How to Get Rid of Quackgrass


Quackgrass is an invasive weed that looks similar to fescue and crabgrass. It’s a perennial that’s difficult to control and can quickly spread over your lawn, choking the growth of your turfgrass. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to identify quackgrass and share some tips for quackgrass control so you can kill quackgrass without damaging your lawn.

How to Identify Quackgrass

Quackgrass is a coarse-textured perennial grass that thrives in similar environments to turfgrass. Quackgrass identification can be difficult, partly because it looks similar to crabgrass and partly because its appearance varies depending on whether it’s allowed to grow tall or is kept mowed.

Quackgrass grows quickly and can reach 3 feet in height. The stems and leaves are hairless, and the plant has auricles that hook or wrap around them. When trimmed, it doesn’t look too different from normal grass, but if it’s allowed to grow taller, it becomes quite obvious.

Quackgrass vs. Crabgrass

Crabgrass is another fast-growing annual, and many people mistake it for quackgrass, especially in the early stages of growth. However, differences between quackgrass and crabgrass can help you identify them more accurately:

  • Crabgrass leaves are about the thickness of a pencil when the plant is young.
  • Crabgrass grows from the stem outwards.
  • As crabgrass grows, the blades fall, revealing a star-shaped pattern in the center.
  • Crabgrass is bright green, but the stem may have a purplish appearance.

Both plants are invasive and difficult to get rid of, so if you spot crabgrass or quackgrass in your lawn it’s important to act quickly.

Quackgrass vs. Nutsedge

Nutsedge has a grass-like appearance, but it’s a sedge. It’s easy to spot because of its narrow, arched blades and triangular stems. Like quackgrass, nutsedge grows quickly, and if you don’t take action to control it, you’ll find it takes over your garden. If you spot their growth early, however, you can pull them up by the root and stop them from spreading.

Quackgrass vs. Tall Fescue

Tall fescue is dark green, grows very quickly, and tends to appear in thick patches. This grass tolerates both shade and drought well, maintaining a lush green appearance year-round. Some gardeners find these properties of tall fescue appealing. It’s a great lawn grass for areas where other turf grasses won’t grow. However, the way this grass spreads rapidly, choking out other turfgrasses, can be an issue in areas where it’s not wanted. Weed killer can remove tall fescue, but it will also kill any other grasses surrounding it.

Why Is Quackgrass in My Lawn?

If you have a quackgrass problem in your lawn, you may wonder if you’ve done something wrong. Try not to see quackgrass as a reflection of how well you’ve cared for your lawn. Infestations of this fast-growing grass can happen to anyone.

Quackgrass is incredibly invasive and is found in almost every state. It’s often seen near roadsides and on strips of grass that are rarely mowed. This grass can spread quickly, as birds eat the quackgrass seed head, then spread the seeds in their droppings. The seeds can also be found in soil or outdoor plants, so if you buy plants at a garden center, you could accidentally bring quackgrass seeds home with you.

Quackgrass plants are also good at spreading themselves. They produce runners, also known as rhizomes, that can grow for 5 feet or more underground. If your next-door neighbor has quackgrass in their lawn, you’ll find it a struggle to keep quackgrass under control in your lawn because it will keep coming back.

How to Kill Quackgrass

Now you know what quackgrass looks like and how it spreads, you may be wondering what kills quackgrass and how to control it without damaging your lawn.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to remove quackgrass by hand. If you try to dig it up, you may cut up pieces of rhizome that will simply take root and sprout again. The grass is incredibly hardy. The rhizomes can grow back quickly, and each plant will also produce about 25 seeds, so it’s hard to be sure that you’ve completely eradicated it.

The best way to get rid of quackgrass is to use a selective herbicide. There are products available that target quackgrass. Spraying a quackgrass herbicide on the plant and then covering it with tarp to block light may help to kill the infestation. However, it can take multiple applications, each one about 4 weeks apart, to completely get rid of the grass. In addition, these herbicides typically kill turfgrass too, so you’ll need to reseed the lawn.

How to Control Quackgrass

Rather than trying to kill quackgrass, controlling the growth and choking out the quackgrass with other plants could be a better option. Using nitrogen-based fertilizers and regularly mowing your lawn can be an effective quackgrass control measure.

If you’re going to take this approach, it’s best to do so during the spring and fall while your lawn is actively growing. It can take a full year to take effect, and you must be patient and diligent with it. Don’t be fooled by the way quackgrass appears to be dying off during the summer months. The grass doesn’t tolerate heat very well, so this retreat is normal. But it’s most likely you’ll see it regrow in the fall, so ongoing treatment is necessary.

At Lawn Doctor, we have a lot of experience dealing with quackgrass, crabgrass and other unwanted lawn pests. We take a scientific approach to weed management and can help you control quackgrass or other weeds.

If you book a consultation with our lawn experts, they’ll examine your lawn, come up with a weed control plan and do all the work required to help you rid your lawn of quackgrass and keep it weed-free in the long term. All you have to do is mow the lawn as normal. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you get the lush lawn you’ve always wanted!