Crabgrass is a seasonal plant that sprouts as soon as the weather begins to warm. For those who take pride in a lush, beautiful lawn, eradicating crabgrass is a yearly battle that can be won in a few different ways. The earlier the battle begins, the better. Here are two ways — one natural and one chemical — to keep your lawn free of this unsightly weed.

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Types of Crabgrass

There are two species of crabgrass commonly found in North America. Large crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinali) has hairy leaves that grow to about three inches long, and branches that are about two to five inches long. Smooth crabgrass (Digitaria ischaemum) can grow up to six inches tall, with pointed leaf blades and shorter branches. Both species have the same adverse effects — stealing nutrients and moisture from the soil and from the plants you’re trying to grow. These types of crabgrass tend to grow in almost every turf grass and landscape situation.

Crabgrass, which can tolerate both wet and dry conditions, causes problems from the beginning of its lifecycle right up until the end. A single plant can produce as many as 150,000 weed seeds, which is why this pesky weed spreads so quickly. It begins as seeds that germinate in the spring or early summer, and dies after the first frost in the fall growing season. When crabgrass finally dies back, it leaves behind gaping holes and bare patches, making your lawn look ragged and unkempt.

No matter how much care you take, crabgrass can still find a way into your yard or flower beds, especially if your neighbors aren’t taking the same precautions (those 150,000 seeds travel fast). If you find a crabgrass infestation popping up among your bahia, Bermuda, and bluegrass, there are a lot of ways to treat the problem and reclaim your lawn.

Prevent Crabgrass Early

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you can stop the seeds from sprouting in the first place, you’ll save yourself a lot of work and frustration. Crabgrass seeds germinate in early spring when the soil temperature reaches 55–60°F.

The best time to keep crabgrass at bay is in the early spring, before the seedlings have a chance to take hold. This is true whether you’re using an organic method of making weed killers or a chemical preventative.

4 Ways to Get Rid of Crabgrass Naturally

If you’re trying to prevent annual weed growth or get rid of crabgrass naturally, a healthy lawn and a little elbow grease go a long way. Additionally, you might want to consider using pre-emergent herbicides on your lawn. These herbicides create a barrier in the soil that inhibits the growth of weed seedlings.


  • Lawn mower 
  • Watering hose
  • Gardening gloves
  • Crabgrass preventative made from corn-gluten meal

1. Mow Your Lawn Less Frequently

Keeping your grass a little on the tall side is a good way to prevent crabgrass. This allows your grass to shade the soil, which discourages the sun-loving weed, prevents crabgrass germination, and causes it to lose its foothold and die back.

2. Water Your Lawn Less Often

When watering your lawn, opt to do it more intensely but less often, drenching the soil to a depth of four to six inches in one go. This will keep the root system of your grass strong and healthy, making it harder for crabgrass to stage a takeover.

3. Pull Weeds More Often

If you have crabgrass growing in your garden, you can get rid of it simply by pulling the weeds out. The best time to do this is in the spring before the weeds have gotten too big and there are bare spots after pulling, or after heavy rain when the soil is softer. If weeding becomes tiresome or time-consuming, a hoe will also get the job done. You can also explore other natural methods to eliminate weeds, such as using salt, fire, vinegar, and more

4. Go for Gluten

If you’re still having crabgrass problems despite your best efforts, an all-natural preventative made from corn gluten meal could be the answer.

This will kill the roots of germinating seeds by releasing a protein that slows root development, without damaging more established plants. The only downside is that cornmeal gluten requires an application rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet, which isn’t cheap. If this natural solution isn’t worth the price tag, there are other options.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass Chemically

If you prefer to use chemicals to deal with your crabgrass problem, following these steps will help you do so safely and effectively.


  • Crabgrass pre-emergence herbicide 
  • Crabgrass post-emergence herbicide
  • Spray bottle

Start Early

The best time to get rid of crabgrass is in the spring, ideally after your second mow of the year.

Check the Temperature

The window for using a pre-emergence herbicide is short — it’s effective only for about a week and a half, when the soil reaches 52°F, before the crabgrass has sprouted seedlings.

Apply the Pre-emergence Herbicide

Pre-emergence herbicide, which can be found in most garden stores, is a granular herbicide crabgrass killer that creates a chemical barrier at the surface of the soil, which poisons germinating seeds. It is important to know the ideal time to apply pre-emergent. If possible, apply the herbicide just before it rains, which will help work it into the soil.

Use Post-Emergence Herbicide

If you’ve missed the window for pre-emergence herbicide and your lawn is blooming with crabgrass, all is not lost. You can still fight this weed-choked lawn with the help of a post-emergence herbicide, so you don’t need to wait until next spring.

Post-emergence herbicides can be loaded into a hand-pump sprayer and applied directly to crabgrass after it has sprouted. Wait for a hot day with low wind, as the herbicide will be less effective in cooler weather.

Reapply as Needed

Crabgrass can be stubborn, especially as it ages. If your weeds are older and more established, you may need to reapply the herbicide a few days later for the best results.

Watch and Water

Keep an eye on the area you treated with the herbicide. If the weather has been very dry, water your lawn two days after the application — this will help the soil absorb it.

Monitor Your Lawn

Like a clueless party guest, crabgrass has a habit of returning uninvited. Keep an eye on your lawn throughout the rest of the spring and summer, and hand-pull new grassy weeds as soon as they appear so they do not take over your new grass.

How to Prevent Crabgrass in the Spring

It is so much easier to prevent crabgrass in the spring before it becomes problematic, rather than waiting for the summer to get rid of it. Crabgrass seeds begin germinating once the soil reaches 55 °F. Pulling weeds and using crabgrass preventers in the early to middle of spring is best.

The only way to keep the crabgrass from returning is to make sure all clumps of crabgrass are removed and apply the pre-emergent herbicide spray consistently. If you are looking for a natural way to prevent crabgrass in the spring, you can use an all-natural corn gluten preventative treatment. When treating your lawn to prevent crabgrass, be sure to mow and water it less often for best results. Additionally, we recommend you explore our article if you’re looking for a guide to springtime lawn care.

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose the natural or chemical route to get rid of crabgrass, the key to keeping it from growing back is to stay consistent with treatment. Remember to mow and water your lawn less often, and apply both pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides when you have the right weather.

Additionally, you can reseed your lawn by adding grass seed, which can help prevent crabgrass growth. Staying consistent in your crabgrass treatment will not only help you keep the pesky weed away, but it will help your lawn stay lush and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

What will kill crabgrass but not grass?

Since crabgrass plants are a grass type, most combination lawn and herbicide fertilizer products will not kill your grass. These de-weeders are designed to kill common lawn weeds too, such as bermuda grass, broadleaf weeds, and dandelions, while keeping your grass safe.

How do you get rid of crabgrass permanently?

The best way to get rid of crabgrass permanently is to apply herbicide to your lawn for crabgrass control. Using a pre-emergent herbicide is the best course of action, and should do the trick in getting rid of crabgrass for good. Additionally, aeration and overseeding can help with weed control.

What is the best way to get rid of crabgrass?

The best way to get rid of crabgrass is to keep up on pulling weeds throughout your lawn, and use both pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide and reapply as needed.

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Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Coty Perry.
Editorial Contributors
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Elisabeth Beauchamp

Senior Staff Writer

Elisabeth Beauchamp is a content producer for Today’s Homeowner’s Lawn and Windows categories. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Journalism and Linguistics. When Elisabeth isn’t writing about flowers, foliage, and fertilizer, she’s researching landscaping trends and current events in the agricultural space. Elisabeth aims to educate and equip readers with the tools they need to create a home they love.

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Coty Perry

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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