9 Best Crabgrass Preventers | When & How to Apply

The mere mention of the term “crabgrass” can bring to mind images of lawns peppered with the coarse, unattractive grassy weed. Having suffered from the unsightly effects of a crabgrass problem in my yard, I know all too well how difficult and frustrating it can be to get rid of this weed. So I dug deep into researching the best crabgrass preventers, and today my friends,…[drum roll] I share my findings…

I have spent hours applying herbicides and pulling out clumps by hand to no avail, but have finally been able to eliminate this nuisance by using a high-quality crabgrass preventer used by the professionals. 

While not harmful to humans or animals, crabgrass has the unfortunate ability to take hold quickly and spread like wildfire, ruining your otherwise beautiful lawn. It is an unusually hardy plant and can withstand many herbicides that quickly kill other weeds, making it very difficult to remove.

So, you may be wondering, what is the best way to deal with this unwanted grass? The old mantra “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” definitely applies to crabgrass. Taking steps to prevent this weed from taking hold before the first signs of it appear will save you countless headaches when it comes to lawn care.

To prevent crabgrass, consider using a pre-emergent herbicide specially designed to combat this type of weed. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the best crabgrass preventers available and when to apply them. But, first, it is essential to understand a little bit more about crabgrass.

What Is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass, also known by the scientific name Digitaria, is a common lawn weed that appears annually. Crabgrass belongs to the Poaceae grass family and is native to tropical and warm regions. However, it can also grow in subtropical and cooler temperatures under the right conditions.

Like any plant, crabgrass uses seeds to reproduce, and this is highly effective and quickly leads to many new plants. Seeds develop between midsummer and fall, and each plant can produce thousands of seeds. While frost and cold winter temperatures kill existing plants, the seeds remain dormant underground, ready to sprout up as soon as the weather warms in the spring.

One of the main differences between crabgrass and desirable lawn grass is that crabgrass is an annual grass. Its lifecycle is less than one year, and once the weather becomes cold, the plant dies. The crabgrass that appears the following year, while seeded by the original plants, is completely new growth. On the other hand, desired lawn grasses, such as Bermuda grass, are perennial grasses that live year after year, simply becoming dormant during the colder months.

What Does Crabgrass Look Like? 

One thing that sets crabgrass apart from other grasses is its distinctive appearance. New growth is yellow-green to lime in color and darkens as it ages.

The recognizable long, spawning stems resemble the legs of a crab, which is how it gets its name. Stems have broad leaves and end in a bushy cluster of seeds. 

best crabgrass preventer
A Tuft of Crabgrass

This structure is very different from other grasses and weeds that send up their blades from a central point. Because it grows extremely fast, stem height can vary between 6 inches to 3 feet. 

If you suspect you may have crabgrass in your yard, looking for the following can help you identify it:

  • Newly sprouted crabgrass will appear light green, and older growth will be a darker, dull green.
  • Leaves of crabgrass are broader than the blades of other grasses.
  • The center of the clump will be low to ground, with long stems extending both upwards and outwards.
  • Growth occurs much faster and thicker than other grass.

Why Is My Lawn Full of Crabgrass?

The reason crabgrass is so pervasive is because of its hardy nature. It grows well in hot, dry conditions and can become a problem during the summer, especially when other desired grasses begin to die due to heat and drought. 

Once the soil temperature reaches 55° F, crabgrass seeds germinate and start to sprout in the thin and bare spots of your lawn. These plants, of course, produce seeds once they mature, causing the weed to reproduce quickly and take hold. For this reason, the key to getting rid of crabgrass is to target dormant seeds with the best crabgrass preventer before they begin to germinate.

The plants grow exceptionally quickly, and their long stems not only grow up but also outwards. Often the lower stems will develop nodes or additional points where they put down roots. This can cause individual plants to become intertwined and lead to one dense, messy patch of weeds. 

In addition to being very difficult to remove because of their structure, crabgrass plants are excellent at crowding out the desired grass in your yard. As you find yourself mowing more frequently to combat these quickly growing weeds, you help spread the seeds around your yard, leading to more crabgrass. 

Types of Crabgrass

There are over 35 types of crabgrass that share some similarities but are also distinct in appearance and location:

  • Short, Smooth Crabgrass – Native to Europe and Asia, this crabgrass is also quite common in America. It rises 6 inches in height above the ground and has smooth and broad stems. This grass is prevalent in the summer months.
  • Long, Hairy Crabgrass – Commonly known as large crabgrass or common crabgrass, this weed is native to Europe. It occurs in rich clay and sandy soil. Still, its hardiness also allows it to grow on lawns, sidewalks, railroads, and even waste areas. This weed may grow up to 3 feet, and its seed clusters have a spiky, finger-like appearance.
  • Southern crabgrass – This variety shares some similarities with both smooth and long crabgrass in its growth pattern. Its leaf blades can either have no hairs or a few hairs close to the base of the blade. It originated in Asia but has spread across tropical areas. It can grow up to a height of 3 feet, making it one of the taller crabgrass varieties.
  • Asian crabgrass – This plant is native to Asia, the Southeastern part of the United States, the West Indies, and South America. It can thrive in tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates and is considered pasture grass among Asian farmers but can be a significant pest to lawn owners. 
  • Blanket crabgrass – As the name suggests, the growth of this grass can have a blanket-like quality, spreading quickly and growing very thick. It is also commonly called rabbit crabgrass or dwarf crabgrass. Blanket crabgrass is native to North America and mainly occurs in warm climate conditions. It has relatively short leaf blades with some noticeable hair and short stems.

There are many other less common crabgrass varieties, such as Indian crabgrass, which has tiny leaves less than 1 inch in length, and Texas crabgrass, which flourishes in hot, arid, and rocky places. Other species of crabgrass are very region-specific, and their names reflect this. 

For example, Queensland crabgrass grows in Queensland, and Madagascar crabgrass grows in the country that bears its name. Luckily, the best crabgrass preventers eliminate all of these types of crabgrass, so no matter the variety, you can easily achieve a weed-free lawn.

What Is So Bad About Crabgrass?

Most people see crabgrass as an ugly weed that can ruin the beauty and uniformity of your lawn. Crabgrass may start in the thin, bare parts of your yard but can quickly spread to crowd out your other grass. Worse yet, it can use up valuable nutrients and moisture from your soil, making it more difficult for desired grass to grow and thrive.

By the time you start spotting patches in your lawn, it is often too late for a quick fix. In addition to being frustratingly resistant to many post-emergent herbicides, crabgrass has roots that extend deep into the dirt. 

It is hard to pull and, if you do manage to yank it up, it is nearly impossible to ensure that you’ve gotten the entire root system. Furthermore, anything left behind has the possibility of regrowing. At best, pulling crabgrass will leave you with deep, unsightly holes in your yard.


9 Best Crabgrass Pre Emergent Herbicides

Given the difficulty of ridding your lawn of this unwanted weed, preventing it from taking hold is a must. A type of pre-emergent herbicide commonly known as crabgrass preventer is required to achieve this. Having dealt with a crabgrass pandemic in my yard, I’ve had the opportunity to try many of these products and a load of others that failed miserably.

Check out the list below to see how some of the best crabgrass preventers compared. I am judging these products on performance, ease of use and value.


1. Hi-Yield Weed and Grass Stopper with Dimension Herbicide

Hi-Yield Weed And Grass Stopper

Hi-Yield Weed and Grass Stopper with Dimension Herbicide prevents all types of crabgrass and other germinating weeds. It contains a dimension herbicide and can be applied up to four weeks later in the crabgrass life cycle than other preventers. So, it provides up to four months of crabgrass control and is suitable to use on both warm and cool-season types of grass. 

Hi-Yield contains the active ingredient Dithiopyr (0.125%) a herbicide that controls around 45 weeds and grasses by inhibiting root development and has an active lifespan of 4 months.

I followed the manufacturer’s instructions and applied it to half of the test area (A) on dry ground in spring as a pre-emergent and left the benchmark section of lawn (B) untreated. Sure enough, (A) section of lawn began to show signs of browning tufts of crabgrass as the post-emergent began to take effect and worked on existing areas of crabgrass. No further new growth occurred, which must have been the pre-emergent crabgrass preventer in action.

Obviously, I was very pleased with these results. It did what it claimed: Prevented crabgrass growing and killed off all existing signs of old-growth. It’s also worth mentioning this product contains no fertilizer so you can apply it at any time throughout the growing season without the risk of scorching your lawn.

Check Hi-Yield Weed And Grass Stopper latest price online

Pros      

  • Acts as a pre-emergent and post-emergent crabgrass treatment
  • It targets all annual broadleaf weeds, not just crabgrass
  • Excellent results. It did exactly what it claimed it would do, get rid of crabgrass
  • Does not contain fertilizer so can be used all season without risk of scorching

Cons

  • Nothing

2. Hi-Yield Crabgrass Weed Control Pre-Emergent 

Hi-Yield Crabgrass Weed Control

Hi-Yield Crabgrass Weed Control is a pre-emergent selective herbicide that targets crabgrass prevention and kills other problematic annual weed grasses like foxtail, goosegrass, and barnyard grass. The active ingredient is Benefin, which inhibits root development and inhibits the growth of new shoots, making it a very effective broadleaf and crabgrass killer.

It is appropriate for season-long weed control on lawns, and other grassy areas. It targets crabgrass, specifically smooth and long types, as well as other annual grasses such as bluegrass, barnyard grass, goosegrass, foxtail, spurge, woodsorrel, and others.

Its suitable for use on bentgrass, bahiagrass, bermuda grass, perennial bluegrass, centipede grass, fescue, perennial ryegrass, and zoysiagrass.

How To Use: For the best control, apply one to two weeks before germination of annual grass weeds. It also doesn’t contain fertilizers, making it one of the most natural pre-emergent products on the market. In addition, it is economical as a small 9.31 lb bag of Hi-Yield Crabgrass Weed Control can treat 5,000 to 20,000 sq. ft. 

I applied this granular treatment across my lawn early winter last year and it has given a great result. I would definitely recommend this if you are after a pre-emergent crabgrass treatment. If you have signs of emerged crabgrass in your lawn then use the Hi-Yield Weed And Grass Stopper.

Check Hi-Yield Crabgrass Weed Control latest price online

Pros      

  • It targets crabgrass specifically smooth and long types, plus many other types of annual grass.
  • Suitable for use of a large range of grass types

Cons

  • Must be watered into the soil after application either by rain or by hand.
  • Only targets the long and smooth variety of crabgrass.

3. Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action Crabgrass Preventer 

Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action Crabgrass Preventer

Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action, as its name suggests, provides three benefits in one product. It kills weeds, including dandelions and clover, prevents future weeds like crabgrass and other grassy weeds, and feeds and strengthens your lawn. Anyone who reads my articles knows I’m a big fan of Scotts products for their convenience and quality and this Triple Action product is no different.

It can be used on lawns with Bermuda grass, centipede grass, fine fescue, tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, or perennial ryegrass.

How To Use: This product is designed to be applied in the spring only and prevents crabgrass for four months while feeding your desired grass to build a thick green lawn. Apply it when the daytime temperature is consistently between 60° F – 80° F and wait for at least six to eight weeks between applications. In addition, this product contains both pre-emergent and post-emergent weed control, making it extra effective. 

You’re getting a general broadleaf weed killer, a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer, plus a high nitrogen feed to help produce thicker and more luscious turf. Now don’t get me wrong, if you are just looking to control a severe crabgrass problem then shoot for Hi-Yield Weed And Grass Stopper, but as a fantastic all-rounder, Scotts Triple Action cannot be beaten.

Check Scotts Crabgrass Preventer latest price at Amazon.com

Pros      

  • A perfect all-rounder, Broadleaf killer, Crabgrass pre-emergent, and fertilizer all in one
  • It contains both pre and post-emergent weed control
  • The best weed and feed option

Cons

  • Requires multiple applications throughout the season for best results

4. Ferti-Lome All Seasons Lawn Food Plus Crabgrass Preventer 10-0-8 

Ferti-Lome For All Seasons II Lawn Food Plus Crabgrass And Weed Preventer

Ferti-Lome For All Seasons II Lawn Food Plus Crabgrass and Weed Preventer is a selective pre-emergent herbicide that controls the growth of broadleaf weeds and grasses in established lawns. 

It will target crabgrass and henbit, oxalis, bluegrass, chickweed, crabgrass, foxtail, purslane, shepherd’s purse, prostrate spurge, knotweed, and other weeds.

How To Use: For best results, it should be applied in early spring or fall two to three weeks before seed germination. It also contains 16-0-8 fertilizer with trace elements to feed the lawn, and a 20 lb bag can cover up to 5,000 sq. ft. This product does recommend the following safety precautions:

This herbicide and fertilizer combination is excellent in keeping my yard neat throughout the year. It’s easy to apply, went a long way, and showed impressive results in weed control and in making my lawn thicker. This is another excellent product I am confident to recommend.

Buy Ferti-Lome online here

Pros      

  • All season use as a broadleaf weed killer, crabgrass preventer and fertilizer
  • It can be used on both warm and cool-season types of grass
  • Water in for the fastest results

Cons

  • Not suitable for golf courses…that rules me out then!!

5. Tenacity Herbicide 

Tenacity Herbicide

Tenacity Herbicide combines pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides concentrate that provides selective weed control in turfgrass. When applied as a pre-emergent spray new growth will be controlled through foliage contact, whereas for mature weeds Tenacity will inhibit root development and new shoots.

Tenacity Herbicide claims to target weed grasses and kill them while leaving the rest of the yard intact, and that’s precisely what it did. When I used it, I was very pleased with the results but found the preparation and application a little more labor-intensive to use than some of the other products. 

This herbicide targets crabgrass (specifically the long and smooth types) and carpetweed, chickweed, clover, dandelion, foxtail, goosegrass, henbit, yellow nutsedge purslane, thistle, wild carrot, and barnyard grass.

Suitable for use on Kentucky bluegrass, centipede grass, buffalo grass, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue, and St. Augustine grass.

Tenacity Herbicide requires watering after drying on the crabgrass blades, for absorption. Therefore, if there is no rainfall within ten days of application, you need to water it into your yard. For best results, I recommend repeating the application after two or three weeks.

Find Tenacity Herbicide online here

Pros      

  • It targets all annual broadleaf weeds, not just crabgrass

Cons

  • It only targets the long and smooth varieties of crabgrass. 
  • It must be watered into the soil after application

6. Scotts Weedex Prevent with Halts Pre-Emergent Weed Control

Scotts Weedex Prevent With Halts

Scotts Weedex Prevent with Halts helps stop crabgrass before it even germinates. For season-long prevention, apply it in early spring so it can target crabgrass and foxtail, spurge, barnyard grass, fall panicum, goosegrass, henbit, chickweed, poa annua, corn speedwell, and common yellow woodsorrel.

Scotts Weedex can be used on all lawn and grass types except dichondra or bentgrass. As with all pre-emergent treatments timing is everything, be sure to apply early spring to catch and kill the first germinations, then continue to use through the to the latter part of the season.

How To Use: It provides effective pre-emergent control of crabgrass, foxtail, spurge, oxalis, and other grassy and broadleaf weeds. A 10.06 lb bag of Scotts Weedex Prevent can cover up to 5,000 sq. ft. Just load a granule broadcaster spreader and work your way around the lawn to cover all affected areas to be treated.

Check Scotts Weedex latest price on Amazon

Pros      

  • Can be used on all lawn and grass types except dichondra or bentgrass

Cons

  • Must be applied pre-season as a pre-emergent to produce season long results

7. Espoma Weed Preventer Plus Lawn Food

Espoma Weed Preventer Plus Lawn Food

Espoma Weed Preventer Plus Lawn Food is an all-natural organic weed preventer and lawn food made from 100% corn gluten meal. It prevents dandelions, crabgrass, and other common broadleaf weeds and provides long-lasting nutrition to your yard. It can also help to keep grass green and prevent environmental burns. 

How To Use: Apply it in early spring and fall. A 25 lb bag of Espoma Weed Preventer can cover up to 1,250 sq. ft. of area.

I like that this pre-emergent herbicide helps to control weeds at a reasonable price. Plus, it is also 100% organic making it a great choice if you are prepared to get nearly great results, but have a totally clear ‘environmental’ conscience.

Check Espoma Weed Preventer latest price on Amazon

Pros      

Cons

  • It is only for use on established lawns.
  • Will not achieve perfect results, but its the best organic option

8. Spectracide Weed Stop For Lawns Plus Crabgrass Preventer

Spectracide Weed Stop For Lawns

Spectracide Weed Stop For Lawns Plus Crabgrass Preventer is an efficient and powerful crabgrass preventer. It claims to kill over 200 broadleaf weeds and grasses, including crabgrass, dandelion, chickweed, thistle, and clover. A 10.8 lb bag can cover up to 3,000 sq. ft.

It targets both crabgrass and other undesirable annual grasses

It can be used on Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine and tall fescues (cool season), bahiagrass, bermudagrass, buffalo grass, centipede grass, zoysiagrass, and St. Augustine grass (except “Floratam,” which is a warm-season grass).

I have only used this product once and the results were okay, but as you would imagine I have had a far better experience with the other products on this list, hence this one is down at number 8 on the list.

Buy Spectracide on Amazon

Pros      

  • Effective as a pre-emergent when applied in fall and late winter

Cons

  • It does not contain a post-emergent herbicide and will not kill existing mature crabgrass.

9. Bio-Advanced All-in-one Weed & Feed

Bio-Advanced All-In-One Weed & Feed

Bio-Advanced All-in-one Weed & Feed both kills weeds and strengthens your lawn. It boasts the ability to kill over 200 broadleaf lawn weeds like dandelion, clover, chickweed, and, most importantly, crabgrass. In addition, it also fertilizes with micro-feeding technology that nourishes, strengthens, and helps keep your lawn green.

Bio-Advanced is suitable for use on a wide range of grasses including Bermuda grass, fescue, zoysiagrass, Kentucky bluegrass, ryegrass, buffalo grass, and seashore paspalum.

A 12 lb bag can treat up to 5,000 sq ft, and the best time to use it is in early spring and fall. Okay, open disclosure, I have not used this product but it is a popular choice but the customer feedback I have seen is mixed. I am not able to confidently recommend it for you but look… it’s here as another option so that you can compare the top brands and best products on the market for crabgrass treatment.

Buy Bio-Advanced online at Amazon

Pros      

  • Prevents Crabgrass and 200 other common broadleaf weeds
  • Contains lawn fertilizer as well weed killer and pre-emergent herbicide

Cons

  • Best when watered into the soil

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass

The removal of existing crabgrass is challenging. So it’s best to allow any mature plants to die off during the cold season. Then, the crabgrass preventers should be applied before any seeds start germinating to prevent new growth. So, when exactly is that?

When to Apply Crabgrass Preventer

Crabgrass seeds start to germinate as the soil warms. The first emergence of crabgrass usually occurs when the soil temperature reaches about 55° F. Growth explodes once it heats to 60° F to 70° F. Rise in soil temperature is the primary driver of crabgrass germination.

Knowing this, the best time to apply a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer is when the soil temperature is slightly below 55° F. This timing is crucial as, although you may not be able to see any crabgrass activity, the germination process begins when the temperature reaches the threshold of 55° F. 

For pre-emergent preventers to work, they must break down the seeds before they begin germinating. Therefore, if applied after the germination process has already started, they will be ineffective.

Is crabgrass preventer the same as pre-emergent?

The best crabgrass preventers are pre-emergent herbicides. They are used to prevent crabgrass or any other broadleaf weeds before they spread and take over your entire lawn.

Should you pull crabgrass?

While pulling crabgrass is not harmful in any way and is an effective way to remove it, it is very unpleasant. Not only is it backbreaking work, but it is also tough to ensure you get all of the root systems as you dig the weed up. The roots tend to run deep and be pervasive, so it is easy to miss some, which can then re-sprout. 

A weed remover tool or trowel can be helpful in the digging process. Pulling crabgrass tufts can also be easier right after a rainstorm as the soil tends to be softer. 

If you are not put off by the tiring nature of this work, be aware that it can irritate skin and sinus allergies, so be sure to wear gloves if you do attempt the task. A mask may also be helpful if you suffer from sinus allergies to grass, pollen, or the like. 

How Long After Pre Emergent Can I Seed

If you have managed to eradicate your crabgrass, you may be left with some sparse patches on your lawn that you would like to fill with desirable grass before crabgrass has a chance to return. For this reason, it is essential to know how long after applying a pre-emergent crabgrass preventer you can seed your yard. 

Once a crabgrass preventer or any pre-emergent is applied, you must wait at least 7-14 days before seeding. You may find it helpful to cover the area you plan to plant with rich topsoil to help the seed take. After seeding, consider coving the seeded area with straw to prevent rain from washing the seeds away before they can germinate and water it daily. Selecting a grass that thrives in your climate can also help it grow well. 

Best Crabgrass Preventers Final Thoughts

The use of pre-emergent crabgrass preventers is key to keeping your lawn clear of crabgrass, healthy, and beautiful. If you have struggled with crabgrass and other broadleaf pest grasses, you undoubtedly know how difficult it can be to get rid of and keep away. 

The best way to kill crabgrass is to allow it to die naturally when the temperature drops, but the only way to prevent it from returning is to kill the dormant seeds with crabgrass-preventing herbicides before they can germinate.

When it comes to lawn maintenance, prevention trumps treatment. By choosing to apply one of the above-recommended pre-emergent treatments, you can ensure the health and uniformity of your yard. Combination formulas that contain a pre-emergent herbicide, post-emergent herbicide, and fertilizer can be beneficial as they rid your grass of existing and future weeds and support the health of the grass you want to keep. 

If you are looking for an out-and-out crabgrass control product, that will act as a pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide then Hi-Yield Weed And Grass Stopper is just about as good as you will find anywhere. Then Scotts Turf Builder Triple Action is my favorite all-rounder, broadleaf weed killer, crabgrass preventer, and lawn fertilizer.

Whatever your needs, one of the options above is sure to meet them. Each offers different benefits, so determining which is the best crabgrass preventer for your lawn can be challenging, but the results will be worthwhile. So try one today and begin enjoying the beautiful yard you deserve!