Quack grass is an invasive weed found in nearly every state.
It makes chemicals that choke out other plants and outcompete them.
Identify quack grass by its broad, rough leaves and tall patches.
Apply a selective herbicide to kill it, repeating if necessary.
Prevention measures include regular mowing and nitrogen fertilizer.
It may have a funny name, but quack grass is no pushover. Learning how to get rid of quack grass can be tricky because it’s one of the hardest weeds to remove, requiring lots of time and energy to manage. If quack grass is invading your yard or gardens, you’ll want to tackle it quickly before it takes over. Use our DIY weed control guide to identify quack grass and learn how to get rid of it for good.
What Is Quack Grass?
Quack grass is one of many invasive common lawn weeds found mostly in cooler northern regions but also found in every state except Florida, Arizona, and Hawaii. It spreads horizontally using underground runners called rhizomes to form sod and take root in lawns.
These rhizomes also produce chemicals that stunt the growth of other nearby plants, allowing the quack grass to outcompete them and eventually take their place. This process results in patches of quack grass that stand out prominently from the grasses around them. The rhizome system can split into separate plants, making a quack grass infestation hard to fight.
While quack grass may choke out your desired turfgrass, its chemicals do not cause skin irritation or pose risks to people or pets. Birds eat quack grass seeds, spreading them in their droppings and causing infestations to spread to larger areas.
Why Quack Grass is In Your Lawn
Quack grass creates seeds that birds happen to find quite tasty. Unfortunately, not all quack grass seeds digest before being left behind in your yard as bird droppings. But that's only one way that quack grass spreads.
The plant's seeds are common in hay bales, fill soil material, and outdoor plants you may bring home. Also, existing quack grass produces rhizomes or runners that can reach five or more feet underground and create new growth. So, if your neighbor's yard has quack grass, it’s only a matter of time until you have it, too.
Identifying and Inspecting Quack Grass Patches
If you suspect you have quack grass in your yard, the first step is to identify it properly. Otherwise, you may waste time and money on the wrong treatment methods. It’s easy to mistake it for fescue grass and crabgrass, but established quack grass has several unique traits. Look for the following:
Larger blades: Quack grass leaves are typically wider than turf grasses. The blades have a rough texture when touched with bare fingers.
Clasping auricles: Each blade of quack grass has long, ear-like appendages near the base of the leaf blade, right before the stem.
Tall patches: Quack grass grows very quickly in a short time, forming large patches that grow taller than other grasses around them.
Rhizomes: Pull up a plant and look for thick, fibrous yellow or white roots. Quack grass roots break easily, leaving pieces in the ground when pulled.
Seeds: Each quack grass plant produces about 25 seeds in bunches at the top.
How to Get Rid of Quack Grass
Quack grass is very difficult to remove by pulling the weeds by hand, and digging it up can chop up pieces of rhizome that will take root and sprout again. Your best option to curb the quack is to use a chemical herbicide. Take the following steps to deal with your quack grass infestation.
The best treatment to use is a selective, post-emergent herbicide. This means it will only target the weeds listed on its label, killing weeds already growing without harming other grasses.
1. Mix the herbicide with water and dispersed with a sprayer.
To help your herbicide stick to the quack grass and not runoff, mix it with a surfactant.
3. Pinpoint the areas where quack grass is growing so you know where to focus your treatment. 4. Don protective equipment to cover your eyes, skin, mouth, and nose when working with a chemical herbicide.
5. With your herbicide well-mixed in a sprayer, apply it to the quack grass using the fan nozzle setting. This will spray a mist to cover the weed uniformly.
6. Speed up the process by covering the quack grass with a tarp to shade and bake it.
7. If your weed problem persists after one application, you may need to repeat the process one or more times. Wait four weeks between each application.
8. You can also apply nitrogen fertilizer to increase the uptake of the herbicide and help it take effect more quickly.
9. Once the quack grass dies, reseed the area with your desired grass.
Using a combination of frequent mowing and regular fertilization with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer can eventually turn the tide on quack grass in your lawn. Fertilization and mowing encourage your desirable grass to grow dense and strong to choke out minor quack grass intrusions.
Solarization works similarly to using non-selective herbicides to kill off the quack grass. The process works by anchoring a sheet of clear plastic over the quack grass area and allowing the sun's radiation to burn off everything that's under the plastic. After the quack grass is dead, follow up by reseeding the area with grass seed and monitoring the patch for reoccurrences.
Leaving It Alone
Although quack grass is, by definition, a weed, some consider it too difficult to get rid of to bother trying. After all, if you don't mind its presence, why go through all the work? Additionally, having something rather than nothing growing in an area reduces the likelihood of water erosion and is likely more desirable than having bare soil.
How to Prevent Quack Grass From Returning
Quack grass prevention largely comes down to regular mowing and fertilization, which promote a thick, healthy lawn that can out-compete weeds. Once you've gained an advantage over your lawn's quack grass, follow these steps to prevent its return.
Monitor your yard to detect early quack grass growth and address it early.
Promote rapid and healthy turf grass growth by regularly applying a nitrogen fertilizer.
Mow regularly to prevent any existing quack grass from forming seeds.
Check any plants for growing quack grass. If you find any growth, separate and discard the soil from the roots before planting.
DIY vs. Hiring a Pro
Even with these unique traits, quack grass can be tough to identify without experience. If you’re having trouble identifying harmful weeds in your backyard, it helps to have a professional opinion direct your plan of action. Contact a lawn care service near you to confirm the presence of quack grass and provide treatment recommendations. Weed control services typically add $70 to $150 to a typical yard clean-up job.
Nick P. Cellucci contributed to this piece.
Frequently Asked Questions
The most effective way to eliminate quack grass without killing the grass nearby is to overseed the area, keep the seed wet until it grows, mow often, and regularly fertilize the area to promote healthy grass that can choke out the invasive weed.
Adding vinegar to your lawn increases the acidity of the area, which can kill quack grass present above the ground. However, putting vinegar in your yard will also kill the grass. Unfortunately, the below-ground quack grass rhizomes remain very much alive in the presence of vinegar and will soon sprout again.
Quack grass is a perennial plant that will continue returning yearly until you eradicate it above and below ground.
Lawns with steep slopes can benefit from having quack grass. Quack grass's long roots and runners can help to prevent soil erosion on hillsides. Additionally, bird lovers may enjoy the fact that quack grass seeds are an attractive food choice for their avian friends.