If you’re trying to grow a lawn that puts golf courses is to shame, you know exactly hook troublesome crabgrass can be. Seemingly innocent seedlings emerging in early spring, bringing with them the promise of warm sunny days. By mid-summer your lawn looks like a patchwork quilt. Your dreams of a smooth, flawless landscape, tiny blades of Kentucky Bluegrass tickling your bare toes, dashed. You promise yourself that next year will be different. And it will. You just need a few ways to combat the spread of this aggressive plant.
There are two ways to approach this type of lawn care: pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergent refers to the time in late winter or early spring, when seeds have not yet germinated. Post-emergent is when the grass has already begun to grow in mid spring or later. It’s best to use a combination of techniques, consistently, for a season or two in order to build up a strong barrier and discourage crabgrass from coming back.
Corrugated cardboard – corrugated cardboard is a free, eco-friendly way to prevent undesirable seeds from sprouting. It works by covering the soil surface to keep out light. You can get brown corrugated cardboard from all sorts of places. Try checking at your local grocery, hardware or gas station for stuff that would otherwise end up in the landfill. Other great benefits of using cardboard as a ground cover is that it feeds the soil as it breaks down and promotes worm life. After you’ve left it in place for 2 or 3 weeks reseed with desired grass seed.
Pre-emergent herbicide – With rising concern about the health and environmental impact that many pesticides and herbicides have, many people are choosing to no longer apply them as part of their lawn maintenance routines. While effective, herbicides can be costly and usually require multiple applications. They also kill off worms, beneficial microbes populations and pollinators as well as fish and other aquatic life. If you decide it is necessary to apply a pre-emergent herbicide be sure to read and follow all safety warnings including proper clothing, eye protection and safe application methods.
If you are dealing with an already-established patch of crabgrass you have several options:
- Preventive lawn maintenance. Mow regularly and leave the grass as long as three inches. Crabgrass seeds need light to grow but you can keep the surface shaded by keeping your lawn mower on the highest setting. Regular mowing also helps prevent seeds from forming in the first place.
- pull it out. Hand weeding may be a useful option to help take back control of your lawn. Use a small shovel to dig out clumps of crabgrass then re-seed with a grass of your choice. This is the most effective and long-lasting form of control.
- Full strength vinegar. Pouring white vinegar on an established clump will kill it but it’s not very selective. Apply carefully or risk killing off more than you intended.
- Boiling water. Another eco-friendly option that is free and easy. Again, it will kill a lot more than grass,so be careful.
- Baking soda. Baking soda sprinkled on Plants will cause them to wither and die.
- Another increasingly popular option is to plant ground cover that doesn’t need mowing such as peanut grass or clover. They require less water, less maintenance, provide forage for bees and increase soil fertility for generations to follow.
Hopefully, with a combination of these techniques, you will soon be able to boast the nicest lawn on the block. Always remember to follow warning labels especially around pets, children, elderly or edible gardens.