getting rid of bermuda

Tammy KennedyAugust 22, 2012

ok, so i have to ask a question, and i sure hope y'all can help. I'm part of a small community garden and we've only been going 3 years or so. It's in an old field and we have all sorts of 'issues' and weeds. So far the worst is bermuda- or at least the most intractable. It's full, hot sun and sandy soil. What started as a small patch of bermuda between some of the permanent rows we built the first fall has now spread through at least 4 rows, and counting (the bulk of it this summer). We've been fighting it the past year or so by digging and have tried spraying it with roundup (reluctantly at first) but it's still going gangbusters; much faster than we can dig it out with our limited hours and membership. We cover our paths with cardboard and then mulch and that's where it is the thickest- partly because we've dug it out more aggressively in the beds, and sprayed the paths instead. It is still coming up in the beds, though. These are raised rows, but no hard dividers of any kind (can't afford that), so it makes it really hard to confine it to the paths. The head lady and i are contemplating spraying the heck out of the affected area just before it hits dormancy in fall and covering the whole shebang with plastic for the winter to try to smother it. We'd work in another portion of the garden through the winter. We hate to lose a season in our now well amended soil, but suspect there's nothing to be done for it. We don't really want to use strong chemicals, but might entertain the idea if it was very specific to bermuda. I've read about using straight pickling vinegar but know that only kills the top and suspect it would only make the evil stuff laugh. Thoughts? Advice?

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aquadragonfly(7b NC)

Hey T,
I have been reading about using sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) from what I have read so far it is promising even on bermuda.
It starts killing in 2-3 days. I would say since this is in the paths start with the BS then hit it with vinegar and salt. The recipe I saw for that is:

Amazing Organic Weed Killer Spray.

1/2 gallon of Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 c table salt
1/2 tsp Dawn liquid dish soap
Mix and pour into a spray bottle

Spray weeds thoroughly. It makes 1/2 gallon for around $6.40
It worked better than Round Up & killed the weeds on first application. The Dawn dish soap strips the weed of it's protective oils so the vinegar can work with deadly force. Safe to use a yard used by pets.
from Homestead Survival

Somewhere online I saw you only have to put down the baking soda 2x a year and stuff won't grow there. You just sprinkle it on the grass and it will die.
I read a few different things, one said wet the grass first so the BS sticks the other said put it on dry.
I just purchased some to put on my grass near the house, I am putting in a new bed there and I have dug this stupid grass out already and before I can get it all out it starts growing back where I already pulled it before I am finished with getting it all out.
So I happened upon the Sodium Bicarbinate idea and am going to try it. I am waiting for the rain to stop before I apply it, my plan is to put it down early in the am and see what happens!

I don't want to use Round-up because 1. our water line runs in the area 2. I don't like using chemicals if I don't have too 3. It is expensive 4. The dang grass comes right back afterwards anyway!!! (sort of a waste all the way around I think!)
Baking Soda is much much cheaper...I also read you can get it at feed and seed stores in a 50lb bag for pretty cheap...
plan on checking this out!
:) Aqua

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 1:37AM
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If there is any way to build a chicken coop over that area (even a small one), chickens will eat everything alive in that area and then you can move it over to next invaded area.

Personally, I wait until the Bermuda strands are two feet long or longer and then pull it - I can get better leverage and seem to pull more of the roots out that way.

I have never been able to remove it completely but I can keep it under control but it takes daily weeding.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2012 at 9:09AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Is the Bermuda stopping you from planting/harvesting certain vegetables?

Tam, might you co-exist with the wicked bermuda and just pull the stray tops so you prevent it from going to seed?

Hate to attack a weed with herbicides in the middle of a crop area and you know that nobody wins the battle without using a scooping backhoe/dumptruck and lots of expensive soil alternatives.
Pull what you can..just remember bermuda is like a mushroom fungus..most of it lives underground.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2012 at 6:30PM
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DOttie is right.
I'm sorry to tell you this but once you have bermuda,
you wil always have bermuda.
Especially in the beds.
Plastic won't work, I don't think anything kills it.
THe roots grow 6 feet down.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2012 at 12:00AM
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An organic farmer I know once told me that if you plant Sudan Grass in a weedy area it will grow faster and shade out the weeds - even Bermuda. Its too late this year but something to think about next year. It can also be chopped and turn under for green mulch.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 9:07AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Thanks for the good idea John..for others WHY would you compromise the pH of the soil,destroy beneficial microbes and bind/prevent the uptake of essential minerals necessary for proper plant growth and viral/fungal resistance?

Baking soda??

Much as I detest bermuda, especially this native kind that infests open fields (vs. the golf fairway/purposely planted bermudas) it is an unavoidable evil because as butterfly said..this native variety roots down way deep into the soil.
You forget that late summer fall seed heads are going to walk in on the soles of your garden boots or blow in with the next storm.
Sandy soil needs broad area watering. Covering the soil prevents that.

Pull what gets in the way and stop expecting perfection.
Keep what's in the garden area topped to prevent re-seeding and when you dig to plant, try and pull out/sift out the bermuda 'cables'.
Please don't poison the soil with salt or baking soda. You do no good to your efforts to grow crops with that method.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 8:38AM
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Tammy Kennedy

Thanks for all the varied advice. Lots to think about. Not sure how we are going to proceed, since it's by 'committee', more or less. I'll let you know when we do.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 1:41PM
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aquadragonfly(7b NC)

Dottie, it will not be poisoning the soil you spray on the vinegar solution and sprinkle on the baking soda. It is not enough really to sour the soil.

BESIDES she said it was in the PATHS in between their planting area so it really wouldn't matter they don't plan on planting in between the rows they walk there.
They will be hand pulling what comes up in the growing area.

In my case where I am going to do it I am planning on bringing in mulch an it will be pretty deep so it will replenish anything I deplete.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:55AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

aqua, whatever they put on the paths is not going to remain on the paths.
All I'm saying is not to attack the unwanted plant by attacking the soil purposely or inadvertantly.

The underground plant of bermuda will find a way to defeat all your best efforts and intentions.
Maybe the group is large enough that each can pitch in a couple dollars every month towards hiring a day laborer to
pull the bermuda tops and keep the paths tidy every month.

Just an alternative solution to their chemical solution.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Tammy Kennedy

gosh i wish, but not even close. We struggle with getting enough people to do basic tasks. So hiring someone is completely out of the equation.

I don't think that using both vinegar AND baking soda makes any sense anyhow, since they would cancel each other out as far as PH, which is how either of them works. We don't want to poison paths- often we end up transplanting stuff that's self sown into them into the beds.

We'll figure out something. Thanks for the ideas.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 11:18PM
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aquadragonfly(7b NC)

I misread your original post Tammy, I thought you had raised beds and didn't think it would matter if it did happen to make a kill zone. I went back an re-read what you said an realized it is basically in the area you grow in.
SO, no I wouldn't want to do either one of those solutions. I just had some nice raised beds envisioned in head and thought well that would be a solution.

You don't use both of them together either. IF these methods were tried the baking soda is sprinkled on and the grass is supposed to start dying in 2-3 days if you use the vinegar I don't remember how long it said it took. I was just thinking to maybe really kill it you could use the baking soda and then once it started dying hit it with the vinegar.

I posted the recipe for the vinegar solution somewhere else and in it it was my concern that it would sour the area but I have since put more thought into it and I don't really think it would if you only sprayed it on the plants you wanted to kill. I know that wouldn't really be easy but I think it was original intended to use on board leaf weeds, I don't really remember what it actually said about what they used it for.

I knew that was what you meant Dottie, I just misread the original post Tammy wrote. I went back an re-read it later and realized it didn't state what I thought...

I WISH I could hire someone to pull all of my horrible grass I hate this stuff and the more I pull it out I think the more if comes back....I have tired a lot of stuff and don't want to use round-up and have read many post where others have and it comes back from using that too.

I know covering it up doesn't work either, it just grows around, through, over or under what you put down as a barrier....who invented this stuff anyway???? I'd like to smack them for sure!!!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 12:36AM
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Last winter I bought one of those flame thrower devices - where you drag around a propane tank and use a long wand to blast any weeds you have. It is supposed to cook them back to soil level.

Every weekend I swear I am going to break it open and assemble it and get busy cooking the weeds but the whole idea kinda scares me with all the wood chip mulch I use... so far I have chickened out.

If it works (whenever I find out) I will post about it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 9:17AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

John, the only time I've seen one used was by a fellow burning out dropped leaves and dead weeds out of a stacked fieldstone wall.
That was back before open-burning was banned and before the widespread use of leaf blowers.
(you know, before the dinosaurs)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 4:40PM
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Ah, the dinosaurs... I remember those days.

This device has a can like guard at the tip so that the flame stays about 4 inches above the weed and the flame can't reach out and touch anyone nearby. It is supposed to act more like a small oven you cook the weed crown with as opposed to an actual flame thrower.

The part the scares me is hooking up the propane tank. I always think gas things are gonna blow.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 5:53PM
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Have you considered Oramec Over the top? Or TurfLawnEster?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 7:45PM
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Tammy Kennedy

i don't know anything about them... but we'd consider them, maybe, if they are very specific and non harmful to the environment. What do you know about it?

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 8:05PM
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We're xeriscaping our lawn and are looking up ways to kill Bermuda too. Our yard is almost entirely overgrown with it. We've had two landscapers come in and both have suggested different methods.

Method 1: Dig it out. Spray Glyphosate then dig down and flip the grass over so the root dies. Cover the ground in a pre-emergent to stop the seeds from germinating.

Method 2: Weed and feed. Spray Glyphosate, wait and remove the dead grass then follow it up by fertilizing and watering the ground so that any remaining seeds in the ground pop up. Repeat for a month. This is best done right before the bermuda goes dormant in the fall because it will be stocking up nutrients in its root system and really absorb the poison.

We're not gardeners so I'm not sure what is best. I have done some research and know that burning the weeds is futile. The roots are extremely hardy and go several feet down so a solution that doesn't address the roots will mean it comes right back up in the warm season. I've also read about the vinegar solution, but mainly that it doesn't work. Vinegar will burn the superficial layers of the plant but, again, not kill the roots. I've also heard that vinegar is not very good for the soil.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 2:26AM
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I think an equally big problem is that Bermuda grass will show up in the future, soooo you can remove it however you want but it will come back because it is growing all over the area and it likes to spread. Someone mowing their lawn down the block will kick enough root bits and stolon bits up into the air that the wind will bring to your newly cleaned garden. The wind will also bring seeds as will anyone walking through bermuda lawns and then walking through your yard.

Kill it however you want but you need a plan for how you will keep it weeded out in the future.

Don't you think it's funny how the subject of turf grass NEVER gets brought up when someone is speaking on invasive species? It's like we're supposed to overlook Bermuda Grass but focus on Asian Carp.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 1:39PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

Yeah but, isn't native wild bermuda a different animal with far deeper roots than the turf types?
Tam said they're in an unused field. That's why I advocated a truce and just topping the bermuda to deter seed production.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 6:12PM
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I think that its all the same grass just growing in different environments. When you see it grown as a pasture grass (a very nutritious hay much loved by horse people) it looks altogether different than when it pops up in your flowerbeds. I think that it some soils it has very deep roots and in others it doesn't. I still like to mulch the heck out if it and let it grow up through the mulch. Pulling it out of the fluff is very easy and you can eventually wear it down by constant plucking.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:14PM
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Tammy Kennedy

well, i think after doing research on the chemicals listed above, we're going to do essentially what lamb is suggesting in #2. We have enough room to move to another area for the winter crops, so we're going to spray with strong glyso on the portions it's in and then respray as it resurfaces, and hopefully get it worn down this fall. The worst is in the paths, so hopefully any residual grass will be there next spring, where it's easier to deal with as we grow crops. We may try to set up raised beds with edging from here on out to help with this and other weedy stuff we've been dealing with. We are hoping to get out to john's gardens o use as inspiration.

I don't know though- if we can't get our membership up, and consequently more bodies and hands helping, both i and the leader and seriously thinking of throwing in the towel on the whole garden. I feel like we're rowing uphill in a snowstorm. I can't understand why we can't get more interest in it, given how popular community gardens are right now. It breaks my heart since my yard is too shady for most veggie crops to do well, as is maggie's. I sort of wish we could start from scratch again (i wasn't involved from the very beginning or i'd have advised a smaller, slower start)- the whole shebang is too large and they bit off way more than they could chew at the beginning. We're talking several acres that need mowed, weed whacked, etc, on top of regular garden chores. If we had maybe 20- 30 people we could easily handle it but as it is, it's overwhelming. Now it's way too much for only a few people to keep up with and looks terrible. Add in a challenging growing season and it's downright depressing. We agreed last night to keep plugging and hoping something turns around. Right at the moment rats are getting into the chix area and eating the eggs. If it ain't one thing, it's another! On the plus side, watermelon are doing well, as are dill, carrots, okra, ground cherries and the beans are doing just ok. Everything else fizzled this year. Looking forward to a new season with fresh crops! Hoping it'll invigorate us. What we really need are sponsors and the town to get behind and promote it. Right now, we can't even have signs. Sigh.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 12:39PM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

tam, does your area have a good sized retirement home?
Our local community garden is within walking distance of a large, 3 phase retirement/assisted living/skilled care center and the retirees are the most enthusiastic gardeners. Tools they tossed or sold at yard sales thinking never to use again..they just jump in the car and go to Lowes or HD and get all excited about new tools.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2012 at 8:20PM
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The chemical that works the best is sold to homeowners as 'Grass Getter Post Emergent Herbicide' or any off-the-shelf product with the same ingredient. The pros just call it 'Post' which may be the name they buy it as.

If you really want to kill Bermuda I think you should spray it when it is the most actively growing. Waiting for it to start to decline in the fall may not have much of an effect - I don't know.

'Biting off more than I can chew' is sort of my lifestyle - by mid summer my garden overwhelms me and I think about tossing in the towel. All it takes is a couple of warm weekends in the middle of winter to turn me around.

They say a serious veggie grower can manage one acre working long full days (that includes using farm equipment like tractors). Maybe you need to calculate the space according to the man hours you have available.

The sad fact is that if that entire area was developed into a showcase garden, people driving by on Hwy 70 would WANT to be a part of it - it would serve as its own advertisement.

I think the most popular community gardens are the ones that are within walking distance of the gardeners homes.

If there was a way for out of work folks to farm and sell produce they might consider signing up.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2012 at 9:36AM
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