If you have a lawn service or are preparing to treat the lawn yourself, you will likely want to consider pre-emergent crabgrass control now until mid to late May depending upon your location in NH or VT. There are both positive and negative aspects of applying a pre-emergent in the spring depending upon the condition of your lawn, your future plans, and past issues.
There are many types of products available and most not only reduce annual crabgrass, but also can help suppress other grassy weeds and summer annuals. I often have a lot of clients point out rough looking grass in the early spring- saying, “See there…. my lawn is loaded with crabgrass!” Well, crabgrass is an annual and does not even begin to germinate until late April through May (geographic soil temp) so any grass you are viewing now, is a perennial meaning it is there to stay. Crabgrass usually germinates along the road or in bare areas that warm up first; you can see the little green sprouts with a little scouting like the one pictured above.
If your lawn has never been treated for crabgrass, depending upon the density and current condition, you may want to have a barrier put down to reduce this aggressive plant. Left unchecked, crabgrass will thrive and take up vital lawn space- winning the battle while drawing upon space, water, and nutrients- leaving less for your desired turf grass. Yes, like an older brother that gets most of the dessert and dinner, standard turf grass is not genetically adapt to thrive in the presence of crabgrass- a superior plant.
Crabgrass control also helps reduce summer annuals which can also be a bonus in a weak lawn. I say suppress because many homeowner’s think crabgrass control is 100%, nothing could be further from the truth. While a pre-emergent can help suppress the noxious plant, it breaks down over several months and will never stop growth in bare areas. This brings me to my next point- the condition of your lawn- what is the current condition?
If you have large bare areas along the driveway, or sections completely absent of turf- I would urge a different course of action such as reseeding or perhaps some light renovation. While most lawns can be treated and improved “as is”, there are many that simply would benefit more from the addition of loam or compost instead of a chemical barrier that will fail in weeks anyway under such stress. My turf division offers light renovation to complete lawn installations- unlike the big National chains that do not.
Most crabgrass barriers, once applied, will remain in effect for about 2 to 3 months maximum depending up culture practices (mowing/watering) and the overall lawn density. This means no seeding because most products inhibit not only crabgrass, but your seeding work as well. Again, the best offense is a great defense- in this case, turf density. Superior lawns take hard work; they arrive from turf building by mulching your clippings and applying fertilizer on a regular basis.
If you are unsure which course of action to take, don’t flip the coin and decide yourself, call up an expert like me and I’ll take a look. If you live outside of my service area, send me an e-mail with a picture or call up a local lawn company with a good reputation. Whatever you do, don’t call up the large National chains since they are in the business of applying tons of crabgrass control and cannot offer any renovation work should it be required. In addition, their sales force does not have the agronomic experience or training necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. Enough said.
Good luck and have some fun making your lawn look great this year. We don’t have many months to make an impact in NH, so don’t wait around- get a game plan and move forward! Information is power.