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 offer you my top tips on the best ways to tackle stubborn weed removal.

How To Get Rid Of Crabgrass In The Summer

In summer, crabgrass has already matured into a sturdy weed. 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. 

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Apply An 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 on all weeds and users should always check the label before use. While there are several types of herbicides, one important differentiation is between pre-emergent and post-emergent.

  • Pre-Emergent Herbicides: These substances create a toxic layer in the 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.

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 the 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 turf grass.

You can also buy vinegar-based products that are specifically designed for use as a weed and feed grass killer. Most products are ready-to-use vinegar herbicides that are 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 the leaves, stalks, and 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 Treatments

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 them directly onto the crabgrass.

How To Get Rid Of Crabgrass Without Chemicals

The options above are safe, natural, and 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 your 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 technique.

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 I recommend trying out:

  • Weeding Blade or Trowel: A thin, flat tool that can cut through weed roots with its sharp edge. These tools help remove small patches of crabgrass from your lawn without killing grasses or other plants nearby. I’ve found endless uses for mine in my lawn and garden!
  • 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. I like to use this tool to clear crabgrass and other weeds out of bare sections of soil.
  • 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. I know some people prefer this option because it minimizes how much bending over needs to be done to grasp the weeds.

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 turf grass. 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 desired groundcover plants like turf grass. 

As the crabgrass spreads and takes root across your yard, its roots will begin to choke out and steal nutrients from other plants such as turf grass. 

Other downsides to letting crabgrass take over include:

  • Messy Appearance: Crabgrass is not an attractive plant and will make your yard look weedy and uneven.
  • Patchy Lawn: Crabgrass is an annual plant, meaning it dies and doesn’t come back. When it dies, it can leave your yard looking patchy.
  • Poor Erosion Control: As crabgrass dies, it leaves parts of your yard exposed, so you’ll track more mud through your yard and into your house. 

Preventing Crabgrass Is Better Than Killing It

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 spring comes, those seeds will begin to take hold, and you’ll be fighting against even 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 stop the seeds from sprouting at all. If you can eliminate crabgrass before it seeds, you’ll have a much easier job keeping it at bay. 

Over time, you’ll see less and less crabgrass returning each year.

How To Stop 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. 

I recommend 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 turf grass a competitive edge. It may help turf grass 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. According to Illinois State University, these shallow waterings encourage plants to develop shallow roots, making them more vulnerable to weeds like crabgrass.

If you want your turf grass 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 turf grass to root deeply, you’ll help it keep crabgrass at bay. Thriving, well-watered turf grasses 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 turf grass 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? I’ve already explained how post-emergent herbicides work to kill an already mature plant.

Pre-emergent weed and feed, on the other hand, work 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 weeds and feeds even include nutrients and minerals to support the health of your mature turf grasses.

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. This is 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 On Summer Crabgrass Management

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!