Bermuda Grass vs Crabgrass – Do You Have an Invasion?


Both Bermuda Grass and Crabgrass have many similarities and often get confused as the same grass!

The key similarity between the two grasses is their aggressive growing behaviors – they grow fast and wild and bully other plants for their territory if left unchecked, oftentimes becoming overwhelming.

However, though similar, these grasses are very different in that Bermuda grass can actually be trained to create a lush and thick turf that looks beautiful when maintained, yet Crabgrass is hardly – if not ever – able to be a desirable lawn choice.

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The Main Differences Between Bermuda Grass and Crabgrass

Despite their similar growing behaviors, these grasses actually have many differences that influence their appeal.

  • Bermuda grass can be trained to produce thick and lush grass, whereas Crabgrass is a weed that can hardly be trained to create a desirable turf.
  • Bermuda grass can be dense and makes a really sturdy, yet luscious grass, Crabgrass is always rough and is never dense.
  • Bermuda grass grows better in the south, yet Crabgrass thrives in the north.

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda Grass Cynodon Dactylon
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cynodon_dactylon_2.jpg

Bermuda grass is a perennial warm-season grass that is drought resistant and can be easily grown in many soils. This grass choice makes a great turf option when mowed and fertilized correctly, however, does have the ability to consume an area when not managed correctly.

In appearance, this grass can produce seed-heads that aren’t desirable to look at, regardless of this, this grass makes a great choice due to the ease and economy of its establishment.

This grass is most active in the warmer seasons and is found predominantly in the Southern regions of America.

When compared to other warm-season grasses such as Zoysia, Bermuda shows an increased sensitivity to the cooler weather as it thrives when exposed to full and direct sunlight as well as a high drainage system.

Due to its sturdiness regarding its humidity, drought, and salt resistant behavior, this “super-grass” makes a great option for turf as well as for livestock. It has an extensive rooting system that allows it to survive when exposed to compromising environments.

Bermuda grass grows low and spreads due to the stolons that grow above ground and the rhizomes that grow below ground. This grass type is great at filling barren spaces on lawn due to its low-traveling behavior. The grass has a medium-density with hairy leaves which creates a lush feeling when walked on.

This grass does exhibit unruly growing behavior, however, can be managed to create the perfect tuft for your garden!

Pros of Bermuda Grass

  • Can face tough weather conditions such as drought and heat.
  • Is dense so can withstand foot traffic.
  • Quickly fills bare spots.

Cons of Bermuda Grass

  • Requires proper maintenance to reduce invasiveness.
  • Requires high nutrients and water content.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions and Appearance

Bermuda Grass lawn

Bermuda grass grows low and wide due to its stolons above ground and rhizomes below ground. This grass type doesn’t struggle to fill gaps as it can travel quickly with little encouragement.

Due to its deep root system, this grass can grow in all types of soil, however, like many plants, prefers fertile soils.

In addition to this, Bermuda grass can withstand many environmental challenges such as heat and drought. As this grass is a warm-season grass it thrives best in the south where it has high exposure to the heat. In colder seasons the grass will lay dormant until spring arrives.

As this grass can be invasive, regular watering and lawn care will be your best friend when choosing this grass type for your garden as it will prevent it from overgrowing into flowerbeds.

Bermuda grass is found in the tropical and subtropical parts of the world as it loves warm weather. It is commonly found in South America where the weather is hotter for longer, creating the perfect atmosphere for the grass to thrive in.

As this grass is very weather-resistant, it requires proper watering but not too much. Proper maintenance will keep the Bermuda grass thick and healthy as well as well behaved!

Bermuda grass is characterized by its rough texture as well as rough stolons that live above ground. The blades are wide and resemble grass blades only thicker and its most distinguishable feature is the seed-head that looks similar to a bird foot.

When cared for and maintained, Bermuda grass has a thick and dark green appearance, however, will have a greyish tint as it goes into the cooler seasons and lays dormant.

Aggression and Invasiveness

Bermuda grass is an aggressive grass type as it can root basically anywhere and spreads low by creeping and branching its stolons outwards.

Because of this behavior, Bermuda grass needs to be contained within a specific area as it will quickly overrun driveways and garden beds.

Planting and Caring for Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass can be grown through sowing seeds, a great method when wanting to easily fill gaps in your lawn.

Differing from many commercial lawn types, Bermuda grass can start as a seed and grow over bare spots and eventually grow to match the already established lawn. Gone are the days where you have to lay your grass down and sometimes suffer with patchiness!

Since this grass is a warm-season grass, it is best sown during the springtime when the once-dormant grasses are coming out of their hibernation. In the summer it will be entering its prime growth period and will need proper maintenance.

Bermuda grass requires a hefty maintenance schedule if wanting to be contained and kept looking neat. It requires proper watering – around 1” to 1.5” – as well as regular mowing.

For garden turf it is recommended that mowing is done twice a week and the blades are kept at a height of 1” to 1.5”.

Moreover, fertilizing your lawn when using Bermuda grass is as important as any other grass type! During its peak growth period it will require fertilization every month.

Crabgrass

Crabgrass
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crabgrass.JPG

Crabgrass is an annual grass weed and is the bane of a gardener’s existence!

It is a wide issue that many homeowners have to face as it starts to sprout in the spring and rapidly spreading, leaving a rough and bumpy surface in garden beds and lawn.

This weed is extremely invasive and proves to have basically no benefits. It is known to suffocate and overwhelm garden beds with its fast traveling and thick roots.

Employing trickery, this weed looks very much like grass and can be confused as such, however, the behavior of this plant says otherwise. It is known through its wide leaf blade and grass-like appearance, but what differs is that crabgrass shoots out tough stems with seed-heads that only causes more spreading!

The seed-heads of this weed are the main issue as each weed can send out thousands of seeds, making it a real pain to combat.

Crabgrass sits low and can root anywhere that it lays, hence allowing it to invade flowerbeds, crop fields, and turfgrass.

The root system of this weed is shallow making it easy to pull out from the ground, which you would think would be the end of it… but no, the seeds can be widely dispersed and can mature anywhere, they can also lay dormant in the soil for 30 years before sprouting so you may have a crabgrass infestation at any time!

Crabgrass is a wide issue that so many gardeners struggle with and is virtually a pointless grassweed, however, it can be tackled and put a stop to with regular mowing and proper lawn care.

Pros of Crabgrass

  • Great food for livestock, aids in weight-gain and health.
  • Can be edible.

Cons of Crabgrass

  • Invasive for plant-beds.
  • Hard to kill.
  • Grows at an exponential rate.
  • Travels and roots to any bare spots in lawn.

Characteristics, Growing Conditions and Appearance

Crabgrass has a weak root system so loves sandy soils where grass is damaged and thin, this is because it makes it easier for the weed to travel to empty spaces in your turf.

The thin and dry turf is an optimal place for crabgrass to inhabit as it is fully exposed to the sun as well as water – both of which it needs to survive.

Once this bad boy roots, it is basically bad news from there…

The roots are weak, yes, however, the seeds are the little devils that allow for this weed to be so invasive and a real issue to combat. The seeds can maturate anywhere and once they have rooted; crabgrass can then start taking over!

Crabgrass loves hot and dry soil! It loves everything about malnourished, thin lawn as it makes the perfect playfield for it to spread and grow wild.

Sandy soil with high drainage is the best condition in which crabgrass can grow in as its roots are weak.

As well as heat, crabgrass loves water and will basically bully your poor turf to get what it wants – all it desires is to steal the nutrients that your plants need all for itself!

There are many different types of crabgrass, however, the most common is known to be low running with the stems lying flat on the surface. The stems all branch out from center roots and spread outwardly from that starting point, with each stem creating its own stem and root system.

The blades of this weed can be identified by the sturdy texture as well as roughness. The plant is attracted to sandy patches and once established, the roots can be easily pulled up, which is another distinguishing factor of crabgrass.

Aggression and Invasiveness

Crabgrass is one of the most invasive of grassweeds and is known to be extremely difficult to get rid of once you have an infestation.

The key component that makes this weed too hard to prevent is the seeds! The roots are shallow, so pulling them up will prove to be effective to the naked eye, however, the seeds can root themselves anywhere as well as lay dormant until it’s ready to sprout again.

The spreading behavior of this plant is almost impossible to contain as it can easily travel to bare lawn patches and take over.

How to Prevent Crabgrass in Your Lawn?

Crabgrass is unlike many regular weeds and can’t generally be stopped with a commercial weed killer due to the dormant seeds that continue to pose a future risk.

The key to preventing and stopping a further infestation is through proper and rigorous lawn care.

Crabgrass thrives on negligence and loves to show up in your dry and bare patches of lawn. Sometimes you just can’t help it when the weather has taken a turn and your usual beautiful lawn has been compromised.

Keeping your lawn thick and dense is the main tactic that you can use when aiming to prevent crabgrass. This method will essentially suffocate the crabgrass by occupying all of the space in which it could once have lived.

Overseeding and watering can also prove to be effective as this will also limit any empty spaces in your lawn that could attract crabgrass.

If you have crabgrass still lingering after all of your lawn care and regular upkeep, herbicide that is labeled specifically for crabgrass will be your last option, just be careful to only target the desired area as this CAN damage the rest of your lawn!

Summary

Both Bermuda grass and crabgrass can be a pain when not wanted, however, Bermuda grass is useful in being a strong and desirable turf choice for those who want a hard-core lawn!

The similarities between the two sometimes turn many gardeners away from choosing Bermuda grass as their lawn option, however, since knowing the difference, I would definitely recommend Bermuda as the more durable grass choice.

Hopefully, after reading this post you can say “see-ya” to crabgrass for sure!

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Andy Gibson

My name's Gibson. Andy Gibson. I like to think of myself as the Bond of the backyard, that is if yard work ever became sexy. I write about everything about indoor and outdoor gardening and the dread-it-but-still-need-to-do-it chores around the yard, like cleaning out the gutter guards.

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