Tips on Crabgrass Treatment
Topping the most problematic weed list for most landowners is a plant called crabgrass. Treatment of this tenacious weed can be very challenging; so much so that while products continue to emerge and disappear as methods for eliminating it, crabgrass continues to plague homeowners.
Crabgrass looks rather like it sounds. Emerging from the ground as one stem, thin blades of the grass spring out and angle outwards from the stem. As the blades grow longer, they tend to cling to the ground, spreading out at all angles taking on the semblance of a star pattern. Side shoots distinguish this grass from most other grasses, which traditionally produce blades only from a central stem. In tandem with the side shoots, additional shoots continue to be sent up from the center of the stem. This simultaneous growth pattern results in thick, matted growth from one location.
There are two common forms of crabgrass, neither of which is indigenous to the United States, but clearly had no problem adapting to the area when it was introduced. The first is called smooth crabgrass due to its appearance. Dark green leaves with smooth surfaces, blades of smooth crabgrass generally only reach approximately 5 inches in length, and is the variety that is most often found in yards. The second type, hairy crabgrass, can be found in orchards and fields but also in yards. It has the potential to grow 2 to 3 feet in height when allowed to grow uninhibited.
Before learning about effective crabgrass treatment, it is important to learn about its growth habits. The grass is a warm weather plant that begins to emerge in early spring. Growth is slow during these cold months; accelerating around the middle of May as the ground and air warms. The seasonal heat of July and August encourage the crabgrass to flower, after which the plant develops and distributes an abundant supply of seed; enabling the plant to profusely spread over an area in a short amount of time. The onset of frost kills the crabgrass, but the problem rarely ends there as the seeds and roots winter over well.
It is important to realize that crabgrass needs the warmth of the sun to germinate; the best conditions are when the soil temperature reaches a minimum of 50 degrees for several consecutive days. This means that more temperate climates can face a year long battle with this stubborn and invasive weed. While cooler climates may not have four season crabgrass issues, the plant adapts itself to the winter seasons by producing very hardy seeds, which can lay in wait within the soil of the lawn for up to three years.
Controlling crabgrass is a dilemma. Many products attempt to prevent the plant from growing before it has the opportunity to begin. Applying commercial products to the yard or area must be done about two weeks before the season for the plant begins. This is not a guarantee that the crabgrass will be eradicated, however; make no mistake that this weed is a formidable adversary. It is always recommended that a lawn should be properly and meticulously maintained in order to avoid the invasion of the crabgrass initially. Keeping the grass at the recommended height for the type, providing ample moisture to allow the grass to develop a strong root system and adequate fertilization are specific methods for encouraging a healthy lawn. Certain conditions can actually encourage crabgrass growth; spring fertilization, for example, lends to weak growth spurts of grass and opens the door for crabgrass invasion. Also, not mowing the grass allows the growth to go to seed, and since crabgrass seed remains viable for such a long period, preventing the seed production helps to avoid germination.
A healthy lawn can be a homeowner’s pride and joy, so crabgrass treatment should always be at the top of the list for lawn maintenance.