The Home Of Outdoor Living
Thank you for signing up to . You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.
Crabgrass vs quackgrass is like a heavyweight match between two invasive grass species that can turn your pristine, soft lawn into a tangled mess. Even the best lawn mower won't help you get rid of these tough, clumpy grasses that somehow always evade even the sharpest blade.
Some lawn owners simply give up and settle for a clumpy-looking lawn – don't let this be you. The reason you can't seem to get rid of crabgrass on your lawn is because it may not be crabgrass at all. Learning to tell the difference between crabgrass and other undesirable grasses on your lawn will determine what you need to do next – and the methods will be quite different.
What is crabgrass?
Crabgrass (Digitaris) is an annual weed that spreads horizontally across your lawn, making it pretty much impossible to remove with a lawn mower. It's also known as 'finger grass' thanks to its sprawling habit.
The easiest way to tell whether you've got crabgrass on your lawn is to watch the borders – at some point, you'll notice the horizontal shoots growing parallel with the ground. The bad news is that by the time you've noticed it, it's often too late to remove crabgrass. You can apply herbicide, but it most likely will damage the rest of your lawn, so it's not worth it.
The good news is that crabgrass is an annual plant, and the winter frosts will kill it, without fail. If you've noticed crabgrass in your lawn, it's best to leave it and then apply pre-emergent herbicide (opens in new tab) early next spring to prevent any seeds remaining from last year from germinating. For anyone with a recurring crabgrass issue, applying a pre-emergent product is one to remember for your spring lawn care tips.
What is quackgrass?
Quackgrass (Elymus repens) is a completely different species of weed from crabgrass, and unlike crabgrass, it's an upright-growing perennial. Quackgrass is characterized by broad leaves (you'll notice right away that they're broader than regular lawn grass) and a rough feel. It has vigorous, white roots.
Your best bet with this grass is hand-pulling – in fact, applying a targeted herbicide will do nothing to get rid of it, while applying an all-purpose herbicide will kill your lawn grass. If you have a very severe infestation, you may find it easier to just replace your lawn with fresh topsoil and reseeding the lawn. Otherwise, learn how to weed a garden with the help of our guide.
What other invasive grasses are there?
Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense) and Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea) are two other common lawn invaders. Both are perennials and upright growing like quackgrass – and again, both are best tackled by hand pulling.
Of course, not all grasses are undesirable – you can learn how to grow ornamental grasses in our guide. Fescue can look attractive in other parts of your garden – just not your lawn.
Know your grass and you'll know how to get rid of the ones you don't want without damaging the beautiful lawn grass you want to thrive.
Anna is a keen urban gardener, with David Austin roses and Japanese acers among her favourite plants. She moved into the world of interiors from academic research in the field of literature and urban space a couple of years ago. She's always been interested in how people make houses into homes, and how our concepts of what's stylish change over time.
How and when to harvest rhubarb for tasty stems
Grow Your Own We explain when to harvest rhubarb and how to do it properly for the best results
By Holly Crossley • Published
Why gardening expert James Wong says rockwool could be the new compost
Plants The British ethnobotanist says that this mineral-based material typically used for insulation could give plants the best start in life
By Jayne Dowle • Published