Crabgrass Identification: What it Looks Like & How to Get Rid of It

Written By: Todd Thomasson

Crabgrass getting you down? We completely understand. It’s not a favorite weed to spot in your Northern Virginia lawn.

You might be chatting with a neighbor in your driveway and notice this nasty weed taking over your front yard without looking like it’s going to stop. Or you might be relaxing on your patio when you notice a few of these scraggly weeds emerging near your peaceful place … and instantly you feel a whole lot more stressful. 

You’re certainly not alone. Crabgrass is enemy No. 1 when it comes to lawn weeds. 

But it can definitely be one of those weeds that not only resembles other weeds and grasses, making it easy to sneak in, but also has some specific tricks for management and control.

Let’s talk about crabgrass in Northern Virginia home lawns and how to get rid of crabgrass, so you can have a better chance of eliminating this weed and keeping it out.

What is Crabgrass?

Crabgrass in Northern Virginia is an opportunistic, annual, grassy weed that emerges in your lawn in spring and summer. 

And even though it has “grass” in its name, crabgrass is not a form of grass. 

Crabgrass with seedheads

It usually grows in thin or bare areas of a lawn, crowding out your good grass. So, really, it’s more of a bully. It likes to creep and crawl through your lawn, spreading rather quickly. 

As an annual weed, crabgrass completes its life cycle in one year, meaning that it grows from a seed in spring and then turns brown and dies by fall. But its seeds remain in the soil to emerge the following year. The more crabgrass you have, the more seeds will be ready to come back again the next spring.

What Does Crabgrass Look Like?

It’s always a great idea to know the enemy you are fighting. 

When it comes to crabgrass in Northern Virginia, this weed has flat, wide leaf blades. It’s rough, pointy and a lighter green than your normal grass, growing in clumps. 

crabgrass in lawn

Since crabgrass produces quite a few seeds each season – one plant alone can produce more than 75,000 seeds – your weed problem can continue to escalate year after year until you take care of it.

Where Does Crabgrass Grow?

Crabgrass in Northern Virginia is an annual lawn weed that enjoys sun and warm temperatures.

This weed also takes full advantage of thin or stressed out lawns where it bullies its way in. 

Read The Ultimate Guide to Controlling Lawn Weeds
For instance, if you’ve mowed your lawn too short in some spots or even accidentally scalped it, crabgrass will find a way in. Crabgrass especially targets lawns that are drought-stressed, lack  adequate nutrition, or suffer from poor drainage.

How to Get Rid of Crabgrass

Crabgrass is a pervasive weed, and its main thought is complete dominance of your lawn. In fact, it’s probably plotting to take over all the nearby grass right now.

lawn care professional spraying for weeds

Probably the worst thing about this weed is its ability to spread, and once you have it, it can outcompete your good grass in a heartbeat and leave you with dead spots by the end of the year. 

So your goal is to learn how to get rid of crabgrass so you don’t let it in and can get rid of it quickly if it does emerge. Try these tactics.

Don’t Mow Too Short

We get it. Sometimes mowing your lawn can get tedious in the summer when it seems to be growing faster than ever. Your urge might be to mow it super low to try and save yourself some time. 

Unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t work. It just encourages more growth. And, what’s worse, mowing too low stresses out your lawn and limits its protection against weeds like crabgrass in Northern Virginia. 

lawn care company mows lawn

Mowing super short does not prevent crabgrass; it actually encourages it. A taller, thicker lawn will block the sun’s light and heat that might hit the crabgrass seeds and cause them to germinate, while also drying out regular grass. Mowing to a 3.5- to 4-inch height is preferable. 

There’s a reason crabgrass isn’t found in the shade. When you can keep your gras since and thick, you ensure adequate moisture, cooler soil temperatures, and minimal sun to crabgrass seeds that are lurking in the soil. This way, crabgrass stays out.

Water Right

Grass soil that is too wet or too dry won’t be helpful in discouraging crabgrass growth. 

Your Northern Virginia lawn needs a minimum of 1½ inches of water weekly, depending on soil type, wind, and rainfall amounts. 


A professionally installed irrigation system can be zoned and timed just right for your lawn to ensure you’re watering adequately.

If you don’t have an irrigation system, sprinklers and timers can still do the trick. Just remember not to neglect watering entirely if your goal is to learn how to get rid of crabgrass.

Use Preventive Treatments

Prevention is the best strategy for how to control crabgrass. You want to stop those seeds lurking in your lawn from germinating because once crabgrass emerges, it can keep spreading. 

lawn care professional fertilizes grass

Crabgrass seeds germinate when soil temperatures reach 56 to 58 degrees Fahrenheit, which will come sooner after a mild winter. 

To beat crabgrass germination, you want your lawn care professional to apply a preemergent herbicide by the end of March with a possible second application with the next fertilization treatment to be within that prime window of crabgrass control.

Try Spot Treatments in Summer

If you’re still seeing some crabgrass break through after preventive treatments, or the preventive treatments didn’t work as effectively on a thinner area of the lawn, the next step is to use a crabgrass killer. 

lawn care expert sprays lawn

Spot treatments of post-emergent herbicide on small crabgrass plants that break through can do the trick.

Thicken Your Lawn

Crabgrass in Northern Virginia is a very destructive weed that will outcompete good grass when given the chance. 

The trick is not giving it the opportunity to sneak into your healthy lawn.

A thick, healthy lawn is possible with proper mowing and watering like we discussed above, but also through regular and proper fertilization.

lawn care technician aerates grass

Annual aeration, overseeding, and topdressing each fall can also increase lawn density, making sure crabgrass doesn’t have as much of a fighting chance to emerge.

Crabgrass seeds are everywhere, but they need light to germinate. So a thick lawn is your best defense for reducing or eliminating crabgrass.

Choose a Lawn Care Company You Can Trust

Crabgrass seeds don’t take vacations or time off. Within the right conditions, crabgrass seeds grasp every opportunity to thrive.

HubSpot Video

Planning ahead is the best way to combat crabgrass before it takes a firm hold on your lawn. You want to hire a Northern Virginia lawn care service provider that knows how to battle crabgrass and can give you the right knowledge on proper lawn care, such as mowing, watering, and fertilization, to keep grass thick and healthy. If you have a thin lawn, a lawn care company that can offer the addition of aeration, overseeding, and topdressing where necessary can beef up lawn density. 

On top of that, your lawn care technician must know the right timing for crabgrass prevention and crabgrass killer applications. And for those few that do get through, your lawn care expert should be able to target spot treatments to seal the deal.

Ready to Check “How to Get Rid of Crabgrass” Off Of Your To-Do List? Trust Turf’s Up to Help You Defeat the Enemy

Your family get-together or summer barbecue doesn’t need any distractions. You have better things to do than worry about your lawn and crabgrass spots that are taking over. 

Crabgrass killer is a priority, but you don’t want this job to take over your life. You want to make the right choice so that you can win the battle against crabgrass. That’s what we want, too. Let Turf’s Up help take this job off your plate and give you that lawn you’re proud of. 

Ready to learn why Turf’s Up could be your totally awesome choice for lawn care services in Northern Virginia? We’re stoked to learn more about you and help you have the best lawn on the block. Get started today with a free quote. Together, we can prepare a customized plan that is perfect for you and your lawn. 

lawn care service comparison

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Image Source: crabgrass close up