what does crab grass look like

How to Identify and Treat Crabgrass

Does your lawn have crabgrass? You might think all the wide-bladed grasses in your lawn are crabgrass, but there are actually many types of weed grasses, and some are very difficult to eliminate. If you live in Orem or Provo, chances are the wide-bladed grass in your lawn is actually tall fescue, quack grass, or orchard grass—not crabgrass.

Perennial vs. Annual Wide-bladed Weed Grasses

Wide-bladed weed grasses can be grouped into two categories: annuals and perennials. Annual weeds (like crabgrass) sprout, grow, and die every year. In the spring and summer, their seeds begin to grow; in the winter, annual weeds die off.

Perennial wide-bladed grasses live year-round. Like Kentucky bluegrass lawns, perennial weeds actively grow every spring and go dormant every winter. If you see a wide-bladed grass in your lawn during winter and early spring, it is a perennial-type weed grass like tall fescue, quack grass, or orchard grass (NOT crabgrass).

Crabgrass and Goosegrass—Two Annual Weed Grasses

Crabgrass is an annual weed grass, so it dies off every year. It starts to grow in early summer (usually in June) when soil temperatures rise to 50° F, so if you see a wide-bladed weed grass in your lawn in spring, it is not crabgrass.

Another way to differentiate crabgrass from other weed grasses is by its location and appearance. Smooth crabgrass usually grows near the edges of lawns and forms a clump with blades close to the ground. It has distinct, thin seed heads that usually extend beyond the leaves but remain close to the ground. Another type of crabgrass, called tall (or hairy) crabgrass has low-growing leaves but may also grow leaves that stick up instead of out.

Below is a 10-second video showing what crabgrass looks like.

Goosegrass is another type of annual weed grass. It grows in a clump close to the ground and has thick grass blades that radiate from the center. Grass blades are usually folded, and the plant tends to be thick and silvery-white at the base. Goosegrass usually comes up in the summer, a few weeks after crabgrass emerges.

How to Control Crabgrass and Other Annual Weed Grasses

Because it is an annual weed, crabgrass is controllable with pre-emergent (a type of weed control that prevents seeds from sprouting) applied in the spring. After the pre-emergent is on the lawn, it will come in contact with any seeds that are starting to sprout, stopping them from growing.

Pre-emergent needs to be applied at the right time in order to be effective. To prevent crabgrass from growing, pre-emergent should be applied in mid-April to May.

Stewart’s applies pre-emergent every spring as a part of our lawn care program. Our lawn care program also includes broadleaf weed control, fertilizer, and grub control for insects that eat at the roots of the lawn. Call or text our office at 801-226-2261 for a free estimate.

Watch our YouTube video below for more information about crabgrass.

The Perennial Problem—Why Perennial Weed Grasses are Hard to Kill

Perennial weed grasses, such as tall fescue and orchard grass, can be found anywhere in the lawn—not just near the edges.

Tall fescue is a wide-bladed grass that grows more quickly than Kentucky bluegrass. Like crabgrass, it grows in a clump, but the grass blades usually stand up tall. The grass blades of tall fescue are very wide and coarse, and the base of the plant is usually red.

Orchard grass is a stubborn weed grass that spreads quickly. It forms tufts, has rough, flat stems and leaves, and grows upwards instead of outwards like crabgrass. Some types of orchard grass grow with grass blades dispersed throughout the lawn, and others grow in clumps.

These types of weed grasses are difficult to kill because they have root systems that are very similar to the Kentucky bluegrass you want in your lawn.

For this reason, if you try to get rid of the perennial wide-bladed grasses in your lawn, you risk damaging your healthy grass. However, because weed grasses tend to spread quickly, removing them from your lawn is likely your best option.

The only way to get rid of tall fescue, orchard grass, and other pesky perennial weed grasses is to dig them out or to spray them with a non-selective herbicide (a weed spray that kills all plants—including regular grasses and flowers).

To prevent them from spreading, try to remove perennial weed grasses from your lawn as soon as you see them.

Perennial weed grasses struggle to grow in healthy, thick lawns—the best way to prevent them from growing in the first place is to follow correct lawn care principles.


Call or text our office at 801-226-2261 to talk with a lawn specialist and get a free quote today!