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Bermuda Grass Vs Crabgrass: How Are They Different?

You may think that growing a nice lawn of grass isn’t difficult. It is tempting to believe that you can just scatter some grass seed around and water it occasionally, letting nature do the rest. 

However, grass is a diverse plant that comes in many different species, some of which will be better for your lawn than others.

If you want to cultivate a beautiful lawn of grass, you will need to focus on a few species that look similar, have bright coloration and feel pleasant to walk on with bare feet. 

This involves being able to tell the difference between the various species, so you can nurture the ones you want and weed out the ones you don’t. 

Bermuda Grass and crabgrass are incredibly similar species that can be difficult to distinguish if you aren’t a seasoned gardener.

To the naked eye, the two plants are almost identical, however, there are some crucial differences that make one a great grass for your lawn and the other a pesky weed. 

In this helpful guide, I will be telling you all about the similarities and differences between these two types of grass.

Bermuda grass vs crabgrass how are they different

The Similarities

The reason that these two grass plants are commonly confused is that they share a lot of similarities with each other. Both Bermuda grass and crabgrass could be considered weeds by most gardeners. 

This is because both species grow at an exceptionally fast rate and have a tendency to overpower and outcompete many other plants.

Both Bermuda grass and crabgrass are low-lying species that develop dark green leaves upon reaching maturity. 

They grow aggressively and can quickly crowd out flowers or other domestic plants. 

The Crucial Differences

Now that we’ve covered the similarities, let’s take a closer look at the differences between Bermuda grass and crabgrass. 

One thing to note is that the two species have different coverage, with Bermuda grass growing most in the southern states of America, while crabgrass occurs in all climates. 

However, the most important distinction between these two species is that crabgrass is commonly considered a weed, whereas Bermuda grass is cultivated to make a pleasant lawn. 

One reason for this is that crabgrass grows in clumps that make it look distinctly uglier on a well-kept lawn. This plant is also much rougher to touch, which means it doesn’t feel very nice to walk on with bare feet. 

Bermuda grass creates even lawns of bright green grass that will come back every year since it is perennial. Crabgrass, on the other hand, has a more uneven, hairy appearance that most gardeners consider unattractive. 

Both species also differ in their optimal growing conditions. Bermuda grass grows in fertile soils and favors warm conditions. This means it can adapt to grow in more arid or humid soils if necessary, as long as the temperature doesn’t fall below a certain level. 

Meanwhile, crabgrass mainly grows on poorly tended soil, which means it is commonly seen on lawns that have not been well-kept. This grass flourishes in soil that is low on nutrients, which is what makes it so successful as an invasive species. 

As you can see, the fact that both of these types of grass grow quickly and aggressively is what makes one species a blessing and the other a curse. 

Bermuda grass can be used to quickly fill in lawns with a luscious coat of grass that feels great to walk on. However, if crabgrass sets into your garden, it will be a massive annoyance that proves surprisingly hard to get rid of. 

Now that we have looked at the broad similarities and differences between both plants, let’s have a closer look at each one, so you know how to tell them apart. 

How To Identify Bermuda Grass 

Bermuda grass vs crabgrass how are they different

Bermuda grass is a low-lying grass with dark green leaves that have a slightly coarse texture. It is a resilient grass that can remain green all year long in warmer, frostless climates. 

This is why it is commonly used as lawn grass in southern states of America like California and Florida. The leaves are attached to above-ground roots called stolons. 

Where the leaves meet these stolons, you can often find very fine hairs that are one of the reasons this grass is pleasant to stand on with bare feet. 

One of the easiest ways to identify Bermuda grass is to look at the seed head, which emerges above the leaves when the plant is ready to propagate. On Bermuda grass, the seed head is similar in shape to a bird’s foot 

How To Identify Crabgrass

How to identify crabgrass

Crabgrass is another low-lying grass with a stem that moves across the ground. It has dark green leaves similar to Bermuda grass, although they tend to be taller, reaching up to 5 inches in height. 

One of the things that makes crabgrass so annoying as a weed is that it is highly adaptable and can take on a variety of different appearances depending on its growing conditions.

This allows it to sometimes appear like different less invasive grass species such as Bermuda grass or coarse tall fescue. 

One way to identify this species is to look out for leaves that are roughly 1/4 of an inch wide. This is much larger than many other grass plants.

Another distinguishing feature is the way that the seedling branches out and spreads over the ground in clumps. 

Its long stems deposit seeds wherever they make contact with the ground and are one of the reasons this grass is so unpleasant to walk on. 

As the stem grows, the leaves become spaced further and further apart, which is very different from many other common species of grass.

Eventually, the branching stems will form a star-shaped pattern, so if you see this kind of formation, you will know for sure that you have crabgrass growing on your lawn. 

Best Way To Remove Crabgrass

Bermuda grass vs crabgrass how are they different
Picture Credit: The Spruce

Naturally, if you find crabgrass has developed a foothold on your lawn, you will want to remove it before it can take over. If you grow other plants in your garden, then this weed will need to be removed before it can crowd out and kill the species you are trying to cultivate.

Unfortunately, crabgrass is a very difficult plant to remove since it is constantly dropping seeds as it grows. A single crabgrass plant can deposit as many as 150,000 seeds before dying back with the first frost. 

The worst part is that these seeds can remain dormant for up to 30 years before sprouting, which makes this a tenacious plant that is very difficult to fully exterminate. Here are a few methods you can use for removing and combatting a crabgrass infestation on your lawn. 

Look After Your Lawn

As we mentioned above, crabgrass mainly targets gaps in the soil and poorly tended lawns where it can get a foothold. Bearing this in mind, the best offense when it comes to removing this weed is a good defense. 

Maintaining your lawn while promoting the growth of other grasses and plants can go a long way to preventing crabgrass from taking over.  Growing Bermuda grass on your lawn is another excellent way of preventing crabgrass since it is equally aggressive and will often be able to outcompete this weed. 

Make sure you are properly tending to your turf and giving it the ideal growing conditions it needs to flourish. This will prevent gaps or areas of poor soil where crabgrass can start to germinate. 

Regularly aerate your soil and over-seed other grass plants so that any crabgrass seeds lying in wait won’t have the ideal conditions to germinate. 

It also helps to not over-mow your lawn. Letting your grass grow taller will cause its roots to grow as well. This is another thing that can help to prevent crabgrass from taking over your whole garden. 

Pre-Emergent Herbicides 

As you can tell from the above section, prevention is much better than cure when it comes to dealing with Crabgrass. The individual plants are easy to uproot and pull out of the ground, but doing so will cause lots of seeds to be released. 

These seeds will lie dormant until they have the opportune moment to flourish. To prevent the seeds from germinating and taking over your lawn, you will need to use a pre-emergent herbicide. 

These products target seeds in the soil and neutralize them before they can sprout. Some products can do this while also feeding other species that you want to encourage, such as regular lawn grass. 

Because of the way pre-emergent herbicides work, you will need to time their application very carefully to have the desired effect. You want to apply the herbicide before the seeds start sprouting, which is usually in the spring when the soil reaches temperatures of 55 °F. 

A cheap soil thermometer can help you to monitor your garden and pick the perfect moment for applying your herbicide. You can also use indicator plants, like yellow-blooming forsythia shrubs, to tell when the time is right, they start sprouting at roughly the same time as crabgrass. 

When choosing herbicides, make sure you pick one that won’t have a negative impact on the other plants in your garden. After applying it, wait at least 60 days before over-seeding the area it was sprayed over to encourage new growth and ensure that crabgrass won’t have the chance to take over. 

Killing Crabgrass That Has Already Germinated

If crabgrass has already started growing on your lawn, then it can be very difficult to remove. The plants are very easy to pull up and remove by hand, although doing so will scatter seeds all over your lawn. 

Instead, it is often better to use a selective herbicide that specifically targets crabgrass. Be very careful when selecting products for this purpose, as you don’t want to kill off your regular lawn grass in the process. 

Bermuda grass vs crabgrass: how are they different?

Always check the bottle to make sure that your chosen herbicide only targets crabgrass. Follow the instructions on the bottle very carefully to make sure that your garden doesn’t suffer any negative side effects from your chosen product. 

How To Cultivate Bermuda Grass

Since Bermuda grass can actually be used to make a nice lawn, I thought I would share some tips for cultivating and controlling this plant. One of the great things about Bermuda grass is that you don’t need to do much to look after it since it is highly resilient. 

While most grass species start from sod, Bermuda grass sprouts from seeds, which makes it great for filling bare spots of soil on your lawn. Just buy a bag of seeds, scatter them over your chosen location, and provided the soil is fertile enough they should grow. 

This species is best planted in the spring after the final frost of winter has passed. It is recommended to plant it in healthy soil with a PH between 5.8 and 7. If your soil is overly acidic it will need to be treated with lime for Bermuda grass to successfully grow in it.

During periods of drought, this species will often lie dormant and may lose some of its color. If you want your lawn to maintain its bright green coloring during this time, you may need to regularly water your grass. 

Provided you look after it, Bermuda grass can provide a very effective solution to handling unwanted crabgrass. If it has everything it needs, this species is more than capable of out-competing crabgrass to ensure it never gets a proper foothold. However, by the same token, Bermuda grass can quickly become a nuisance on its own if left to grow out of control. 

Controlling Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass vs crabgrass: how are they different?

One of the best ways to control Bermuda grass is to maintain a healthy turf where other species can grow and compete with it. This involves regular applications of fertilizer that will promote other species and routinely mowing your lawn to keep it in check. 

The ideal height for Bermuda grass is 1-1.5in long and due to its highly aggressive growth, you should aim to mow it twice a week to keep it at this height. Regularly manicuring your lawn will help to prevent Bermuda grass from getting out of control and spreading to areas where it is not wanted. 

It is also vital to use proper edging around planter beds or other areas where you do not want this species to spread. Doing this will make sure there is enough of a gap between the two areas, so the Bermuda grass will stay where it is wanted. 

Conclusion

Crabgrass and Bermuda grass are commonly mistaken for one another but don’t be fooled. While Bermuda grass can make a healthy and beautiful-looking lawn that is pleasant to walk on, Crabgrass is coarse, ugly and an unwanted visitor in any garden. 

Learning how to spot crabgrass will help you with removing it and promoting the growth of other plants. Growing a lawn of Bermuda grass is one way to naturally deal with this weed, but in order to do so, you will want to properly manicure it to prevent it from taking over. 

After reading this guide, I hope that you now know a little more about these two different species and how to control them to keep your lawn healthy and looking great. If you are worried about how to revive your dead lawn or what causes small dirt mounds in your lawn then head over to the articles I wrote especially for beginner gardeners.

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