The villain is clearly crabgrass. This villain moves into your yard without any notice or invitation. It germinates in cracks, near your mailbox, along the driveway, patio tiles, even the backyard barbecue! Does crabgrass have no shame? I think not!
If you want to beat crabgrass, you must know the weakness of your adversary. Although there may be no silver bullet in our quick blog post, there are many effective countermeasures that can be employed to reduce, knock back, suppress the villain we know as crabgrass. Where to begin?
Start simple folks. You don’t need a truck load of chemicals as your sole tactic for global crabgrass reduction. First, you need to understand the enemy- so lets examine this wonderfully evil plant. Crabgrass is an annual and as such, it dies every fall- yes, it dies. As such, it must manufacture a lot of energy in a short period of time to make enough seeds so it can insure a fresh generation next spring. Next spring, once the soil temperatures warm up to around 50-54 degrees, the seeds will germinate. The first locations are along streets, bare soil exposed from plowing damage along the driveway. Yes, crabgrass needs heat to start up. Therein lies the first vulnerability heat! You need sunlight for heat and you need lots of it. What about shade? Not an issue- crabgrass must have lots of sun- so we don’t have to worry about the shade. Therefore- do we need to apply pre-emergent crabgrass controls to the shade? I think not.
Heat is what crabgrass wants- mixed with lots of light. How do we reduce light and or heat to maybe slow down germination? MMMM. Mow high! Yes, mow at 3″ and mulch thy clippings to enhance your organic matter. Mowing high keeps your soil cooler for a longer period of time. Excellent! If you cut your lawn short, or scalp it- what happens? The soil heats up fast and you suddenly have crabgrass seeds germinating like radishes in the garden- pop, pop, pop! Mowing high means you need grass to mow high. Darn! What about bare spots and patches?
Even if you do use a pre-emergent product- which by the way are usually just dyes . . . nothing fancy and chemically evil about that- bare areas are just that- bare! The soil will not stay cool, there is not grass to keep it cool- that’s why it is bare! Even the best pre-emergent will fail under ideal conditions within 90 days or so- the sun and heat break it down. If there is a bare spot, the life span is even shorter, perhaps a month or so a best. You must seed those area now- its fall! To beat the enemy, you must know the enemy. Seed those damaged, bare patches, insect devastated, drought ravaged brown patches this fall and you will have the upper hand on crabgrass next spring.
Corn Gluten? Who said make corn muffins? Unfortunately, there is no scientific proof that corn gluten really works at preventing crabgrass at this time. What this product does do is provide a shot of Nitrogen to your lawn like taking a mountain dew and mixing in some steroids to you! Oh yeah, you get growth, and perhaps in return less crabgrass as your normal lawn starts to smoke and shake. Lets just say the jury is still out on this product when it comes to substantial crabgrass reduction and I have used it plenty.
To summarize, seed now, mow high, and consider moving your lawn in a more positive direction by making it healthier. A thick, healthy lawn is always your best defense with our without weeds my friends. If you wait until the last minute- and then scream fire- the fire will be the crabgrass the size of your car or SUV wheels- and not so friendly. Take care of your lawn- through the basics, and you will have less crabgrass- period.
Take care and may you have lawn that you can enjoy each and every day!