En Espa—ol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Eliminating crabgrass in a newly mulched area in Austin

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - June 26, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Problem Plants
Title: Eliminating crabgrass in a newly mulched area in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We just had our whole front lawn taken out. We are starting to plant native plants in its place. The idea was to do whatís best for the environment and reduce maintenance. At this point Iím beginning to wonder if it was a good idea. All over, through the mulch, crabgrass has started sprouting massively (in just a few days since the lawn was removed). I could grow a crabgrass lawn. I tried moving the mulch aside and digging the roots out but they are at least 2 inches deep and holding on very hard, also they break so I know new plants will come out in a couple of days again. I donít want to use Round Up. That seems against the point. Besides, we live on a greenbelt so Iíve always tried not to use chemicals as much as possible. How can I control the crabgrass without spending time I donít have in the yard?

ANSWER:

Probably offering you our deepest sympathy is not going to suffice, is it? Actually, the word is that when you are trying to rid an area of weeds, rototilling (which you didn't say you did) is not the way to go, because you just pull more seeds and roots to the surface where they can germinate.  But, even if you took it out with a sod cutter, obviously the Digitaria texana (Texas crabgrass) arose again. And it's probably no comfort that this USDA Plant Profile map shows it growing only on the Texas Coast. There is also, of course, Digitaria arenicola (sand crabgrass) (only on southern tip of Texas), Digitaria cognata (fall witchgrass) (widely distributed from Texas east and into eastern Canada, and Digitaria hitchcockii (shortleaf crabgrass), found in the  Big Bend area, South Texas and, you guessed it, Travis County. This is information you don't need and won't help, it is all basically the same, and very difficult to get rid of. 

To be honest, we're stalling because we really don't know the answer to your question. One thing we have realized is that crabgrass is an annual weed, with shallow roots. Starve it of light and water, don't let it go to seed, and it should be gone. Of course, you will always get seeds from other places, but if you are vigilant and pull it out as soon as it appears, that can be minimized. We found a website from One-Stop Tree and Lawn Care with a section on crabgrass that had some good suggestons. From the Home Improvement News and Information Center, read this article Prevent or Eliminate Crabgrass in Your Lawn. From the website All About Lawns, read the 10 Steps to Become Crabgrass Free. 

Finally, since it really is too hot to be planting much in the way of native plants, or anything else for that matter, you might consider this article on Soil Solarization from  Arid-Southwestern Gardening Information. Perhaps an area you are not ready to plant yet, but where lawn was and crabgrass is would be a good candidate for this. 

We agree with you on avoiding the chemicals in your crabgrass warfare. You don't want to risk contaminating your soil nor take the chance of accidental damage to nearby desirable plants. We think continuing to mulch and hopefully shade out the crabgrass, pulling out what does emerge, and never allowing it to go to seed (which it will do all season), although labor-intensive, is the best and most environmentally friendly way to go. 

And to be sure you know your enemy, here are pictures of crabgrass. 

 

 

More Problem Plants Questions

Getting rid of Adams needle (Yucca filamentosa)
June 24, 2009 - My friend is changing her flower beds around and is wanting to eliminate an Adam's needle that has been there for several years. She has already dug it up and now is trying to get rid of all the new...
view the full question and answer

Invasive native blackeyed susans from Warren OH
August 07, 2013 - In our demo garden we master gardeners in NE Ohio have been unable to get rid of black-eyed susans which have, like the other person, prevented or "killed" the other perennial plants. They are spre...
view the full question and answer

Elimination of nutgrass from native flower bed
October 14, 2007 - Nutgrass!*#!* My new bed in NE Austin wraps around a hot sunny SW street corner. Grass wouldn't grow there [I wouldn't water it.] I removed the turf [mostly stickers] to a depth of about 4", carefu...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Roughleaf dogwood
November 28, 2013 - We put 5 rough-leaf dogwoods along our side deck; having been told (by the local, natural plant seller) that they would reach a maximum height of 6 feet. They have grown taller than that (despite som...
view the full question and answer

Are there prescribed burn professionals in central Texas?
July 12, 2012 - I am looking for someone to hire for a controlled hillside burn. Can you recommend someone to hire?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center