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Crabgrass in the Summer

In 1998 I was on my honeymoon in the Bahamas, walking through a neighborhood near the resort where we were staying. It was summer, so it was HOT, but the lawns looked pretty good! My training has all been with cool-season grasses that could never tolerate that kind of heat, but do well for most of the season in Connecticut and areas to the north. I took a closer look at the grass in the lawns and wondered what sort of warm-season grass it was. St. Augustine grass? Bermudagrass? Zoyzia? Bahiagrass? I knew about these from textbooks, but didn’t have any hands-on experience, so I was hellbent on identifying it.

The tour guide asked me what I was doing as I examined some strangers lawn while on my hands and knees. I explained. “OH!” he replied. “That’s crabgrass.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at myself. Of course I knew crabgrass, but I thought of it as a weed to be conquered, not a nice lawn to compliment a house. So why does it look so good in the Bahamas and not in Connecticut? Actually, take a look at the picture below (NOT a client of ours). This was taken in Connecticut on July 21, 2018. The green, healthy looking stuff on the left of the red, dotted line is almost pure crabgrass. The browner, unhealthy lawn on the right is mainly cool-season grasses after a stretch of hot, harsh weather.

These are 2 neighboring properties. The one on the right was treated in the Spring with a crabgrass preventer, and the one on the left wasn’t. That’s why there is such a stark difference. See below for a different angle. The arrows point to crabgrass, which is clearly loving the heat. You can find it where the lawn wasn’t treated and also on those driveway edges that radiate intense heat.

This lawn is NOT irrigated and sits in direct sunlight all day. The soil is poor as well, so all that browning grass is to be expected, but the crabgrass is happy as can be. But let’s fast forward to the end of the season. The pictures below (not of the same property) are like a photographic negative of the ones above. The cooler fall weather will kill off the crabgrass, leaving your lawn looking like a grass graveyard. Worst of all, it’s too cold by then to re-seed, so you’re stuck with a mostly dead lawn until well into the following spring.

In the Bahamas, it never gets very cold, so the crabgrass thrives year round. In the northeast, it’s considered to be an invasive, annual weed that ought to be prevented. If it isn’t prevented properly, then the best approach is to treat it with an herbicide in the late summer, then re-seed in the early fall while there’s still time to get a good lawn established. The following spring, you can prevent the crabgrass from re-growing.

Don’t be afraid to touch base if you have any other questions at all!

-Christopher Brown

Co/Owner – Teed & Brown

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