Don’t Be Crabby
Summer is the time when friends and family spend extra time on your lawn for barbecues, family reunions, running in the sprinklers or just good old hanging out on the patio.
Here’s the truth:
So what’s the problem?
Crabgrass doesn’t quite have the staying power that your standard grasses have. It’s an annual, and as such, may look really good in the summer, but as soon as the first frost hits, it’s gone, leaving only dirt in its place until it reseeds in the Spring--not good for the overall look for the lawn nine months out of the year.
An opportunistic weed, crabgrass abounds in lawns that are cut too short, watered lightly, underfertilized and poorly drained.
Where there are gaps in lawns, crabgrass will fill them.
A notorious conqueror, each crabgrass plant is capable of producing 150,000 seeds that will march across your yard and into the soil.
In the summer it can produce inconsistent and fractious lawns. In the winter it can create ugly, barren spots of exposed dirt. In the spring it can go crazy reproducing itself.
So what’s a homeowner to do? Here are three options:
Option 1: Nothing!
Maybe you’ve given up. Or maybe you’ve not tried anything, exhausted at the thought of battling a hardy, determined weed. Whatever it is, you’re not going to be putting up a fight. Just keep trimming your lawn super short, not worrying about changing your watering and/or fertilizing techniques, and then just watch as your lawn undergoes a curious metamorphosis. The crabgrass will slowly (or maybe not so slowly) take over, choking out the existing grass that was there during the warmer months, and leaving a dirt mess behind in the colder months. If you don’t care (and you don’t have a homeowner’s association and bylaws that care), more power to ya. Let it fly!
Afterall, crabgrass makes the best whistles.
Option 2: Poison!
If you’re feeling particularly vindictive against this unwanted invader, use a weapon that is only legal to use on plants: poison! And not just any poison will do, obviously; you’ll need pre-emergent herbicides!
Take notes for next year:
When the ground starts to warm up (talking 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s time to get out the crabgrass killer. The crabgrass plants know at this warm-up phase to start spreadin’ the seeds, and it’s time to beat them to the punch.
But it’s summertime, and the crabgrass already has taken hold in the lawn. What to do? Reach for another poison! This one’s called a post-emergent herbicide, made to work in temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Something to consider:
Post-emergent herbicides are most effective on younger plants--you know, the ones that are pretty much too small to spot in the lawn. But hey, give it a shot on all the visible crabgrass. Read the product’s instructions, and head out into the yard in the morning, after the dew has evaporated, on a calm, sunny, rainless day (because dew and rain threaten to wash away the product before it can do its magic). Place the herbicide on moist soil (you may have to water the area the day prior to help that), and wait a couple days before watering again.
There is such thing as too much of a good thing, and if your lawn turns brown, you might’ve overdone it on the herbicide. No worries; water the area as soon as possible to wash it away and prevent additional problems.
After the herbicide treatment, look out for new plants, and be prepared for a second treatment. As soon as possible (check your product for info), re-seed the area to prevent crabgrass from filling the void.
Option 3: Biology!
While you may think that crabgrass is what is causing your lawn’s ailments, the truth is, it’s likely BECAUSE of poor lawn health that already existed! While crabgrass is tremendously ambitious and prolific, it will be choked out easily by healthy lawn grass. A year-round grass sticks around when the annual crabgrass is gone for the winter.
So how do you make this happen? Mow frequently to keep the grass at a consistent length--the highest possible, so the grass can receive water, sunlight, and nutrients. Longer grass keeps the sun away from the solar-powered crabgrass, as it has to sit in the shade of the healthy grass. Water in long, heavy, irregular intervals, not in short, frequent stints. And don’t forget the annual fertilizing!
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