orchard full of bermuda grass

greendumbMay 9, 2009

I was wandering if anyone could help me on my orchards lawn.I call it a lawn because it is a thick and beautiful bermuda grass lawn.The problem is,I don't know if it will hurt my newly started orchard.I have cherries,apples,apricot,peaches.nects and others.I am in far west Texas and I,m afraid to put chemicals out in fear of hurting my one year old trees.If theirs no problem with it being thick in the orchard than I'm also going to have a nice lawn too.Thanks for any advice.

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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Hear in northeast texas I use 6 foot pto tiller behind tractor to make four passes by fruit tree grass so bad. Burmuda take fertlizer and water from trees when trees get large to shade out grass it be thinner. I've tried all chemical methods none work all mulches none work shade out covers work but pain to move around. New red rubber plant mulch ring work but have to take up twice a year move back on top soil mowing around ring take good ztr mower. When limbs get to be problem I use rear tine tiller walk behind to till under limbs. My fruit trees are prune to umbrella shape more than vase shape. By way vase shape started at my home in georgia in 1954.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 7:28AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Just keep an area a few feet around the base of every tree free of weeds/grass and you should be fine. Its just you need to keep up on it every year (add mulch/pull weeds)... If you have grass going right up to the trunk of the trees they are going to be competing for precious water and nutrients.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 11:50AM
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Easier said then done keeping a few feet around the base of the tree free from weeds and Bermuda grass. I have six inches of mulch around all my fruit trees and the Bermuda grass grows right through it. With small trees with low branches you can't get a rototiller close to the tree. You also can't use weed killer for fear of injuring the tree. Every week I pull all the Bermuda grass from around one of my trees, but I have a lot of trees and can't do every one every week. Two days after I pull it I see Bermuda shoots two inches long already growing back. I put pieces of sheet metal and plywood over the grass, but then I can't water the tree and have to remove it every time I water. And in southern California you get no help from rain for seven to ten months a year, so all water comes from a hose. The Bermuda always takes first dibs on any water or fertilizer. I read some organic orcharding book where the author recommended putting a two foot thick layer of mulch around each tree. But I live on a hill so it would be impossible to water the tree through two feet of mulch, the water would all run downhill. I also have clay soil which slows down my trees growth but not the Bermuda.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 12:59PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

green: This is your fruit growing buddy. Thanks for all the help this morning!!! Don't worry about that bermuda. With a little roundup and plenty of water it is no problem. I had an orchard in Amarillo in a bermuda lawn for 30 yrs. It may reduce the vigor of the fruit trees by competing for water and nutrients. This can be good or bad depending on the situation. But it is certainly workable. Think of it as a living mulch.

The Fruitnut

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 3:35PM
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From Edible Landscaping's care guides, grass does more than just compete for water & nutrients. I quote Edible Landscaping here:

"Grass inhibits young fruit trees, in fact grass gives off a growth inhibitor to the young trees. Keep approximately 3 f diameter grass and weed free circle around a newly planted tree. gBurm h the outer circumference of the grass free area. So, when you water, the water stays within the circle. Be sure to water the tree especially through hot dry spells. "

    Bookmark   May 9, 2009 at 11:30PM
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logrock(7b (NW of Atlanta))

I didn't think I'd ever hate plant, but Bermuda Grass is pure evil. For example, I did a very heavy newspaper layer with pine straw mulch under and around all my fruit trees this early spring. The bermuda grass is now saying "thank very much" and is starting to infiltrate into the mulch above the paper, enjoying all that loose, moist medium. At least it can be pulled back out of the mulch quite easily so it seems to be maintainable. So my plan is to do that as necessary and keep it mowed short everywhere else. I refuse to use poison so I don't know what a commercial organic grower would do.

The garden (all raised beds) is a different story: All I can really do is keep the paths mowed and use a fork between plantings to loosen the soil and pull out all the grass roots I can find. Small perenial/herb beds I think will eventually out-compete the evil grasses.

I hope this helps a bit,

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 10:37AM
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Thanks for all the input.I think I will try a little of everything y'all advised me on.We'll see what all works and I do appreciate new methods and I am willing to try anything once.I hope to update everyone on the results.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 7:14PM
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davidguss(6 Walla Walla, WA)

Poast Herbicide (sethoxydim)is very effective in controlling Bermuda Grass and other grassy weeds in orchards. It does not harm your trees and can be used around bearing or non-bearing trees.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 4:35PM
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alan haigh

The key time to reduce grass competition is spring. Most of the benefit as far as speeding growth and establishment seems to occur by mid-summer- after that you needn't obsess. It's good to have some kind of cover fall-winter.

Wood chips may not stop grass from pushing through but sure makes it easier to pull out and does slow its establishment a great deal. 4" thick does the trick. Pull away from the trunk.

In Texas I suspect the cooling affect of mulch on upper soil will be very helpful as well. Not that I have anything against the herbicide approach- I just don't use it.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:12PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

Deep rooting weeds I hate and get rid of with roundup, seed grass, short, shallow rooted, this works for me. I worked the land for two years before seeding.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 5:36PM
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I don't know how well Bermuda grass could be controlled with herbicides, but two tactics that I've found to be effective are thick pine straw and smother crops. A fairly thick layer of pine straw has been a very effective (but not 100%) mulch against Bermuda grass where other mulches only seem to advantage the Bermuda. If it's thick enough the Bermuda doesn't make it all the way up through very well, and pine straw seems to stay dry enough that the Bermuda doesn't root in the pine straw itself unlike most other mulches. The other tactic that has worked well for me is to grow a crop that smothers the Bermuda grass. Sweet potato vines do this exceptionally well. Basically anything that produces a solid cover 12" tall or taller should compete very well against Bermuda grass if you can keep the Bermuda grass weeded long enough to let that crop establish itself. I've killed Bermuda grass out completely in garden areas with sweet potatoes. C. moschata (butternut, etc.) squash would be my second choice. I'm sure there would be several options for smother crops. I think height is the key with Bermuda grass -- it doesn't seem to have any other weaknesses to exploit. Depending on the fruit species and the arrangement a smother crop could be a lot of trouble, but in some circumstances it might work very well and very gracefully.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 9:48PM
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I lived near Abilene for many years, and creeping bermuda was the only grass that made a lawn there. My fruit trees were all planted in 5' wide "bowls" so that water could be filled up several inches deep (once a week or more).

I do like pine straw here in east Texas (they call this place the Piney Woods), but in west Texas it's just mesquites and cactus. Some of the cotton gins will give you free mulch. Or you can buy bagged mulch at the box stores. It all works if it's 4" or more deep.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 10:00AM
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herbal(z7 MD)

I smothered bermuda grass in my small orchard with newspaper and 4 inches of woodchips. In the summer I went away for four weeks, when we had a freakish amount of rain, came back to a full lawn of bermuda grass! That grass is evil! I'm now slowly saving each tree or berry bush. I'll be working all Fall digging out as much root as I can, covering with composted manure, 3 layers of cardboard, then 6 inches of wood chips (The wood chip service over here dumped four truck loads on me this past summer (Be careful what you wish for). I'll keep you posted as to how much of the evil stuff comes back next spring.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 12:00PM
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I don't have bermuda grass but I do have coastal growing around my trees. I found it is easier to just let it grow. It doesn't seem to bother the trees now that I got them established. All I do is keep it mowed down short with a weedeater.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:48PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Common bermuda isn't too bad. That's the kind you can buy seed of in the store. If you starve it of nitrogen it's not too aggressive. But the OP and myself have some bermuda from hell in places. This stuff is much bigger and much faster growing than common. There is no smothering it out with anything. This year it sent runners 10ft under two layers of weed barrier while poking a shoot up here and there to test the situation.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 6:34PM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

In zone 8 Southeast common be kill 100% in September Extension said that I tried it work but don't kill seed in ground it took me about 3 September get rid. Later in fall seed come up I till with Tiller. One year had track hoe dug side patch deep hole took bucket took top 8 inches soil put bottom hole never came back.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 8:08PM
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Respectfully to those up north, bermuda grass is not easy to kill in any way. It breaks off in nodes when pulled, with very deep roots that survive even being dried in the sun. I have hand dug it from flower beds, which works for a few months but is very time consuming.

Rather than newspaper, I would suggest first mowing /scalping it, then getting sheets of cardboard in at least two layers, criss-crossing each layer. Large sheets like from a furniture store. Then putting 6 inches of mulch on top of that. It will start growing from under the edges, but at least you have a chance of killing most of it.
You could also try buying one of those propane flame weeders, and flaming it on a regular basis. (The flames are used to dehydrate the grass, not catch it on fire)

I would never use herbicides around food plants--why take the risk they will be absorbed and eaten?? Plus I seriously doubt it would ever get rid of the bermuda on any kind of permanent basis!

Carla in Sac

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:17PM
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