That’s not crabgrass… and weed killer won’t kill it…
Without fail, as your lawn comes out of dormancy this spring, the stuff we don’t want in our yards typically greens up first. In cool-season lawns, we commonly mistake one of these unwanted annoyances as crabgrass. Crabgrass typically does not start popping up until the summer months, no, this green patch of grass-like ugliness is in fact tall fescue.
Difference between Crabgrass and Tall Fescue Clump
Tall fescue in an otherwise healthy lawn
Fully grown tall fescue clump
Tall fescue in the early spring
Easily identifiable by its thicker, coarse blades this is definitely considered a weed in most yards. These patches will usually green up before your turf-type fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass so they are easy to spot in the early spring.
Great, so what do I do about them?
The biggest issue with dealing with tall fescue in your yard is that most selective herbicides will not do anything to it. Spray as much as you want, they won’t go away. Nope, the only product that will get rid of these patches will also unfortunately kill your desired turf. But all is not lost.
Pull It or Dig It Out!
This is the quickest way to get rid of tall fescue patches. Very simply, grab as many of the blades as you can in two hands, as close to the ground as possible, and pull! The tall fescue will come up in a clump with a bit of effort. If the clumps are large, you may need to grab a shovel and dig up the patch entirely. Just be sure to try and get all of the roots as well or you may have them reappear.
After you get rid of these patches your yard may look like a… minefield. Go ahead and fill in the holes with any available topsoil and spread some seed in those areas; or, if you are patient, let the grass naturally fill those areas in.
KILL IT ALL!!
Another method is to kill the fescue clumps with an all-purpose killer like RoundUp or Killzall (glyphosate is the active ingredient). Just be extremely careful not to get this stuff on anything you want to keep… well.. alive. If done early enough in the season (super early spring) the glyphosate should not disturb the surrounding areas but you may need to reseed after a few weeks in those spots.
I hope this helps with a very common issue in northern yards.