Crabgrass is the most common weed that invades lawns in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Crabgrass problems can completely take over lawns if left untreated. It is an annual grass, meaning it will only live for one season, but its seeds will come back next year to invade your lawn again.
Its time to think crabgrass prevention. Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are in the Cool Season Grass zone. This means your grass may be primarily Fescue, Bluegrass, or Ryegrass. These grass types are treated differently for crabgrass control. See our guide at the end of this article.
Most annual grasses, like crabgrass, grows from the previous year’s seed. The easiest way to identify crabgrass in your lawn is to look for the light green leaves emerging among the darker green bluegrass turf in mid to late June. The seed will germinate when soil temperature reaches about 55 degrees.
You can check you local soil temperature with our soil temperature map.
Crabgrass Preventer in Michigan: In Michigan, crabgrass herbicide should be applied in early spring before the seeds start to germinate. Generally, you can apply in early April, as long as the snow is gone and the grass is starting to turn green. In Michigan, this is usually around April 15, but can be as late as May 1.
Southeast Michigan areas in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties should be able to apply by early April. Areas in Mid and Northern Michigan will usually have to wait until mid to late April. Find more information at Michigan State University
Crabgrass Preventer in Ohio: The keys to successful control is correct timing and proper application of the material. A pre emergence herbicide must be applied before the crabgrass seeds germinate. Pre-emergence herbicides usually should be applied in early to mid-April in southern Ohio areas like Cincinnati, mid-April to May 1 in Columbus, Ohio and late April to early May in northern portions of the state like Cleveland and Akron. Learn more at The Ohio State University website OSU.edu
Crabgrass Preventer in Indiana: Counties in southern Indiana near Evansville and Jasper can apply preventer as early as late March. Bloomington and Indianapolis should wait until early April to apply. Fort Wayne, Elkhart and South Bend areas generally will be applying preventor from late April to the first week of May. Purdue University has some great information at Purdue Turf Tips
In Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, a good gauge to use is the forsythia bush. Preventer must be applied before the forsythia bushes are in full bloom which is generally mid- late April. Apply a good preemergent herbicide at this time and water it in well and follow all label directions carefully. If your lawn needs to be aerated, do so either before you apply the preemergent or do so in the fall.
Prevent and Control Crabgrass
Your main objective is to “prevent” and “control” crabgrass. That is sometimes easier said than done! It’s a lot of work either way, but can be done. The key to effective control is making sure the seeds cannot germinate. The most likely places to find crabgrass are sunny areas with low cut grass, heavy traffic areas or along the driveway or sidewalk.
- Prevention is early application
- Control is during the season
Control is primarily accomplished by using a pre-emergent herbicide or organic corn gluten at the correct time in mid to late April, when soil temperatures are around 50 degrees F. If you do not own a soil thermometer, there is a great way to know when to put down the crabgrass preventer.
It’s when the forsythia shrub is in bloom. These shrubs are often the first shrubs seen blooming in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois with yellow flowers emerging in late March to early April. At this time, the seeds are also just coming out of dormancy, and are most vulnerable to pre-emergent herbicides.
Crabgrass is a summer annual grass that germinates in the spring and dies in the fall. Hot, dry environments, like summertime in most midwest states, often see an increase in crabgrass because lawns are struggling at that time. It often will take over if the lawn isn’t well taken care of.
Crabgrass Control Guides
Check out our guides for crabgrass and weed and feed applications.
- Guide for applying crabgrass control.
- Guide for year round weed and feed.
- Guide for weed control for southern lawns.
The most effective way to control crabgrass is to create a dense, healthy turf. A healthy lawn will compete with crabgrass and prevent it from establishing. Crabgrass thrives in full sunlight and high temperatures and can easily out compete lawns under these conditions. It is a summer annual and has a life of less than one year.
They also produce a tremendous amount of seed. These seeds ensure next year’s crop of weeds but can also remain dormant in the soil for several years.It is likely that if you have crabgrass in your lawn, it will be there next year, too. That’s why its important to use a lawn care process that involves a form of prevention every year. Often, preemergence herbicides are combined with fertilizers as weed and feed products.