Smothering Bermuda grass - an update

zelenkabachApril 24, 2013

Last year I started some garden beds in the hard baked, compacted clay soil around my house that was covered with bermuda grass. I had done some reading on the "lasagna" style gardening and thought that might work.

In January put down newspaper to smother the bermuda grass (which I couldn't dig out) and then, virtuosly, put organic matter and soil on top of that and thought everything would die underneath.

Well, around April I noticed that the bermuda grass victoriously pushing its way through the newspaper and into that great organic matter. I had already begun planting the bed, so I decided to mulch my plants with newspaper and cardboard. I put layers and layers of newspaper and carboard around the plants, leaving only enough of an opening for water to get in around the stem of the plant and then doused that paper with water to get it to stick together. The beds were basically sealed in with newspaper and cardboard. I then put mulch on top of that.

This seemed to surpress the bermuda grass pretty well throughout the season, although that grass has an admirably strong will to live and would travel horizontally through the layers of newspaper to get toward any smidgen of light that I might have missed.

Since I hadn't put any edging around the beds, the grass next to the beds would creep into the beds over the course of the summer and I tried to control it as best I could.

Fast forward to this year...
I went out to my garden today to prepare the beds for planting. Grass has begun to creep through the beds and the newspaper and cardboard has begun to break down and look pretty tatty.

I was apprehensive that I would find a complety intact bed of bermuda grass at the base of these beds just waiting for freedom!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the bermuda grass was gone from the base of the bed, and what was there had either creeped in from the borders, or was a survivor from last year that had traveled across the surface. It was really easy to pull out this time because now it was in moist soil with lots of organic matter and the grass was no where near as dense as it had been before...
So this was a kind of success. I now have to get things planted quickly and again mulch it with cardboard and newspaper because I know there is still some grass there waiting for the opportunity to rise again but I am confident that after another season, that grass will be gone.

I hope that this update is helpful!

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Smothering Bermuda grass sounds great. Will definitely try it first around some roses. Bermuda grass is so thick here in just the wrong places. The old saying, "Be careful what you ask for", will I have never asked for Bermuda grass. It has to be the most bossy- greedy grass ever. It just has to have its way around and through every garden made. Johnson grass is bad, but NO match for Bermuda.
This year for the first time I have clover coming up everywhere (except around the roses two lots away). The clover blooms are nice, but much prefer the Homestead Verbena. Honey bees are everywhere.
Lynnsdaughter, betya' worms love the cardboard-paper-mulch moisture and warmth......joseph

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:15AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Great job! The next time you do this, it should go more easily since you'll know what to expect and be ready for it. As you discovered, being anxious to plant can cause more work and setbacks to your smothering efforts. I just started a new spot like this Monday. Drought killed the grass "sort of" in one spot in the front yard and it's never grown back, so I used newspaper - about 8-10 sheets thick, overlapping by at least 6", covered with mulch. I'm not going to dig into it until next year, just set potted annuals there for now, then a big pile of leaves in the fall.

Also as you've discovered, without a barrier/border around the edges, separating grass from bed, it's an ongoing chore keeping the grass out of the bed. I'll use anything I can find for that, but try to stick to more attractive materials, like bricks, in the front yard.

Just be glad you don't have bahiagrass!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 9:25AM
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I've had fairly good luck sinking a mowing edge of 6" wide pavers halfway in the ground. (They are 2" thick.) The bermuda will eventually go over and under it, but it certainly slows it down a lot.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 10:32AM
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