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My Attempt To Kill Quack Grass

May 13, 2011 · 184 comments

in Home & Garden


I had stated in a previous post that I would be going chemical free this year with our lawn.

However, our lawn is getting overtaken!  I thought the invasive species that was growing in patches in our yard was crab grass.  Turns out that I have lived all this time and have been unfairly blaming crabgrass for our less-than-perfect lawn!   After some discussion with my mom, I realized that my yard is actually under attack from Quack Grass.  (Thanks for the lawn lesson mom!)

What Is Quack Grass?

Individual blades of Quack Grass. Has tough stem and wide blades

Quack Grass (a.k.a. couch grass, devils-grass, knot grass, and quick grass) is a perennial weed that is very hardy.  It is incredibly difficult to pull out because it has a very fibrous root system with multiple stems called rhizomes.   These rhizomes can be very dense and can create a four inch thick mat of roots that are so strong, they can push through asphalt.  So, you can’t just grab the weed like a dandelion and pull.  Well, you could, but it would be an exercise in futility.  Even if you dig it up, you have to get rid of every single rhizome, or it will just spread all over again.

You can identify Quack Grass best a few days after the lawn has been mowed.  Quack Grass grows very fast, so if the lawn has patches of grass that are much taller than the rest of the lawn, it very well may be Quack Grass.   If you suspect Quack Grass, look at the stems of the blades.  Quack Grass has rigid stems that are actually uncomfortable to walk on.  Plus, the blades are very wide, spanning up to 1/3″ .

How To Get Rid of Quack grass

There are not many good options to get rid of Quack Grass.  It isn’t the type of weed that can be killed by a selective herbicide like crab grass can.  (Meaning, there are not any chemicals on the market that will kill quack grass, but not affect the lawn grass that is mixed in with the quack grass.)

One method that can be used to get rid of quack grass is digging.  However, you have to dig deep.  It is suggested that to fully get rid of all the rhizomes, you need to dig twelve inches deep.  The patches then have to be filled and covered with either mulch or cardboard to suppress any new growth that may pop through.

Another method is to use a herbicide with glyphosate like Round Up.  Since Round Up kills all vegetation, you have to accept that all grass will be killed if Round Up is sprayed directly on the lawn.  As an alternative, you can use a sponge or a paintbrush to apply Round Up to the taller leaf blades that are characteristic of Quackgrass.  This method will hopefully only affect the quack grass and allow the turf grass to survive.   (This method will probably require multiple applications.)   You will probably have to re-seed some areas once it is safe to plant after using Round Up.  If you don’t have enough healthy grass to choke out any leftover quack grass, it will quickly proliferate again.

What Method Did I Use To Try To Eliminate Quackgrass?

I grabbed a big sponge, squirted Round Up on it, and spent 75 minutes applying Round Up to the Quackgrass throughout the yard.  I have no idea if this will work or not, but I sure hope it does.  I will definitely post an update as the season progresses.

Update (April, 2013):  We still have some quack grass.  The Round Up did kill the quack grass in a lot of places.  The reason we still have some is because the new seed we planted after killing areas with Round Up did not ‘take’ in all areas.  Our method worked great in some spots on our lawn, and not so well in other areas.  Overall lawn health is so important to keeping quack grass and other weeds at bay.  Unfortunately for us, our neighbor does not tend to his lawn at all, so it is a constant battle to keep our lawn looking good in the first place.

Have you ever found Quack Grass in your lawn?  If so, how did you get rid of it?

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole May 13, 2011 at 8:05 am

We finally gave up on our fight against the Bermuda grass. So our lawn is now a mix of the (preferred) crab grass and (less preferred) Bermuda. We also use a lot more wood chips than we used to in a futile fight to keep it out of the flowerbeds.


Kris May 13, 2011 at 9:16 am

Bermuda grass is actually a type of grass as opposed to a weed, right? What makes it less preferred? Is it coarser or less attractive? I have learned so much going through this exercise!


Nicole May 13, 2011 at 9:53 am

No, Bermuda grass is also a weed. A particularly nasty one that you can’t get rid of. It breeds itself underground with 6 ft deep roots, above ground throwing long ugly grass chains that get into everything, and through the air with seeds. It thrives in the South.


Holly May 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

Yes, bermuda grass is almost an ashy gray-green color and spreads quickly above and below the turf like a vine. If you try to pull it out, you are ripping out a long vine of grass. It is also reedy and sticks out in all directions. It is not comfortable to walk on in your bare feet.

We had it at our old house. It’s a warm-weather grass type, and is usually planted in hotter climates since it doesn’t need much water and will grow on any soil. Heck it grows on rocks! I’m not sure why the previous homeowner planted it since I live in the lower part of the northeastern U.S. where it is cool except for about one month of summer.

One summer I decided that I was going to kill the weeds in my lawn (at the time I thought the bermuda grass was a weed). So I used some granular fertilizer/weed killer. Unfortunately, I did not read the directions fully where it stated that the fertilizer should be watered in and not put down if temps were to reach 90 degrees or above.

We went on a weeklong vacation right after application and it was over 90 degrees at home every day for a week with NO RAIN! Needless to say, all of the nice grass that was mixed in with the bermuda grass died. All that was left was the nasty bermuda grass. We then had a hardy, unsightly mess of a lawn!


Kris May 16, 2011 at 11:03 pm

Oh my gosh, the awful bermuda grass lived through the fertilizer treatment? I was surprised because Round Up also has temperature specifications on it too, I didn’t realize temp made such a big difference.

Is your lawn better now?


retirebyforty May 13, 2011 at 8:18 am

Oh man, good luck. Our old lawn is full of moss. I’m glad I don’t have to deal with yard work anymore (moved to a condo.)


Kris May 13, 2011 at 9:14 am

That is interesting, I have never seen moss mixed into the lawn, except maybe in the woods. It’s funny how different locales have such different grass issues.


Husband of Everyday Tips May 13, 2011 at 8:28 am

I have the best wife in the world! I was at my son’s baseball game and had no idea she was doing all the Quack Grass work. I thought it was my weekend project and now I’m off the hook!


Kris May 13, 2011 at 9:13 am

Don’t worry, I think you may still get your chance to deal with the Quack Grass. It would be a miracle if sponge bathing all the grass blades will have gotten all of it!

(Thanks for the nice comment though…)


MoneyCone May 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

Very useful post Kris! With a new lawn, it is a learning experience for me!


Kris May 16, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Take good care of that lawn MC. They need to stay healthy to keep evil things like quack grass away.


Linda May 13, 2011 at 11:15 am

I have some of that in my tiny lawn, too. It’s green, so I don’t really worry about it. The only weed I go into combat mode on is bindweed. That stuff is pure evil. Much worse than quack grass, ground ivy, or anything else.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I don’t think I have come across bind weed at all. Your lawn looks so nice from the pictures I saw, you would never know there was quack grass in there.

The reason I hate it is that it grows so darn fast, and it is really uncomfortable to walk on.


Barb Friedberg May 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Our solution for an awesome yard; Hired a company who does the fertilizing with half biological and half chemical treatment. It’s worth the money for us 🙂


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Barb, I agree that can be a good compromise. The problem I have is that quackgrass can not be killed by fertilizer that lawn companies put down. The only thing to kill it would also kill all your healthy grass. It is a very stubborn weed!


First Gen American May 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm

It’s tough indeed. We had one of our first nice days out and I always give my husband a hard time about the bug killer he puts around the house to keep the ants out. Anyway, this year he laid off of it and we decided to have a nice bbq on the stone patio. Well you know what? Some burrowing wasps made bee holes in at least 8 spots on our patio.. He was like “The stupid bees have the whole forest behind our house to make a nest in and they pick our F-ing patio for their home instead..I tried to be nice, but out came out the bug killer again.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:56 pm

I am all for bug killer, isn’t that awful? The bees are crazy here, they love our swing set. (Which I think will be coming down this year as my kids are all teenagers). If ants get in the house, I call an exterminator because I have never been able to find a way to kill them naturally.


Jeff @ Sustainable life blog May 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm

You’ll have to let me know how this works kris – because of neglect, my yard is not looking too good. Hopefully I can drag it out of the doldrums this year.


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Jeff, it is starting to die in spots. However, I will have to reapply to some areas. I am taking pictures as it progresses and I will create a follow up post.

Good luck with your yard. It can be frustrating, but rewarding when the lawn starts to turn around.


101 Centavos May 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm

A propane torch can be fairly accurate for spot treatment.


Deidre May 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

I smiled at the solution but I bet it would work if you got one of those small ones they use for carmelizing creme’ brule 🙂


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:55 pm

101 can you drive up to Michigan and be in charge of that? I would end up setting the entire subdivision on fire.


Marlene@TermLifeInsurance May 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Great tips! We moved into a new place while there was still snow on the ground. I was excited to see tulips pop up when the weather warmed up but was a little disappointed with our patchy lawn. This advise will really help as I will be spending a lot of time working on the yard this year. Thanks for the post and have a great weekend!


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Tulips are such a pleasant surprise. (I had the same experience at this house.)

You will enjoy watching your lawn evolve into something nice though. Good luck!


Deidre May 14, 2011 at 10:36 am

Great post as always Kris! Glad to hear the weather is nice enough to work outside in the yard 🙂


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm

The weather has turned on us yet again and it is cold and miserable!!! But thank you for the compliment!


Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer May 15, 2011 at 5:46 pm

When I saw the post title, I asked “what is quack grass”. Thanks for sharing and good luck getting rid of it!


Kris May 16, 2011 at 10:51 pm

I think I will need luck Kay Lynn. Looks like I better get out the sponge and more Round Up for another quick application.


Kevin September 26, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I was wondering how the battle has gone? I have been staying at my mom’s lake house and the quack grass is making a big move in the area and her yard. We are in a project to re-seed parts of the yard because of concrete work and wondering if it is worth it to try and eliminate the quack even though some areas will be as much as 7″ below new dirt. Thanks


Kris September 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Well, we got rid of quite a bit of the quack grass, but it is definitely not all gone. We will have to re-treat shortly, but not in as many areas as before. The thing is, you have to keep treating, it isn’t a one time only deal.

Another key is that if you use Round Up, re-seed as soon as the bottle says it is safe to. That way, new, fresh grass can take hold and not let any leftover quack grass take over.

Keep in mind, the roots run deep for quack grass- you gotta dig deep (twelve inches) to get it all out. (If you dig.)

Good luck!


Angela August 29, 2013 at 2:33 am

Hi, I have stubborn quackgrass everywhere in my lawn. I am trying the paint brush with Round Up method. I do notice the quackgrass start to turn yellow. Should I dig up the quackgrass as soon as it turns yellow or should I wait until it completely dies before removing the leaves? In the Roundup instruction, it said I should leave the plant disturb for 7 -10 days. I am not sure why we need to wait that long. Please advice. Thanks.


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