Every season, it seems, brings its own special challenges for the gardener.  Weather, insects, general run-of-the-mill pestilence, bad seed, bad plants, bad backs; these and more are crosses that we happily bear in order to create something beautiful and grow something tasty for ourselves and our families and friends.
If you have a lawn chances are good you’ll have crabgrass growing in it after this very hot summer.  Have a look at your lawn.  Are you seeing greenish-purple seed heads protruding from prostrate plants with smooth blades?  Your lawn has crabgrass.
This annual weed thrives in turf areas where the lawn is thin and struggling.  Considering the number of consecutive days we had high temperatures over 30 deg. C in August, including a few days where it nearly hit 40, it’s no surprise that conditions were ideal for the spread of crabgrass.  Lawns have a tough time near heat sources like driveways and sidewalks in the best of growing conditions; this summer was even tougher.
Weeds are an opportunistic bunch, that’s why they’re so widespread.  Any lawn that is getting watered every day or two for a short period of time, say 20 minutes or less ( and I know there are many of them out there) will have a thin root system and it will be an open invitation for crabgrass.  Thin patches from compacted soil?  Crabgrass.
If crabgrass is present don’t bother looking for quick solutions in September, because there aren’t any.  The plants are not the issue; they’re going to die off in the cold anyway.  It’s the seeds that are the ominous clouds on the horizon, rumbling and flashing with lightning.  How many seeds?  The average is between 150,000 and 180,000 per plant.
Yes, you read correctly.  Think about all of those seeds lying in the soil dormant over the winter, waiting for next spring’s warmth to germinate and march across your lawn like hordes pouring through the city gates.  And you thought your lawn had a crabgrass problem this summer?
Solutions?  Yes there are solutions, but none of them are quick and easy.  In the short term get those seeds out of the lawn.  Pull them out or if there are too many plants lower the cutting height of your mower and cut them off if you have a bag attached.  Fewer seeds left over the winter mean fewer plants next spring.
Applying corn gluten products in spring when the forsythia is blooming will help to prevent seed germination but that alone won’t eliminate crabgrass.  Focus on having the thickest and healthiest lawn possible from the very beginning of the growing season.  Raise the cutting height on the mower and fertilize earlier because thick and healthy turf will always outcompete crabgrass.  Look at your watering habits; watering less often for longer periods of time (to a maximum on one inch a week) will produce strong roots and a thicker lawn.
Now is your chance to change your lawn’s destiny.  Do nothing and those 180,000 seeds will joyfully reproduce next year.  Isn’t that a happy thought?

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