Hot moist weather is a boon to crabgrass. This European native was brought to America centuries ago and is a hated lawn and garden weed.
Crabgrass is an annual that sprouts as soon as moist soil reaches about 60 degrees. It dies at first frost but not before producing thousands of seeds that persist in the soil a long time waiting for proper growing conditions. Rapidly growing crabgrass can quickly overwhelm a vegetable garden or make a lawn look splotchy.
Crabgrass grows close to the ground. When its nodes touch the soil they quickly take root, enabling the plant to rapidly expand outward. Homeowners seeking the perfect lawn ironically create perfect growing conditions for the weed. Because it hugs the ground close mowing stresses desirable grass species while favoring prostrate crabgrass. Shallow watering also helps the shallow rooted annual.
Crabgrass comes with benefits. It reduces erosion by quickly covering bare soil, and many species of domestic livestock and wildlife enjoy munching its leaves. Some wild animals enjoy its plentiful seeds.
Herbicides can reduce crabgrass abundance but it’s virtually impossible to eliminate it from a lawn or garden. Hand pulling will keep it away from tomatoes and beans, and setting the mower higher may reduce its lawn abundance.
When you find crabgrass in your yard consider this: Crabgrass is like Mother Nature’s stitches. Severely cut your hand or leg and the doctor will hold the wound closed with stitches. When homeowners bare the soil, they make it vulnerable to erosion. Think opening a wound. Enter crabgrass. It grows amazingly fast on bare soil and keeps it in place during heavy rains. Crabgrass has its place in nature, and we should all appreciate those plants able to quickly colonize and stabilize soil.