The Differences Between Crabgrass and Other Weed Grasses

Does your lawn have crabgrass? Or does it have tall fescue? Perhaps you have quack grass or orchard grass in your lawn. Maybe you think all the weeds in your lawn look like crabgrass.

Two Categories of Weed Grasses: Perennial and Annual

Weed grasses can be grouped into two categories: annuals and perennials. Annual weeds sprout, grow, and die every year. In the spring and summer, their seeds begin to germinate, or grow; in the winter, annual weeds die off.

Perennial weeds live year-round. Like the desirable grass in your lawn, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial weeds actively grow every spring and go dormant every winter. If you see a weed grass in your lawn during winter and early spring, it is tall fescue, quack grass, or orchard grass, which are all perennial weeds.

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

Tall Fescue
Tall Fescue

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.

Orchard Grass
Orchard Grass

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 weed 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 chemical 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.

Crabgrass and Goosegrass—Two Annual Weed Grasses


Crabgrass is an annual weed grass, so it dies off every year. It starts to grow in late spring and early summer when soil temperatures rise to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Another way to differentiate crabgrass from other weed grasses is by its location and appearance. Crabgrass usually grows near edges of lawns. It grows in a clump out from a center root with its blades close to the ground.

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. Pre-emergent is a lawn application put down 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.

As a part of our lawn care program, Stewart’s applies pre-emergent every spring. Our lawn care program includes weed control, fertilizer, and insect 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.