Are you tired of pesky crabgrass taking over your lawn year after year? Then, maybe it’s time to learn how to eliminate it effectively without killing your turf. There are many methods for controlling crabgrass, including natural and chemical solutions.
Here is an in-depth guide to help you pick the best crabgrass killer that won’t kill your grass in the process.
What is Crabgrass?
Crabgrass is a warm-season annual that spreads easily. It grows in clumps producing crab-like arms. Crabgrass can be difficult to control once it gets into your lawn. One plant will produce thousands of seeds in the fall and germinate the following spring.
This weed loves hot, dry conditions. It prefers thin, bare patches of your lawn; once it is established, it can easily take over your lawn!
What Does It Look Like?
Crabgrass maintains a low profile on the lawn. It has coarse, light green blades that are roughly the thickness of a pencil when they are young. According to The University of Michigan, the leaf blades have small hairs and the stems have swollen nodes. As the stems mature, they become heavy and fall over. They begin to look scraggly. At this point, if you look at the center of the plant, you will discover a tell-tale star-shaped pattern.
In mid-summer, crabgrass will produce 3-5 purple, finger like spikes. These are the plant’s flowers. By autumn, these will become thousands of tiny seeds that will spread across your lawn. Crabgrass dies after the first frost.
Frequently, crabgrass is confused with fescue. However, the color and size of the grasses differ. Fescue grass is typically taller, darker green, and thicker. Fescue also grows more rapidly than crabgrass.
10 Best Crabgrass Killers
We kick off this list of crabgrass killers with Primesource Quinclorac. This is a selective post-emergent herbicide that keeps grass protected while working to eliminate different grassy and broadleaf weeds.
Suitable for commercial and residential settings, this product can be applied one week before seeding or up to 28 days after crabgrass has appeared.
Another amazing product that helps get rid of pesky crabgrass is BASF Drive XLR8 Herbicide. With a single bottle of this herbicide, you can cover about one acre of turf, promising to kill weeds faster than the competition.
The product dries in less than an hour, which makes it a suitable choice for households with children and pets.
When used as specified on the label, Spectracide Concentrate kills more than 470 different kinds of weeds. It takes as little as five hours for this ready-to-spray product to start working, and it destroys almost every weed it comes in contact with.
To begin, thoroughly shake the container before using it. To use the sprayer, attach a garden hose to the nozzle. Ensure that the “off” switch is all the way forward.
Unlike other crabgrass killers, Tenacity Turf Herbicide is non-toxic to grass in your lawn. It is a systemic pre-and post-emergence herbicide used to control weeds in turfgrasses through selective contact and residual control. Tenacity is absorbed by weeds after their emergence from the soil after being administered as a pre-emergent.
CELSIS WG Herbicide is an effective post-emergent herbicide that contains three active components, all of which have a wide range of applications. It can be used in residential and commercial settings, including on golf courses, sports fields, school premises, and even parks.
The BioAdvanced crabgrass cleaner is another customer favorite. It has proven itself to be an efficient product against crabgrass time and time again.
In one simple step, the exclusive formula eliminates the listed lawn weeds as well as crabgrass from the root. It has a treatment area of 5,000 square feet, making it ideal for treating large areas.
The Ortho Weed B Gon Weed Killer is another product that’s safe for the lawn but dangerous for crabgrass. It can help get rid of more than 250 weed varieties and is very easy to work with because of the included applicator wand.
You can find this product in multiple package sizes so there should be a good product for you whether you have a small or a big lawn.
8. AgraLawn Organic Crabgrass Killer
The number of natural crabgrass killers available is limited, but AgraLawn Organic Crabgrass Killer is one of the most effective ones for the task at hand. Cinnamon bark, the active ingredient, can help keep crabgrass in check without harming your lawn.
For optimal results, apply the product in the morning when there is still morning dew present, or moisten the affected area with a hose, irrigation system, or spray bottle.
Crabgrass Killer from Agralawn generates relatively little response or yellowing in St. Augustine or Bahia lawns when used appropriately.
As a wetting agent containing 80 percent non-ionic surfactant, Surfactant for Herbicides is here to make other herbicides more efficient. It improves the coverage and penetration of almost any herbicide by increasing the amount of water that is absorbed by the herbicide.
Non-ionic surfactants can be used in conjunction with most herbicides to improve the uniformity of coverage by lowering the surface tensions of spray droplets.
Our final product is the Roundup All-in-One Weed Killer for Lawns. More than 250 common lawn weeds, roots and all, are controlled by this product, which is particularly effective on difficult-to-kill weeds such as crabgrass.
This fast-acting formula begins killing weeds as soon as they come into contact with it and kills them down to the root, preventing them from reappearing.
Why is Crabgrass Bad for the Lawn?
There are several reasons why crabgrass is an unwanted weed in a carefully curated lawn. According to Purdue University, crabgrass generally becomes a problem when the following occurs:
- turf is mowed too low
- turf is under fertilized
- turf is thin due to pests or disease
- there is excessive rainfall and high temperatures
This low-growing annual is unattractive, and it is bad for the health of your grass. Crabgrass weakens your lawn by depleting the nutrients in the soil. Crabgrass takes hold in thin, weak spots in your turf, then once its established there, it will spread to other parts of your lawn.
The weed will begin to zap nutrients from your turf, making it appear dull and unseemly. The plant’s clumping nature also sticks out compared to the more fine blades of cool-season grasses. Then, in autumn, when the crabgrass dies back, the brown spots will also affect your lawn’s aesthetic.
Finally, crabgrass spreads rampantly. Once you have one plant, there are many to follow. Crabgrass produces thousands of seeds that over winter and sprout in the spring.
How Do You Get Rid of Crabgrass Without Killing Your Lawn?
You may be worried you’ll destroy your lawn while eradicating crabgrass. There are two main methods of controlling crabgrass in your lawn. You can pull them up by hand or use chemicals.
The benefit of controlling crabgrass by hand is that you don’t have to worry about accidentally killing your grass or other plants. It is also a cost-effective way to get rid of the weed.
To kill crabgrass by hand, use a garden weeder tool designed specifically for this purpose. Typically, these tools have a claw or plunger that you use to dig deep into the ground. Remove the entire clump, including the roots. If you miss the roots, the plant will sprout back up. Pull up crabgrass as soon you as you see it to keep it from spreading and damaging your lawn.
Discard the crabgrass in a trash bag and seal it properly. This prevents potential crabgrass seeds from sprouting.
However, if you have a large crabgrass infestation, this procedure is time-consuming and may not be the most effective.
If you have a large crabgrass infestation, it may be necessary to use a chemical treatment to eliminate it. Use a crabgrass-specific post-emergent herbicide to control the weed.
Herbicides for lawn weeds are not all created equal. Some of these herbicides can kill both the weeds and your grass. So, make sure to read the label carefully.
You can apply herbicides at two different times: pre-emergent and post-emergent. Pre-emergent herbicides are meant to be sprayed before crabgrass seeds emerge in the spring. Post-emergent herbicides are for after you start seeing crabgrass growing.
You will not want to spray these herbicides as a broad treatment. These are intended as a spot treatment only. Also, apply your herbicide on a day with little to no wind, or the herbicide can end up on plants you don’t want dead.
Follow the directions on the product’s label to apply the chemicals properly.
How Do You Apply a Crabgrass Killer?
Here’s a simple and concise guide on how to apply a crabgrass killer without harming your grass:
- Timing is crucial: Apply the crabgrass killer when the crabgrass is actively growing, typically in late spring or early summer. Follow the instructions on the product label for the best time to apply in your area.
- Mow your lawn: Before applying the crabgrass killer, mow your lawn to a lower height than usual. This helps the crabgrass killer reach the target weeds more effectively.
- Prepare for application: Fill a garden sprayer or a handheld sprayer with the recommended amount of crabgrass killer. Make sure to wear protective clothing, including gloves and goggles, to avoid direct contact with the product.
- Spray evenly: Start at one corner of your lawn and walk in a steady pace, spraying the crabgrass killer in a sweeping motion. Keep the nozzle close to the ground, about 12 inches away, to target the crabgrass while minimizing contact with the grass.
- Overlap slightly: To ensure even coverage, overlap each pass of the sprayer slightly. This helps avoid missed spots and ensures the crabgrass receives enough herbicide.
- Avoid overspray: Be cautious not to spray the crabgrass killer on desirable plants, flower beds, or vegetable gardens, as it may harm them. Take care around sidewalks, driveways, and other non-target areas. If overspray occurs, rinse the affected area with water immediately.
- Follow post-application instructions: After applying the crabgrass killer, follow the instructions on the product label for any additional steps, such as watering or waiting periods before mowing.
- Monitor and reapply if necessary: Keep an eye on the treated areas. If you notice any surviving or newly emerging crabgrass, you may need to reapply the crabgrass killer after the recommended time interval stated on the product label.
Remember, always read and follow the specific instructions provided by the crabgrass killer product you choose. This guide is a general overview, but product recommendations and application methods can vary. Check specific guides on labels and product websites!
Can You Prevent Crabgrass?
If you know that crabgrass can be a problem in your lawn, there are some ways you can prevent this weed from becoming an issue.
Crabgrass preventer products make use of herbicides known as pre-emergents, which are applied to germinating seeds before new shoots emerge from the ground. Pre-emergents work by preventing seeds from germinating and growing into established plants.
A good product that helps prevent new crabgrass formation is Scotts Halts Crabgrass & Grassy Weed Preventer.
This product is designed to solve your crabgrass problem for the entire year. You can apply it during early spring or autumn. All the instructions needed for the application can be found on the label.
Adjust Your Lawn Mower
Make sure your grass is on the tall side, about three inches in height. Taller grass blades aid in the shading of the soil. Maintain a layer of grass clippings on your lawn to provide natural nutrients and shade for your soil. This will prevent crabgrass seeds from germinating.
Deep Water Your Lawn
Weeds thrive in lawns that are overworked. Deep watering is beneficial to most types of grass. Check to see that your lawn gets one inch of water each week, whether it comes from rain or irrigation.
The water must penetrate six to eight inches into the soil. Deep watering can help develop a deeper root system, which allows it to grow thicker and thus more effectively competes with weeds.
Feed the Lawn
Weeds have a hard time growing on a healthy and thick lawn. When your lawn is undernourished, it becomes stressed and is more susceptible to being overtaken by weeds. During the growing season, fertilize your lawn every six to eight weeks with a balanced fertilizer.
How Long Does It Take for Crabgrass Killer to Start Working?
Liquid products will begin working faster than granular options. Typically in the first 2-3 weeks, you will see results kicking in after the application process.
Will Vinegar Kill Crabgrass?
This all-natural method of killing crabgrass is an excellent choice because it will not cause long-term soil damage. Simply saturate the weed with vinegar (with at least 5 percent acidity) until it is completely submerged in the liquid. Be careful not to get it on your turf. It will kill all plants it comes into contact with.
Can You Burn Crabgrass?
Yes, you can. Due to this exposure, the weed is subjected to extreme heat, which causes the cells in the leaves and stems to die. The weed will be unable to produce food and die off almost immediately. You can use a weed burner or a blow torch.
Can You Naturally Get Rid of Crabgrass?
Yes, you can purchase natural crabgrass killers if you don’t want to make a homemade solution. Some make them using ingredients such as soap, vinegar, and sea salt.
When Can You Spray for Crabgrass?
Crabgrass seeds germinate in spring as the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Early to mid-spring is the ideal time to start applying crabgrass preventers. You can spray late spring to early summer as well.
If it is late summer or fall and the crabgrass has matured and gone to seed, applying crabgrass killer may be less effective. However, if the crabgrass is still actively growing and has not yet gone to seed, applying a crabgrass killer may still be worth your time.
Remember that even if you successfully eliminate crabgrass with a post-emergent herbicide, you cannot prevent seeds from a neighboring property from flying over and landing in your yard.
The seeds will germinate in your grass and sprout the next spring unless you use a pre-emergent herbicide to prevent them from growing. While post-emergent herbicides will kill crabgrass for the rest of the season, there is no guarantee that crabgrass seeds will not return to your lawn the following year.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.