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Closeup of the center and partial petals of a deep yellow sunflower.

Crabgrass Is More Than Just A Weed Problem

The best way to control crabgrass is to have a healthy, thick lawn.  Granted, this is the longer term solution, but entirely reachable. In the meantime, there are measures you can take in the spring and throughout the summer to keep crabgrass in check while you continue to build a healthy lawn.
Spring is here and now is the time to target crabgrass before it germinates and spreads; prevention is the best medicine. The treatment options are a traditional pre-emergent weed control or organic options using corn-based products.
The organic corn-based products have a low environmental impact that can achieve results worthy of your consideration: corn-based sprays or granular gluten formulations. Organic materials must be applied at high rates, making the cost as much as four times higher, and usually involve the acceptance that for a few years you’ll still have crabgrass- just less.
Remember, crabgrass is a symptom of a sick lawn system, usually the soil, that can’t support successful turf growth. While you can easily address the symptom, the root cause must be addressed to really move forward.
Most soil issues involve compaction – little to no air pockets in and around the root system of your lawn. Compacted soil does not support healthy turf but does support crabgrass and a host of broadleaf weeds.
In addition to aerating, overseeding just after aeration with the correct seed will help establish a healthier lawn. Adding high calcium lime to improve soil pH, organic matter through slow release fertilizers and compost tea to improve soil biology are all corrective measures to improve the health of your soil. Give your lawn the strength it needs to win out over opportunistic crabgrass.
If you forget to treat for crabgrass this spring, don’t fret. There are also products you can use once crabgrass is visible, not only in June, but the whole summer. And the best part, it won’t harm your lawn, only the crabgrass. There are also products you can use that allow seeding in the spring; we use an item called Tenacity.
Treating for crabgrass in the spring is a reasonable and worthy endeavor, but having a healthy lawn by improving your soil is of far greater value. Crabgrass maybe an annual weed, but don’t let it be a perennial problem for you and your lawn!
See my 2015 Q & A on crabgrass