11 Tips To Remove Crabgrass from Your Lawn Once and for All

Amber Guetebier
Written by Amber Guetebier
Reviewed by Tara Dudley
Updated January 28, 2022
house with grassy lawn
Photo: Ruth P. Peterkin / Adobe Stock

Don't get crabby, get even

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When your lush lawn starts to look a little worse for wear, you could be facing a crabgrass invasion. Not only is it unsightly, but crabgrass is also bad for your turf. It will take over and essentially choke out your lawn grass by preventing it from getting the water and nutrients it needs to thrive. Follow these 11 tips to learn how to get rid of crabgrass in your lawn for good.

1. Identify the Crabgrass

Crabgrass is so named because of its appearance: it grows in low, roundish clumps with stems of grass radiating out from the center. You’ll be able to distinguish it from other, healthier grass because it will look (vaguely) like a crab. It is an extremely common annual weed that thrives in any areas on your lawn that are bare or thinning. Even though it is an annual, don’t be fooled: when it dies off in cooler weather, it leaves behind thousands of seeds just waiting to germinate the following spring.

2. Hand Pull the Weeds Early

Once you know what to look for, being proactive is the best strategy against crabgrass getting out of hand. Pull any crabgrass as soon as you see it, ideally before it has a chance to disperse any seeds. Use a hand-held or stand-up weeding tool to dig out the crabgrass along with its roots. While this may be time-consuming, it is one of the most effective ways to get crabgrass out of your lawn.

3. Maintain a Healthy Lawn

lush garden and lawn
Photo: Arunee / Adobe Stock

Because crabgrass thrives in areas of your lawn where there is damage or thinning grass, the number one way to control crabgrass is by taking proper care of your lawn. This includes a weekly lawn maintenance schedule, such as regular mowing, mulching, and aerating.

4. Fertilize Your Lawn

Keeping your grass on a regular feeding schedule means your grass will grow fat and happy—well-fed grass leaves less opportunity for crabgrass to thrive.

5. Cut Your Grass Higher

man mowing front lawn
Photo: ADDICTIVE STOCK / Adobe Stock

Adjust your lawnmower setting so that your grass grows higher. Grass that grows at least three inches long will help shade the soil and keep the grass moist, which will prevent the crabgrass from taking hold. 

6. Leave the Clippings

Instead of vigorously raking your lawn after every mow, leave the grass clippings (*fist pumps excitedly into the air). You will not only add natural nutrients to the grass, but you will also help prevent new crabgrass seeds from germinating.

7. Choose the Right Kind of Grass for Your Lawn

Not all grass is equal, and having the right variety of grass for your growing conditions is critical to having a healthy lawn, which will help keep crabgrass at bay.

8. Water Deeply

Keeping your grass from drying out is another way to encourage the roots to grow deep and prevent areas where crabgrass can take hold. On average, make sure your lawn receives an inch of water per week during the growing season (spring and summer). For best results, you want the water to soak into the first six to eight inches of soil.

9. Remove Bare Patches

Whether it’s from pet urine or a summer scorcher, your lawn will inevitably have some spot damage. Be sure to remove damaged or dried patches as soon as you notice them and overseed right away. Water frequently until the turfgrass seeds begin to germinate, which will, in turn, leave no room for unwanted crabgrass.

10. Use a Chemical to Spot Treat Crabgrass

If you feel like the crabgrass is winning the battle, it may be time to consider an herbicide. Many different brands are available at garden centers and home improvement stores, but they all fall into two general categories: pre-emergents and post-emergents.

  • Pre-emergents work to prevent crabgrass seeds from germinating or growing. Apply this in early spring to prevent the crabgrass from sprouting.

  • Post-emergents work on weeds that have already grown. You can apply this whenever you see the crabgrass (usually late spring, summer, and early fall).

Tara Dudley, Owner of Plant Life Designs says to plant forsythia in your yard as an 'indicator plant.'  “When this is blooming in early spring, you will know it is time to apply your pre-emergent for crabgrass.”

Before applying a product to kill crabgrass, there are several things to take into consideration.

  • Choose a chemical herbicide labeled specifically for crabgrass. General herbicides designed for weeds will not be effective against crabgrass and could end up damaging your lawn.

  • Look for a liquid herbicide that contains the ingredient Quinclorac

  • Use a crabgrass herbicide as a spot treatment vs. all-over grass application 

  • Apply chemicals according to the manufacturer’s directions and keep pets and children away

11. Send in the Pros

If your grass seems to be more crabby than most, or lawn care is taking up too much of your time, consider hiring a local lawn care repair professional who can help restore your lawn to its former green glory. For best results, you need to work with someone experienced who can help you recognize threats to your yard and prevent them.

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