While you're at it, click over and read Dan's post on DIY weed killers.


  • Street Trees

    At this time of year, the crabgrass looks like just the other grass: yellowish brown, dessicated by the sun. These are good tips, though.

  • mc

    My problem with weed control is that so much of it is inorganic, so we definitely have to keep on top of the crabgrass. We lay down tons of corn gluten in the spring, which gives the lawn a boost and suppresses seed germination. Best of all, my whole family (including the cat) can walk around on it after it's down - no poison.

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