I hate Crabgrass!

390MikeSeptember 3, 2013

Title says it all, I have a never ending struggle with crabgrass and cannot keep up with the pulling by hand anymore. My lawn is all organic but decided to use a chemical crabgrass preventer this year in hopes of limiting the amount that grows. I applied when they say to apply but I swear it didn't nothing. First thought was that I applied too late but it seems like I got two waves of growth. I spent hours pulling what seemed like the first wave but low and behold a second came along later.

Anyways, has anyone had any luck with controlling this I am giving serious consideration to trying liquid corn gluten meal. This time I'm going to apply early February then again just as forsythia start to bloom.

Does anyone have a sure fire way to control or limit this vile weed?

Thanks in advance for any help!

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spedigrees z4VT

If I have crabgrass, I wouldn't notice it, amongst the mix of plants that make up my lawns. Among the plants are bluegrass, pasture grass, clover both red and white, dandelions, violets, various flowering groundcovers, mint in the wetter areas, and many more. I avoid herbicides and most other chemicals. My lawns look beautiful, green sometimes dotted with flowers, and healthy. Many of the greens that appear in spring are edible and good in salads, another reason I never use chemicals.

Perhaps you just need a greater variety of lawn plants. ;-)

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 12:34PM
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You have my sympathy! I also used a non-organic pre-emergent this year, because my mother bought it by accident and was too embarrassed to return it to the store. Normally I don't use chemicals in my garden, and I'm not sure why I agreed to use it this time.

My previous experiments with corn gluten meal compare really well with the way this worked - partial control but follow up weeding needed, particularly in recently seeded (last year) or particularly thin areas. I really believe that CGM is just as good as the chemical stuff.

I applied the product just like CGM, when the forsythia was in full bloom; as far as I can tell, the crabgrass keeps germinating indefinitely through the summer - there are some sprouts out there now and they seem to keep on coming.

Next year I'll apply CGM when the forsythia is in bloom, and probably every 3 weeks after that. CGM doesn't keep very well, and must be secured from rodents (at least in my in-town yard) so it's just as well to apply whatever amount you purchase, IMHO.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 12:40PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I think crabgrass has some pros and cons. It is a prolific, annual, warm-season grass that will fill in the bare spots in the lawn during the summer. It is drought-tolerant and looks green, which is better than brown or bareness. It also covers the soil - which prevents erosion of topsoil from heavy rains.

But it grows fast and makes a zillion seeds, and look weedy if you don't keep it trimmed! The seeds are a favorite of birds though. Just yesterday I watched a flock of little chipping sparrows hop through the crab grass in the back yard and pick the seeds off the fronds! :0)

The problem is that most northern turf grasses are cool-season grasses so they naturally go dormant and brown out in the heat and dryness of mid-summer, especially in full sun. They can be killed off in these conditions if drought is severe. Cool season grasses grow best in partial sun, under grass-friendly trees (not maples).

To prevent this brown out and achieve a perfect green monoculture of grass all season requires enormous inputs of water, fertilizer, and herbicide. Very silly use of precious natural resources IMO.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 3:22PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Not necessarily. Probably the most common mistake is mowing too short. So you start by raising the mower deck as far as it will go, and keeping it there.

Voila! You now have a lawn with grass that is strong enough to grow roots down into water, a lawn that will shade out the crabgrass, and a lawn that needs less mowing.

Boy that was hard.

Then if you want to you can do things to adjust the grass to not-grass ratio. Right now I'm having a lot of fun watching the latest groundhog prowl the lawn in search of dandelion greens. It doesn't eat grass, just dandelions, clover and violet leaves. The violets are in real trouble, and may not survive the repeated attacks.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2013 at 4:03PM
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I've been mowing high for about 25 years, and still have CG in my lawn. Anyone who has a female dog, or has imperfect soil, or doesn't water his/her lawn knows that mowing high helps, but doesn't really work all by itself.

I'm not going for a monoculture - I have lots of clover, common thyme, and assorted other plants in my lawn. It's certainly a personal esthetic question, and everyone has her own opinion of crabgrass. I don't like it - and am willing to spend a few days every summer hand-pulling it, and a small fortune on corn gluten every spring, because

- it leaves bare spots in winter, ever-expanding as it out-competes the 'good' grasses near each seedling CG

- it self-sows into beds and overwhelms young perennials

- it grows so much faster than perennial grasses that I need to mow much more frequently, and

- in hot weather, it keeps growing, so that I need to keep mowing long after the perennial grasses are dormant

So, yes, in my opinion, control options are worth discussing!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 9:11AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

How did you identify crabgrass? I googled images of it and IâÂÂm pretty sure that is the weedy grass I do have to try to keep out of my beds.

WeâÂÂve cut our grass tall too, and whether that keeps the crabgrass down or not IâÂÂm not sure. We water the shrubs and perennials but I rarely water the lawn during a dry summer. IâÂÂm watering it today for the 1st time all season, because IâÂÂm seeing actual drooping shrubs, so I know itâÂÂs really dry out there. The lawn is in part shade, which helps, and it is somewhat brown with some green color to it still. We also have clover, violas, dandelions that I donâÂÂt try to weed out. And we donâÂÂt use chemicals. Corn Gluten sounds like it could help, but if you have to apply it annually, I guess IâÂÂm not seeing the advantage. I would have thought that using it one season, would allow some of the other grasses you want more of to spread out and fill in?

One long mixedl border is separated from the lawn by the vegetable garden that is mulch around raised beds, so for most of it I donâÂÂt have to keep any grasses out of the bed, but one area near the entry there is still a small patch of grass that is actually about 80% crabgrass that is ugly and does manage to creep into that bed. So IâÂÂm planning on getting rid of that patch all together. Then at least, I wonâÂÂt have any grass near the length of a long mixed border.

Every once in awhile I think about paying more attention to the lawn, but then spring comes along and the lawn looks great and I think something else needs my attention more. I canâÂÂt help but think about Bill, who I believe no longer has lawn? (g)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2013 at 4:00PM
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javaandjazz(z6 CT)

Once you put crabgrass preventer down you cannot rake your lawn at all or scratch up the surface as this will break the chemical barrier and let seeds germinate.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2013 at 7:55AM
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I hadn't heard that about pre-emergent weed killers, Java - maybe it's not true of CGM, which might work differently from the chemical crabgrass preventers.

If I'm going to rake the lawn at all in the spring, which I don't normally bother to do, I guess I'd do it before it was time to apply corn gluten meal. Our mower bags our grass clippings, so we don't have to rake once we've got the leaves up, which we need to start doing ... now.

One section of my back lawn, near the work area, is so full of crab grass that I don't think it can be renovated. It's all going to seed now, which makes it look pretty rough - I'm tempted to cover it all up with something, or to scrape off the top couple of inches lay down sod. If I hand-pulled the CG, there would be nothing left.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2013 at 9:21AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I was reading some random interesting facts about crabgrass (genus Digitaria) on Wikipedia last night. There is a species of crabgrass common name "Fonio" that is very useful:

"Though some crabgrasses are considered weeds, others have uses, especially as food. The seeds, most notably those of fonio, can be toasted and ground into a flour, which can be used to make porridge or fermented to make beer. Fonio has been widely used as a staple crop in parts of Africa. It also has decent nutrient qualities as a forage for cattle."

That is so interesting!

Years ago, I read that a healthy lawn can out-compete pretty much any weed, so the goal is to nourish and build up the health of the grass. Crabgrass will fill in the bare spots, but a healthy turf grass can easily out-compete crabgrass. Organic works great, but you have to have patience. It takes several years to build up a healthy lawn organically.

I keep my lawn healthy by applying compost and lime annually (or semi-annually if the turf is abysmal), mulching all grass clippings, and mowing a little high. I have an unlimited supply of municipal compost, which is fabulous. Also I don't mind a few broadleaf weeds. Especailly love clover and periodically overseed with white clover. It's a great companion for grass because it fixes nitrogen.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2013 at 9:38PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Terrene, that is surprising that particular variety can be used as a flour, etc. I wouldn't have thought that.

I'd really like to improve my lawn organically. I tried spreading compost on it one year, but I had someone helping me who spread it too thickly and it actually worked against me, creating some bare spots. Do you use lime without testing your soil? That was my next question, where do you get the compost. You grow organically, right? I was wondering about municipal compost, they do use collected grass clippings from people who use chemicals on their lawn, so that has been the reason I haven't used them. I also don't have enough of our own compost. And I use the grass clippings with leaves in the vegetable garden, so they don't stay on the lawn. A reliable source of inexpensive compost would be great. Purchasing organic compost is way too expensive to use much of it.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2013 at 12:56PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

The blog "A Way to Garden" interviewed Paul Tukey who literally wrote the book on organic lawn care. He answers your questions about how to handle crabgrass organically and about Corn Gluten Meal which is expensive and is probably a better source of nitrogen than weed preventer. The link contains a Q&A and a set of videos which I found very helpful.

The key is to not let the crabgrass go to seed and reinvent itself. You do that by cutting your grass short at this time of year and by collecting the grass clippings (which contain the crabgrass seed) and putting those clippings out into a shady wooded area to decompose. Then you reseed your lawn by adding bulk compost to the surface and overseeding just before rain is predicted.

The link below will give better details.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Crabgrass control and more

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 5:39PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Steve, thanks for that link, it looks like a great resource. :-)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 7:17PM
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The trouble with mowing short to remove crabgrass seed is that the CG plants lay down flat when they're going to seed, and the mower passes right over the seeds. I do try it anyway, on my one crabby area, but frankly I don't think it does a thing to help. So the mower goes UP for the real lawn and DOWN for the crabby section - making mowing even more fun than usual.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 8:00PM
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My yard is about 1/3 of an acre. I've tried organic weed control and it does the job too well. It kept my green grass green and healthy but kept out all the weeds which to my dismay included the clover.

Six years ago I had a bounty of clover and therefore I was visited every day by rabbits, bumblebees - those are the good ones to see - flickers looking to feed off the bugs attracted by various greens. Seeing what the organic weed control did I was very sad.

Today I leave the grass to its own devices, mow high, hand pull when I feel the urge to enjoy puttering around in the yard. I can't possibly pull everything by hand and that is probably a good thing. The clover is making a comeback and there's just enough dandelions, crabgrass and plantain to keep a variety of rabbits, skunks, finches, warblers, sparrows and a groundhog taking turns visiting. I think they actually help keep it under control too..

    Bookmark   September 14, 2013 at 9:49AM
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