Any positive reasons for having crabgrass and where can I get some seeds?
July 25, 2004 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Neighbors be damned, is there any reason to not have a lawn of crabgrass as opposed to normal grass? And, if not, where can I get some seed?
posted by adampsyche to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
You might take a look at morning glory. As far as I've ever seen, it makes an excellent groundcover, grows like a weed, has pretty flowers all season, and is nearly indestructable.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:42 PM on July 25, 2004

Well, if you want something easier to maintain that a "traditional" grass lawn, there are actually a lot of options that are a lot more attractive than crabgrass. (Even if you don't care about the neighbors, and their silly pre-occupation with property values, crabgrass is just an ugly plant.)

For one thing, you can always use a groundcover like pachysandra or ivy to cover big swatches, especially where grass doesn't grow well, like on hills or in shady areas.

If you really just want to let things go, though, just Google on "perfect lawn"--interestingly enough, about half the articles that come up are for alternatives to the traditional lawn. There's a pretty strong trend of using wildflowers, etc., to create what's halfway between a meadow and a lawn, and some of them really look great with little to no maintenance.

Or, you could just look into xeriscaping.
posted by LairBob at 6:27 PM on July 25, 2004

Wow, this is something I thought a lot about this spring. My neighbors all decided to cut down all of their trees so that they wouldn't have to rake any more (4 neighbors conspired, and cut down about 20 trees total). In my fury, I rototilled the yard and destroyed all the grass. Then I put in a 3 foot wide path of new grass seed and then sowed the rest of the yard with various shaped patches of wildflower and veggies. I almost went all the way and planted a corn field in the front, but I didn't have the time to work it in.

Anyway, I'm wicked pleased. Over the last month of two all of these stunning flowers have come up in more colors than I can count. Then, last week, the poppies started coming in and now there are hundreds. I can't wait to see what comes next! It's liberating to have a break from boring green grass. I will never have a boring lawn again.
posted by crazy finger at 7:11 PM on July 25, 2004

Also: no maintenance.

More importantly, every day or two, I can go out and collect a vase of new pretty fresh flowers from the yard to put in my home.
posted by crazy finger at 7:12 PM on July 25, 2004

i've just been looking on google to see what crabgrass is, and i think, from the various pictures, it is what we had as a lawn in our last house. it looks vaguely like grass from a distance (green) but has these tendrils that run along the ground. also, it has seed thingies that are like little green sticks with 3 or 4 stalks pointing off at angles (the local name for them is "chickens feet")

anyway, if that's it, you certainly can have it as a lawn, because we did, and it wasn't considered odd, afaik (this is in santiago, where it's fairly hot and dry in summer - we had to water it, but not terribly often, and it held out well).

it was a bit spikey to lie down on, but certainly acceptable.
posted by andrew cooke at 7:36 PM on July 25, 2004

My parents live in South Florida, and all the lawns are "crabgrass" there. We were told that we knew as regular lawn grass in the Northeast doesn't survive the climate without way too much pampering.
posted by Melinika at 7:37 PM on July 25, 2004

If you are far enough south that your winters are not so harsh, you might consider planting Zoysia, which is not all that dif't than crabgrass.
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:27 PM on July 25, 2004

crazy finger, any pictures?
posted by dobbs at 8:35 PM on July 25, 2004

You might take a look at morning glory. As far as I've ever seen, it makes an excellent groundcover, grows like a weed, has pretty flowers all season, and is nearly indestructable.

Plus, if you play your cards right, hallucinogenic seeds!!
posted by milovoo at 8:39 PM on July 25, 2004

if the covering is in the shade you could cover with with spaced stones and grow moss inbetween. it looks tight.
posted by bob sarabia at 10:10 PM on July 25, 2004

Pave it. You'll love the extra parking next time you have a party.
posted by Grod at 10:56 PM on July 25, 2004

You don't want Zoysia any place you might wish to run barefoot chasing a Frisbee. The vines from the Zoysia will catch toes and break them!
posted by Goofyy at 11:27 PM on July 25, 2004

Well, adam, you're in Enn Jay. Zoysia isn't well adapted to northern climates anyway, and it's far from no-maintenance -- among other things, you have to diligently keep it from taking over everything next to your lawn.

The main reason not to depend on crabgrass as your lawn is that it has a much more limited season than turf grasses. It can start growing earlier in the spring when turf grass is still recovering from winter, which is one of its competitive advantages -- but it really only flourishes in June-August, and it all dies when the first frost comes.

What this means for the year-round homeowner is that a lawn of crabgrass will become progressively bare and muddy over the winter, which can lead to erosion and loss of topsoil. Even during its season, it's not a particularly pretty lawn grass, since it tufts so much, and not comfortable to walk on the same way a turf grass can be -- it's a plant growing on top of the soil, rather than the way lawn grasses create a layer of thatch and transition into the soil. Its root system is different and contributes to soil compaction wherever anyone walks (although the crabgrass seems not to mind, as this is where it frequently gains a foothold in the first place!) and ultimately more erosion. Compacted soil cannot trap and receive water, so it will gradually compete away your other grasses, and eventually that water will just run right off into the street, taking your lawn with it -- especially if there's any part that's slopey.

No, a common turf grass is the way you want to go, and although this is a hobby for me at the moment, getting a healthy, attractive lawn needn't be a major life investment, especially if you have a couple of years' patience. The most important thing is to deny weeds like crabgrass an enviroment in which they will thrive. Mow your lawn to a proper height, weekly during the growth season (roughly May-July). Spike or aerate, and reseed, bare areas, before weeds can seize the space. Nuke with weed-killers if you're OK with that; it saves you man-years of kneeling (and once they're eradicated, you can cut back). Crabgrass isn't a weed you can go after, very easily, once it's established -- but it's an annual, meaning you get a new chance every spring. This is why many spring fertilizer mixes include a crabgrass preventer. Essentially it leaches into the soil and keeps the crabgrass root from germinating. Do that for two or three springs, and your crabgrass will be little more than a memory.
posted by dhartung at 12:39 AM on July 26, 2004

Take a gander at this book. To hell with all types of grass!

We're killing all of our grass and planting wildflowers and ground cover in it's place.

I loathe grass.
posted by pissfactory at 4:18 AM on July 26, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, dhartung, that was especially helpful.

I guess I've just seen crabgrass around, especially in tropical locations, and the crabgrass that we have growing without our consent in our lawn actually looks better than the damned grass.

This is my first summer with a lawn, and I haven't had any time at all to do anything, even mowing much, and the weeds have gone nucking futz. Now that I have two weekdays off a week with my new work schedule, I'll have a lot more time to devote to this, and may just go for the scorched earth approach at this point and napalm the lawn to get rid of the nasty, unruly plantains, which i hate hate hate.

I'm sure that a little bit of prevention would have gone a long way for me, but I simply had no time before.

I think I'll also get a weed hound, as I've heard that those things are great.
posted by adampsyche at 4:23 AM on July 26, 2004

Crab grass isn't fun to walk on barefoot. I'll stay out of the aesthetic question since there's a decent chance my father raised me to hate it with the fury of a thousand suns just to make lawn maintenance easier.
posted by yerfatma at 4:54 AM on July 26, 2004

For god's sake, don't plant ivy. It's insidious, you will NEVER be able to fully remove it if you don't want it anymore, and it's a terrible haven for rats and slugs and snails.
posted by aacheson at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2004

Another alternative you might want to look into is buffalo grass.

Apparently it only needs to be mowed twice a summer, and watered only once or twice.
posted by jazzkat11 at 12:24 PM on July 26, 2004

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