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Crabgrass Control

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Crabgrass control is a common issue in the Midwest. Crabgrass germinates when soil temperatures are about 60 degrees Fahrenheit for three to five days at up to ¼-inch deep. It flowers and sets seeds in July. Crabgrass dies with the first frost, but it will come back next summer.

Mow the Lawn

Crabgrass can be controlled by maintaining a healthy, dense turf. If the turf is healthy enough, it will compete with the crabgrass and force much it out of the lawn. Keeping the lawn mowed to a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches also helps reduce crabgrass—crabgrass likes the shorter-mowed lawn. Mow the lawn often, so as not to remove more than one-third of the blade at each mowing.

Water the Lawn Properly

Irrigation also helps to control crabgrass. Lawns should be watered deeply and infrequently. Water once a week, making sure the lawn gets an inch of water at each watering. The soil should be moist to at least the bottom of the roots. Water again on the same day each week, or when the grass seems drought stressed (turf becomes bluish gray and footprints stay imprinted in the turf after it's walked on).

Fertilize the Lawn

Fertilize the lawn with two to four pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square foot each year. This will help to create a dense lawn, which reduces crabgrass populations. Fertilizer should be applied in September and again in November. In November, mow the grass one final time before fertilizing. Fertilizing with nitrogen in the summer will increase crabgrass production.

Use Herbicides on the Lawn

If the crabgrass cannot be controlled using cultural controls, herbicides can be used to control crabgrass. If the lawn is thin or new, the homeowner may need to use an herbicide until the lawn becomes established and lush. A pre-emergence herbicide will help prevent crabgrass from growing. Pre-emergence herbicides must be applied before crabgrass germinates—as early as April 1. Pre-emergence herbicides can be combined with spring fertilizers (slow-release fertilizers) or weed and seed products.

Some common pre-emergence herbicides include Benefin, Oxadiazon, Benefin/Trifluralin, Pendimethalin, Dithiopyr, and Prodiamine—or if the homeowner prefers organic, he or she may use corn gluten.

Post-emergence herbicides control crabgrass after it has germinated and emerged. It is most effective while the crabgrass is still small. Always read labels on herbicides. Quinclorac is safest for turf grass seedlings.

As with any lawn product, be sure to read the instructions prior to application. If fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides are used incorrectly, they can do as much or more damage to the lawn than the pests, fungi and disease.

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