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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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

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Monday - September 28, 2009

From: Middletown, MD
Region: Midwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Eliminating crabgrass in Middletown MO
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am having trouble with my lawn, specifically with the crabgrass in it. It now covers over 1/3 of it. I started using corn gluten meal this year, with limited tangible success. Corn gluten meal is a pre-emergent and sometimes hit-or-miss on when to apply it. Is there an environmentally responsible POST-emergent weed control product that I can apply to hit the crabgrass on multiple fronts? In the near future, I hope to transition/replace my exotic grass with native alternatives. Thank you.

ANSWER:

We found a website from The University of Illinois Purdue Extension Control of Crabgrass in Home Lawns. We recommend neither for nor against herbicides, so you will have to judge for yourself whether the products suggested in this article are suitable for your purposes. Crabgrass is an annual, so the more you can do to prevent seeding, the better. Mowing twice a week will not necessarily wipe it out, but it should help control it. And the best deterrent for crabgrass is a good, healthy turf. 

Since you mention wanting to replace your non-native exotic grasses with native plants, please read our How-To Article Native Lawns. Of the three grasses mentioned in that article, both Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalograss) and Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama) are native to Missouri, while the other, Hilaria belangeri (curly-mesquite) is more of a southwestern grass and not native to Missouri. 

Since the grasses should probably be seeded or sodded in Spring in Missouri, we would suggest you start now planning the native area of your lawn, getting rid of the crabgrass in the process, and follow the instructions in the How-To Article on preparing the soil. Out with the Bad Plants, In with the Good.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua dactyloides

Bouteloua gracilis

Bouteloua gracilis
 

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