How to Tell the Difference between Quackgrass, Fescue and Crabgrass

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How to Tell the Difference between Quackgrass, Fescue and Crabgrass

How to Tell the Difference between Quackgrass, Fescue and Crabgrass

Most Effective Products

RoundUp Pro Concentrate Herbicide
Emulsifiable Concentrate (EC)
As low as $70.41
Quinclorac 75 DF Herbicide (Crabgrass Killer)
Water Dispersible Granule (WDG)
As low as $51.89
Certainty Turf Herbicide
Water Dispersible Granule (WDG)
As low as $101.45
Keith's Pro Tips

"It's important to read the label when purchasing herbicide for your target weed to make sure the weed is listed. If it isn't or you have not identified the weed properly, you will not get the desired results."

How to Tell the Difference between Quackgrass, Fescue and Crabgrass

When it comes to keeping and maintaining a healthy, beautiful looking lawn, a big obstacle in the way can be grassy weeds. Invasive grassy weeds can stick out like a sore thumb and mess with the overall look of the lawn.

Some of the main grassy weed culprits include Quackgrass, Fescue, and Crabgrass. What’s particularly frustrating about these grasses is that they look very similar to one another, so much so that they can be confused or mistaken for each other.

This is problematic because when it comes to using herbicides, it’s important to purchase and use herbicides labeled for a grassy weed. If the herbicide you have is labeled for Crabgrass and not for Fescue but you really have Fescue, you won’t get the desired result and will be set up for disappointment.

On this page, we’ll go in-depth to show you the difference between these three grassy weeds so you will know which weed you are dealing with on your lawn. This will help you approach weed control the right way and make an informed decision when it comes to the herbicides you can use to combat these stubborn grasses.



Almost every state in the country suffers from this fast-spreading invasive plant and when established on your lawn it can be extremely difficult to remove without the intervention of a quality herbicide.

If you’re wondering what Crabgrass looks like, it stands out because of how the blades stick out like legs of a crab, which is how they earned their name. This weed is so invasive and problematic where it grows, that just the thought of encountering it on your lawn or knowing that is has been established is enough to make a lawnowner cringe. With Crabgrass, the earlier you identify it and move into treating it the better your chances of eliminating the grass from your lawn and saving yourself from having to deal with a hard-to-remove invasion.

Identifying Crabgrass can be an issue because of the different looks this type of grass has and how adaptable it is to a number of different environments and conditions. This makes it easier for Crabgrass to get mistaken with other weeds. Sometimes the names Crabgrass, Devilgrass, Quackgrass and Bermuda grass are used interchangeably among all those plants.

This thick ugly bladed grass in your lawn can be differentiated from similar grasses depending on when you are seeing it. If the time of the year is around June or June 15th, you do not have crabgrass. After June, if you think you have crabgrass, it’s usually a lime green colored grass much lighter in color. Crabgrass starts off very small and can quickly grow much larger.

Crabgrass seedheads resemble fingers on a hand and the plant can wait for warmer days to sprout, usually after Spring weeding and mulching. High temperatures help the crabgrass go into overdrive, sending out long stems that grow so fast, they may flower and go to seed, before you even notice them.


Quackgrass appearance

Quackgrass is an annoying and tough to get rid of perennial grass which can show up in your lawn and frustrate you with its persistence. Some of its characteristics include thin, creeping underground rhizomes that spread and release chemicals that inhibit the growth of other plants so they are able to outcompete them and take over where they are not wanted.

You can identify quackgrass by their auricles. It’s these little things that wrap around the stem of the grass plant, almost grasping or hugging it. Right at the end of the leaf which hooks up to the stem, Quackgrass has finger-like projections that are a great indicator that you’re dealing with Quackgrass and not a different type of grass.

The tough thing about Quackgrass is it’s a perennial weed which means it has a deep root system with rhizomes and usually a patch will be there for many years, making it hard to control.

To eliminate quackgrass, you will need to inspect regularly so if you spot it early, then it will be much easier to get a handle on it and remove it completely. The bad part about Quackgrass is using normal weed killer will usually not work to remove this pesky weed.


Fescue grass

Fescue grass is notorious for its ability to thrive in areas where there is drought and where there is a lot of shade. This often makes them a desirable grassy plant because of its suitability to different conditions.

They are cool-season grasses, growing mainly in the transition zone of the United States and Canada.

Possessing the ability to stay green all year long adds to their desirability as a turfgrass species. Where many species will not grow, Fescue grasses are able to effectively fill in this gap in growing conditions.

However, if fescue is growing where you do not want it to, there are some options we have which can effectively eliminate fescue. Check out Certainty Turf Herbicide and RoundUp Pro Weed Killer if you really would rather not have fescue around.


Hand pulling of any of these grasses is largely ineffective because you may pull what you think is the entire plant, but the stems that have rooted at the nodes remain in the soil because it is hard to get a clean pull. Secondary stems will sprout off the main stem, a foot or two away from the main crown. If left unattended, those pieces will grow and set seeds, bringing more pesky grassy weeds on your turf next Summer.

Herbicides are effective measures of controlling Crabgrass, Fescue and Quackgrass. and there are a number of great crabgrass killers that we have in stock.

Our main recommendation to deal with crabgrass is Quinclorac 75 DF Herbicide. This is a designated crabgrass killer and one we swear by. To treat Quackgrass or Fescue, our top recommendation is Certainty Turf Herbicide. Both of these herbicides are selective, meaning it only targets labeled weeds and will not harm your desired grass and plants.

Step 1 - Measure and Mix

Mixing Herbicide to controll grassy weeds

Whether you are using Quinclorac 75 DF to control Crabgrass or looking to control Fescue and/or Quackgrass with Certainty Herbicide, you will need to first calculate the square footage of the area to be treated to determine how much product you need. To do this, measure and multiply the area length times the width (length x width = square footage).

Quinclorac 75 DF is a dry flowable herbicide that can be mixed at 0.367 oz in a gallon of water per 1,000 sq. ft for spot treatments. So for example, if you measured an area of 2,500 sq. ft, you would need to mix 0.917 oz. of Quinclorac 75 DF in 2.5 gallons of water.

For small-volume applications, Certainty Herbicide is to be mixed at a rate of 5 scoops of product using the 0.16-gram small scoop or 1 scoop using the 0.8-gram large scoop in 2 gallons of water to treat 1,000 sq. ft.

Fill your sprayer halfway with the required amount of water then add in the selected herbicide product. Fill the sprayer with the remaining half of water and then agitate the sprayer until the product is well-mixed. You are now ready to spray.

Step 2 - Apply Herbicide to Weeds

Spraying grassy weeds with Herbicide

Spot treat the areas where the Quackgrass, Crabgrass or Fescue is growing, preferably with a sprayer on a fan nozzle spray setting for even coverage. Monitor the weeds and conduct a follow-up application as needed after 1 to 2 weeks to achieve complete control.


Spreading Barricade to control Crabgrass

Once you have treated your lawn and removed the presence of Quackgrass, Fescue or Crabgrass, you won't want it to come back. Putting in place some preventative measures is best to keep your desired lawn turf healthy and thriving so these grassy weeds don't have room to grow.

  • Remove dead grassy weed plants.
  • Replant bare lawn spots with new grass seed.
  • Apply a pre-emergent (such as Nitrophos Barricade) prior to the growing season.
  • Set your lawnmower at the high end of the range that is best for your grass type.
  • Restrict excess fertilizing or overwatering.
  • Keeping your lawn healthy and lush.

Key Takeaways

  • Quackgrass, Fescue and Crabgrass are similar-looking weeds that get confused for one another but have different methods for controlling the weeds.
  • Our go-to recommendation for treating crabgrass is Quinclorac 75 DF. For Quackgrass and Fescue, use Certainty Herbicide.
  • Prevent returns of these grassy weeds after treatment with applications of Pre-Emergent such as Nitrophos Barricade and cultural practices that will result in a thick lush lawn that will choke out weeds.
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