How To Get Rid Of Crabgrass In The Summer Without Chemicals

Anyone who takes care of their lawn knows crabgrass is a stubborn enemy. 

By the time summer rolls around, you might feel like the battle against crabgrass is already lost! And if you live in an area that regulates the use of chemicals like glyphosate – or if you prefer organic products – the fight can seem impossible.

But it doesn’t have to be! 

In this article, I’ll explain how to get rid of crabgrass in the summer without chemicals. As well as all my top tips on the best ways to tackle stubborn weed removal.

What Does Crabgrass Look Like

Crabgrass is a plant in the grass family. But, unlike “turf” grasses that make your lawn look smooth and lush, crabgrass is a noxious weed. 

To find crabgrass in your yard, look for thick, light-green clumps of grass that don’t match the rest of your turfgrass. You can recognize it by the broad blades of the leaves and the spidery stems that sprawl out from the center. These long stems are where crabgrass gets its name since they resemble the legs of a crab. 

Why Is Crabgrass Bad

Crabgrass is an incredibly sturdy weed that can thrive in sweltering, dry climates. A single crabgrass plant can produce up to 150,000 seeds! It’s hard to kill, and it spreads quickly, wreaking havoc on the “turfgrass.” 

Turfgrasses are the beautiful, fine grasses like Bermuda, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Bentgrass. These turfgrasses require regular upkeep like mowing and watering. 

Additionally, turfgrass typically needs more water to survive and is more fragile than crabgrass. As the crabgrass spreads and takes root across your yard, its roots will begin to choke out and steal nutrients from the turfgrass. 

The results are not good:

  • Crabgrass is messy looking: Crabgrass is not an attractive plant and will make your yard look weedy and uneven.
  • Crabgrass dies and leaves your yard looking patchy: Crabgrass is an “annual” plant meaning it dies and doesn’t come back. When it dies, it can leave your yard looking patchy.
  • Crabgrass doesn’t protect your yard from mud and erosion: As crabgrass dies, it also leaves parts of your yard exposed, so you’ll track more mud through your yard and into your house. 

You Must Prevent Crabgrass From Seeding

Because crabgrass is an annual plant, the weeds you see this summer will not come back next year. However, the seeds that they spread are lying dormant and waiting for warmer weather. 

Once the spring comes, those seeds will begin to take hold, and you’ll be fighting against more mature plants by the time you realize what’s happening.

The best way to stop weeds from showing up in the first place is with a good crabgrass preventer. This will halt the plant from seeding at all. If you can eliminate crabgrass before it spreads seeds, you’ll have a much easier job keeping it at bay. 

Over time, you’ll see less crabgrass returning.

How To Get Rid Of Crabgrass In The Summer

In summer, crabgrass has already matured to a sturdy plant. However, there are ways to kill it even then. Luckily, there are several different options available for getting rid of summer crabgrass. Here are the most effective methods of how to get rid of crabgrass in the summer. 

Organic Post-Emergent Herbicide

The most straightforward plan is to use an organic “post-emergent herbicide.” 

What does that mean? Herbicides are weed-killers – substances that are toxic to certain types of plants. Not all post-emergent herbicides are effective for all weeds and users should always check the label before use. While there are several types of herbicides, one important categorization is pre-emergent or post-emergent.

  • Pre-emergent Herbicides: These substances create a toxic layer of soil that prevents weed seedlings from growing roots. They only work by preventing seeds from germinating and do not harm mature plants.
  • Post-emergent Herbicides: As the name implies, post-emergent herbicides work on plants that have already “emerged” from the soil. These herbicides kill fully grown plants.

Since crabgrass doesn’t come back after one year, you can simply spray a post-emergent herbicide on the leaves to kill the plant.

An excellent option for crabgrass is Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer, and the ingredients are all-natural and safe for the environment, humans, and pets. 

 Natural Armor Weed and Grass Killer

Keep in mind that not all post-emergent herbicides are effective for all weeds. Users should check the label of their preferred product to ensure the herbicide will kill the type of crabgrass they’re focused on. Simply spray the organic herbicide on the stubborn sections of crabgrass and watch it disappear over the next few days. 

Use Vinegar To Kill Crabgrass

Did you know that some essential household items can also be effective in eliminating crabgrass?

Simple household bottles of vinegar like white vinegar or apple cider vinegar contain 5% acetic acid. When sprayed on plant leaves, the acid disrupts a plant’s pH levels and causes it to dry out and die. Make sure you target only the crabgrass since the acid is harmful to all plants and could hurt your garden or turfgrass.

You can also use a vinegar-based product called Harris Organic Vinegar Weed and Grass Killer. The Harris product is a ready-to-use vinegar herbicide that’s safe to use around children and pets. 

One application of this product will kill crabgrass within 24 hours, which means it doesn’t require any waiting time before you can walk across your lawn.

Killing Crabgrass With Baking Soda

Like vinegar, baking soda kills plants by drying them out. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, increases salinity on the plant’s surface, drawing water out of it. The leaves lose moisture and eventually die. 

You can apply the baking soda directly to the plant, making sure to cover it thoroughly across leaves, stalks, and the center. I recommend spraying water on the area first, as that will help the baking soda stick. 

Be very careful not to get baking soda on any surrounding plants or grass you want to keep alive. You may want to cover those plants while you work. 

Iodized Salt

Iodized salt, or sodium chloride, draws water out of plants similarly to baking soda. 

You need to be careful with the amount of salt you use. If too much salt gets into the soil, it can permanently sterilize the ground for any plant growth. 

To use salt as a weed-killer, mix it with water first. Salt is water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water. When you dissolve salt in water, plants can more easily absorb it into their leaves, roots, and stems. 

I recommend using one part salt to two parts water if you want to avoid harming the soil. Simply mix them together in a spray bottle and spritz directly onto the crabgrass.

How To Get Rid Of Crabgrass In The Summer Without Chemicals

Our options above are safe, organic, effective ways to kill crabgrass without risking harm to animals or humans. 

However, each of them does involve risk to the plants or soil around the crabgrass. If you would prefer not to use any chemicals – organic or not – on your lawn, here are some options for how to get rid of crabgrass without chemicals.

Use A Weed Burner On Crabgrass

The easiest way to get rid of crabgrass on your lawn is by using a weed burner. Weed burners use a small flame to burn the leaves and stems of any plant you want to kill. Since crabgrass doesn’t come back annually, burning the plant from above the ground works very well.

You can purchase weed burners at most home improvement centers for around $50-$100, depending on what type you need.

The weed burner works best in the early summer before crabgrass has a chance to sprout seeds. It’s good for your lawn since it kills the crabgrass without leaving any harsh chemicals behind. A weed burner is also non-toxic. You don’t need to worry about harming yourself or pets if they run through treated areas of soil afterward.   

Pulling Crabgrass By Hand

Perhaps the most obvious method of all, pulling out crabgrass by hand or with a weed puller can effectively remove the weed. Still, it’s important to understand the pitfalls of pulling crabgrass by hand without the proper method.

While it seems relatively straightforward, pulling out crabgrass can be frustrating and may not work permanently. You have to be sure you’ve pulled out all the plant’s roots, so it doesn’t grow back. You also need to be careful of disturbing too many roots of your other plants. 

Additionally, if the crabgrass has spread extensively, you could be working for hours trying to pull it all out. 

Pulling crabgrass by hand works best on small areas of new crabgrass shoots. They have smaller root systems and are easier to pull out completely. 

How To Get Rid Of Crabgrass In The Summer Without Chemicals

Crabgrass Removal Tools

If you decide to go the hand-pulling route, you can use a few tools to make the process easier. Specific gardening tools will help you cut and sever weed roots, which will cause them to die. Here are three tools to try.

  • Weeding Blades or Trowel: A thin, flat tool that can cut through weed roots with its sharp edge. These tools help remove small patches of crabgrass in your lawn without killing grasses or other plants nearby.
  • Grub Hoe: This tool has an angled head and round edges to help you slice into the soil. A tool like this easily cuts down weed roots. It’s a perfect tool for loosening soil near crabgrass roots to make it easier to pull the plant out by hand.
  • Weed Wrench or Weed Puller: A weed wrench has a scissor-like handle. The tool can help you remove large patches of crabgrass from your lawn with ease. 

How To Prevent Crabgrass From Growing

As they say, the best defense is a good offense. The best way to protect your lawn from crabgrass is to prevent the seeds from ever being able to grow or thrive. 

Try these methods:

Fertilize Your Lawn Regularly

The first way to prevent crabgrass from growing in your lawn is by fertilizing the yard regularly. Although this method isn’t perfect, fertilizing your lawn helps good grasses grow faster and stronger. 

Fertilizing gives your turfgrass a competitive edge, and it may help turfgrass outpace the growth of the crabgrass and starve it out. Weeds tend to struggle against healthy grasses. 

Keep Your Lawn Well Watered

Water your lawn for deep soil penetration. A lot of people water their lawns daily for a short time. These shallow waterings encourage plants to develop shallow roots, making them vulnerable to drying out and dying.

If you want your turfgrass to grow deep, long-lasting roots, plan to water for long periods so that the water penetrates deeply into the soil. You can then allow longer periods between watering so that the roots dig down to find the damper soil.

By encouraging turfgrass to root deeply, you’ll help them keep crabgrass at bay. Thriving, well-watered turfgrasses will choke out weeds like crabgrass, which does better in drier environments.

Mow Your Grass 2-3 Inches Tall

Some people assume that mowing their lawn short will kill crabgrass. Unfortunately, crabgrass can adapt by growing closer to the ground and producing seeds below your mowing height.

However, if you set your mower to cut grass at two to three inches tall, you can discourage crabgrass growth – especially before the plant matures. Your taller turfgrass will grow tall and thick and help block sunlight from reaching the crabgrass sprouts, effectively keeping them from thriving.

Organic Fall Pre-Emergent Weed and Feed

Remember how we discussed pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides? We’ve already explained how post-emergent herbicides work to kill an already mature plant.

Pre-emergent weed and feed, on the other hand, works by adding substances to the soil where crabgrass seeds are. They stop seeds from germinating in the first place. The substances create a layer of soil that is toxic to the seeds – it prevents them from taking root and sprouting to the surface. 

The substances are non-toxic to mature plants, however, and pre-emergent weed and feeds even include nutrients and minerals to support the health of your mature turfgrasses.

Espoma Corn Gluten Meal Weed Preventer is one effective pre-emergent to try on your lawn. 

Espoma Corn Gluten Meal Weed Preventer is an organic fertilizer that comes with no adverse side effects on the soil of your lawn, making it safe to use without worrying about killing grasses or other plants nearby.

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When To Apply Crabgrass Preventer?

You can apply Espoma Corn Gluten Meal Weed Preventer to your lawn in the fall before the first frost hits. It’s a time when weed seeds are most likely to germinate. Applying the product then makes sure weeds don’t have a chance to grow at all. 

Final Thoughts

If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to figure out how to get rid of crabgrass in the summer, don’t be! There are several ways to fight crabgrass growth without resorting to dangerous chemicals, including household items, organic herbicides, or even digging it up by hand. 

Use my guide above to find the best way to fight crabgrass on your lawn. Each method is effective and safe for you and your family. Soon you’ll be well on your way to a perfect yard!