Whenever an ugly patch of crabgrass pops up in your lawn, you notice it instantly and are ready to eliminate it with a vengeance. This troublesome lawn weed wages a quiet war on your turfgrass, leaving behind unattractive bare spots in your lawn when it dies out at the end of each year. Luckily, learning how to kill crabgrass is as easy as plucking a weed killer off the shelf of your favorite lawn and garden store or making your very own natural crabgrass killer at home.
A member of the Digitaria plant group, crabgrass is an annual weed that spreads quickly in the summer months. The plant produces thousands of seeds, which eventually sprout into almost unmanageable crabgrass seedlings.
The key to killing crabgrass is to do it as soon as you notice a problem and implement the best preventative measures to keep them from returning year after year. These lawn care tips illustrate numerous DIY recipes to kill crabgrass, as well as balancing the pros and cons of some of the more common store-bought herbicides.
Killing Crabgrass with Simple Lawn Care Tips
The biggest problem with crabgrass is the bare spots it leaves behind. Because it is an annual weed grass, the plant takes over your lawn, then dies out the following year.
Unlike turfgrasses that plant roots and brown in the winter, crabgrass returns just as vibrant the next year. Killing crabgrass before it germinates is essential to maintaining a healthy yard and stopping an infestation.
Hand Pull Small Patches of Crabgrass
If the plants have already passed the stage of crabgrass germination, hand pulling is one of the simplest methods you can use. If you only have small patches of crabgrass, removing them by hand accomplishes the task without damaging other parts of your lawn with chemicals.
When using this method, start early in the growing season before the plants have a chance to produce more seeds. Use a small hand rake or shovel to dig up the plant.
If you don’t have either of these on hand, even a small knife or screwdriver will work. Extract the entire plant, along with the roots, and toss it into a garbage bag to prevent parts of the plant from spreading across the lawn.
Mow Your Lawn Regularly
When it comes to killing weeds in newly seeded lawn, mowing is your best plan of defense. With new grass seedlings, don’t prevent them from growing by using herbicides or pre-emergents.
Instead, mowing your lawn promotes healthy growth, especially when trimmed at the right lengths. Most lawns thrive when kept longer, at about three inches high.
Leaving your yard any shorter keeps it from growing in thicker and healthier, opening up small areas of the lawn to be overtaken by weeds. When you use your mower, make sure you only cut a little bit of the grass blades at a time. The general rule is no more than one-third of the grass’s blade length.
Vinegar as Natural Crabgrass Killer
One of the most popular homemade weed killers incorporates ingredients like vinegar, dish soap, and table salt. Both the vinegar and salt dry out the weed, while the soap breaks up the surface tension to allow the solution to soak into the plant. This recipe works best on a bright sunny day to speed up the drying out process.
When preparing this DIY natural weed killer, mix the contents in a large bucket but keep a spray bottle nearby for more accessible applications.
Spray the weed, soaking all the blades of grass and allowing it to sink into the roots. Use this method once a week as necessary, though you will generally notice results within two days of spraying.
Add Some Orange Oil
A unique spin on this method replaces the table salt with orange oil. The citric acid in oranges couples with the acetic acid in vinegar to stop the process of photosynthesis in plants. The added benefit of using orange oil in place of salt is that the orange oil is better for prolonged use.
Too much salt increases the salinity in the earth over time, damaging the soil structure and eventually harming other plants.
Using this recipe works in the same manner as when combining salt with vinegar. Be careful when spraying around other plants; however, since this DIY herbicide is far from selective with the victims it claims.
One way to stop spraying other plants is by placing cardboard around the weed your spraying. Otherwise, this method works perfectly for crabgrass growing in between sidewalks, too.
Killing Grass Naturally with Castile Soap
Another easy and equally appealing recipe to try substitutes traditional dish soap with a more natural version. A vegetable-based cleaner, Castile soap adds the same surfactant properties as regular soap using all-natural elements. We added some essential oils to aid in the weed-killing process.
While these essential oils smell great, they do have a purpose in weed control, as well. Clove is one of the best ways to control weeds like crabgrass since it contains a chemical called Eugenol that damages cell membranes on plants.
Similarly, oils like cinnamon are natural fungicides that kill seedlings before they have the chance to spread. These same powerful treatment methods also apply to weeds like crabgrass.
How to Kill Crabgrass with Roundup (“Non-Natural Solution”)
If you plan on using a store-bought solution for killing weeds, Roundup is a great option. Roundup uses an active ingredient to kill weeds known as glyphosate, which kills most vegetation almost instantly. This weed killer is especially helpful when crabgrass has wholly overtaken your entire lawn.
As a result, when you spray large areas at a time, it also kills most of your yard. Because crabgrass is still grass, using selective herbicides, like those designed for killing broadleaf weeds like dandelions and sparing lawns, won’t work.
Roundup kills weeds on contact down to the roots, including crabgrass. It’s the best way to retake control of your yard and act within a matter of minutes to control infestations.
What Kills Crabgrass Without Killing Grass
If you have small areas of crabgrass you need to get rid of, using a different type of weed killer like Scotts Spot Control spray will help. Scott’s Spot Control for weeds kills crabgrass without damaging your lawns, though it’s not as effective when you need to do more extensive areas.
This spot treatment works perfectly in vegetable gardens and small corners of your yard, where crabgrass hasn’t developed enough to spread. Spray this solution when weeds are still growing during moderate to warm temperature conditions.
This ready-to-use spray doesn’t need any additional prep work; twist the spray nozzle open and aim it at the weeds in question. To prevent it from getting onto other plants in the area, spray it within close range, usually two feet away or less.
Try a Post-Emergent Herbicide for Weed Control
Another commercial product you can use is Quinclorac. This weed control method works both as a pre and post-emergent herbicide to stop the spread of plants like crabgrass. When used on an established and healthy lawn, Quinclorac won’t damage your turfgrass.
However, if your lawn consists of a warm-season grass like St. Augustine or uses a grass type like fine fescue, these won’t survive the treatment. When using this herbicide, treat the area with a pump or backpack sprayer, especially for larger spaces.
The weeds take a few days to die, but you’ll gradually begin to notice a change in colors as it starts to wither. The colors of the weed transition from green to white, then on to red. Once it reaches that reddish color, the plant is ready for extraction.
Pour Boiling Water Over the Weeds
An easy way to get rid of crabgrass is by pouring boiling water over the weeds. This method is a tried and true strategy for ridding your yard of almost every weed you can think of and kills all surrounding vegetation.
It’s also an effective way to get rid of ant colonies by dumping them over the hills. For an extra-special recipe for crabgrass killers, use the added ingredients below.
If you can boil water, then using this method is a piece of cake. You don’t need to add the other ingredients, though they help with drying out the plant even faster.
Fill up your coffee maker with hot water alone, and pour the contents of your coffee pot over the area. Weeds will wither and brown within just a few short hours.
How to Prevent Crabgrass in Flower Beds
No one wants crabgrass among their beloved flowers, but it can be challenging to target just the weeds. Ingredients like vinegar and gin kill flowers on contact, while herbicide recipes with salt disrupt soil conditions over time.
Either way, these aren’t what you want to use around plants in flower beds. To avoid using these harmful chemicals on desirable plants, take preventative measures ahead of time to keep crabgrass from growing in the first place.
Spreading mulch over the base of your flower beds limits the amount of light available to plants like crabgrass. Using landscape fabric in raised beds is another excellent way to keep unwanted weeds like crabgrass out of your gardens.
Use Corn Gluten Pre-Emergent Herbicide
One of the best crabgrass control methods you can use is a pre-emergent added to the soil before seedlings begin germinating. The best time of year to use this crabgrass preventer is in early spring or when soil temperatures rise over 60°F.
An excellent pre-emergent to use is corn gluten meal, which also contains several nutritional components for your lawn. Apply pre-emergent herbicides to lawns that are established and do not reseed lawns for four months to maintain effectiveness. If you’re overseeding an existing lawn, then wait at least two months and mow the yard two times before doing so.
Use a spreader to evenly distribute the corn gluten meal, since missing small areas allows the crabgrass to develop and spread, despite your best efforts. Use these methods during the next year to prevent any leftover crabgrass seeds from germinating. This technique also works for preventing other annual lawn grasses like Bluegrass.
Best Way to Kill Crabgrass is with a Healthy Lawn
The best tips to control crabgrass are by maintaining the health and growth of your lawn. Beyond the healthy mowing strategies you can use, applying lawn fertilizer once a year also ensures your yard receives the proper nutrients it needs.
If you still notice patches where the grass isn’t growing in, you may need to look into shade conditions of pH levels in the soil. Another way to improve lawn quality and boost crabgrass prevention is by watering your lawn for more extended, more substantial periods at a time, rather than more frequently.
Watering your yard for longer intervals only once or twice a week provides the lawn with enough water to promote more profound root growth. Established yards only require about one inch of water each week. By improving them at the roots, you also make them much less susceptible to being overtaken by weeds like crabgrass.
With all these helpful tips, you’re now ready to tackle those crabgrass plants, or at least with the aid of some trusty weed-killing ingredients. No matter which method you choose, make sure you have both a plan for killing crabgrass as well as a prevention method to keep them from coming back the following year.
We hope you enjoyed these weed control tips for killing crabgrass. Now that you found the perfect commercial or natural crabgrass killer for your lawn, it’s time to share how to kill crabgrass with the other homeowners you know on Facebook and Pinterest.