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Crabgrass vs. Quackgrass: How to Identify & Kill These Nasty Weeds


It’s hard to take a weed seriously when it’s called quackgrass, right?

You can’t help but think of cute little ducks. 

But quackgrass is right up there with that other lawn weed you love to hate — crabgrass — when it comes to invading your lawn.

These two weeds with the animal names are both bad news. 

What’s the difference between crabgrass and quackgrass? Do you treat them the same? 

Let’s take a look.

Is It Crabgrass or Quackgrass? How to Tell 

What crabgrass looks like: The leaves of crabgrass are broader than grass blades and it grows in clumps close to the ground. The stems grow outward rather than up, and look like the legs of a crab.What quackgrass looks like: Both crabgrass and quackgrass have wide, grasslike blades, but quackgrass has a leaf blade that wraps around the stem.

Read The Essential Guide to Lawn Care in Minnesota & Wisconsin
While crabgrass leaves grow horizontally, close to the ground, quackgrass grows upright.

Still stumped? Dig it up and look at the roots.

Crabgrass roots stay in a bunch. Quackgrass has underground runners called rhizomes that run horizontally underground. Crabgrass is easier to pull out, roots and all.

Crabgrass: The King of Weeds

When it comes to frustrating lawn weeds, crabgrass wins.

Crabgrass is a warm-season annual with an impressive claim to fame: each crabgrass plant produces as many as 150,000 seeds.Crabgrass along edge of pavementThose pesky seeds stay behind, ready to germinate the following spring and start the evil cycle all over again. Even seeds that don't germinate right away can hang around to sprout in future years.
No wonder crabgrass is such a pain — even for expert lawn care services.

How to get rid of it: The key is preventing those stubborn seeds from becoming more seed-producing plants.

Pre-emergent treatment is crucial — targeting those seeds as they germinate and take root in the soil. 

lawn team pours fertilizer into spreaderBut like most weeds, crabgrass is stubborn and can sneak through even if you applied pre-emergent, particularly in thinner areas or along edges. However, these invaders can be spot-treated.

While most lawn care services in Eau Claire, WI and Minneapolis do one crabgrass application in the spring, here at RainMaster, we do two, one in early spring and another in late spring. This extends protection.

Quackgrass: Cute Name, Ugly Weed 

Quackgrass is a real weed villain, with a strong, deep root system that can quickly take over your lawn. 

A perennial, cool-season grass that thrives up here in the north, it’s tough to battle. 

QuackgrassA big difference between crabgrass and quackgrass is how it spreads. Unlike crabgrass, quackgrass uses rhizomes, or underground runners, to spread. 

And it has a pretty evil super power — these rhizomes also produce chemicals that stunt the growth of other plants so the quackgrass can outcompete them and take their place.

Seriously sinister, right?

And each quackgrass plant produces about 25 seeds, which can stay viable in the soil for up to five years. Five years! 

lawn team spot sprays for weedsHow to get rid of it: Quackgrass can only be killed with products containing glyphosate (Roundup and other brands), after it’s actively growing. 

Yes, that means the grass around it will die, too, so plan to reseed those areas.

Your Best Defense: A Healthy Lawn 

Both quackgrass and crabgrass thrive in weak, thin lawns. So make your lawn thicker, with deep, healthy roots. 

lawn team expert shows weeds to clientA few key tips:

  • Mow high. Taller grass helps a lawn grow thicker. Mow too short, and the soil heats up, helping those pesky weed seeds to germinate.

  • Water properly. A lawn that’s too wet or too dry encourages weeds.

  • Get a plan. Invest in a complete, proactive lawn care program that includes both weed-preventative and curative treatments from early spring to late fall.

Need to Get Rid of Crabgrass or Quackgrass? Trust RainMaster 

You want a healthy lawn with less crabgrass and quackgrass. That’s what we want, too. 

You have better things to do than worry about your lawn. Leave that to expert lawn care services in Eau Claire, WI and Minneapolis. 

Consider it a team effort. Let’s create a custom nutrition plan for your lawn, so the roots will be nourished, the soil packed with nutrients, and your grass so thick and healthy, crabgrass or quackgrass will have a tough fight ahead. 

Are you ready to stop battling quackgrass and crabgrass? Request a quote today! We’ll review your options together so you can make a great choice. Then, you can finally enjoy your lawn and stop worrying about it.

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Image Source: Quackgrass

Topics: Lawn Care

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