Bermudagrass (or any lawn for that matter) destruction.

GyurkovitzAugust 26, 2001

I am unwilling to care for a lawn in my area (I don't care how attractive others may think they are, too much water, period.) Unfortunately, in spite of our completely rainless summers, we are not hot and dry enough for bermuda to actually die back, wholly or in part if irrigation is witheld, additionally, there is a brief period in spring when soil moisture and temperatures are suitable for growth. This means that simply ignoring the stuff, planting adapted plants during the rainy season and letting nature take it's course won't work.

Solution: After reading about a reforestation project in Florida I decided to have some local tree service companies dump loads of shredded trees (they were only too happy not to have to pay a disposal fee for the "garbage") on my front yard. I spread the mulch 12in thick over the entire area, and come fall I'll pull back the material in spots and plant trees and shrubs, by next fall it should be broken down enough for annuals and perennials to root.

Preliminary observation: I pulled back the material in several places 2 weeks-1 month later (depending on the area, I did not receive the mulch all at once), and discovered that the soil, which was bone dry at the time I laid the mulch, is slightly moist (I have not watered and there has been no rain, just residual moisture from the chipped trees). On top of that, what bermuda I found (most not in evidence) was greyish brown with no green or white areas in the center of the stolons and rhizomes.

I sometimes begin to think I'm not crazy after all, until I remember that the experiment is merely symptomatic and not the disease itself :).

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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Hi, rg

A couple of thoughts. Depending on the soil depth, rooting of bermuda is awesome, reaching 4-6 feet, deep enough to tap rainwater stored at depth. So watering the ground before mulching and wetting the mulch as you spread won't likely help the underlying bermuda but will increase biological activity in the mulch and improve the underlying top soil.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2001 at 4:38PM
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Hello Marshall,

I had thought of that, I chose not to water, because I could not aquire the mulch all at one time. As a result, if I had watered before applying the mulch, the soil would have dried unevenly due to the moisture holding capacity of the mulch. I also did not water the mulch as I laid it down, because I wanted the material to decompose evenly (I know, I'm neurotic. Who else would care?).

    Bookmark   August 26, 2001 at 6:39PM
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I keep reading on these forums that bermuda roots deeply, but I have never seen this to be the case. Maybe it's my clay soil. The bermuda roots here (and that is the only "grass" I have on my place) only grow down to a max of 4-5 inches. I never water the grass, and the summers are very hot. It all turns brown and dry, but with even a little rain, greens back up in a matter of 2-3 days and grows vigorously again. I passed a tree service truck in a residentail area today and saw them chipping away. I think I may call them and find out if I could get some big heaps of tree stuff brought out. I never considered burying the grass under that much mulch to see if it will smother it out.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2001 at 10:31PM
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It will certainly kill it. The question is, how quickly can it reestablish itself under your conditions? If it does not grow wild to a significant degree in your area (it only grows where it received help becoming established here), you may stand a chance. I am afraid I can offer no hope to those whose climatic conditions favor it.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2001 at 12:22AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

There are "dwarf" bermudas (eg Tifblue) that have shallower root systems. Bermuda grasses are selections of what is sometimes called saltgrass, a very coarse and hardy Cynadon dactylon, the Common Bermuda Grass.

When I was referring to depth of rooting, I was referring to the thin dark roots issuing from the nodes of the stolons. Stolons tend to grow horizontally in the upper foot of soil unless buried when the grass will reestablish an upper stoloniferous zone.

r.g., I can't help you with your neurosies (LOL). If your mulch gets dry and moldy, it may become quite water repellent. We store a lot of shredded tree for composting "browns" and have some trouble wetting the stuff after long dry storage.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2001 at 2:06AM
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Thanks for the warning Marshall, I'll keep an eye out for runoff when I start watering. I saw mushrooms growing in it a few days ago, so it can't be too dry yet :). One of these days I'll try to post some pictures (If I can figure out how to do so), although I think it'll be more interesting to look at when I have planted it. OTOH, pictures can help explain the enormity of my task. A truckload of wood chips won't go as far as you might think. I had originally visualized 2 loads, now after 5 I'm finally done.

Hunter, let me know how it goes if you try the experiment.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2001 at 1:28PM
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This spring I had 3 yds of shredded hardwood mulch dumped in my gravel driveway. It lay there for a month I the time I got into the center of the pile I was finding chorotic bermuda grass, which eventually took over the pile.

My bg doesn't turn brown from drought and in fact bg is very drought resistant. Our summers can get pretty hot and the bg has been here for a loooong time. I found it growing in the bed of my pick-up from a small amount of soil in the corner. Heat tolerance is considered medium...although cold tolerance is SUPPOSED to be low and here I am sitting in zn 6 where it thrives. *AND bg is very hard on allergy suffers.

Another thing...I dug out all the bg on either side of my sidewalk. I found it growing probably 10" deep but I have rich dark loam. This was last is slowly creeping back in even though I laid a 14" strip of landscape fabric BESIDE the bed AND mulched it.

Also, would like to add that after having my yard dug up to in install a new septic field, the bg was very quick to establish itself on the bare areas. I HATE IT!!!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 2:20PM
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Penny, as I have mentioned before, it is not the heat that the bermuda doesn't like, indeed bermuda is about as heat tolerant as grass comes. What I can rely on, is the fact that bermuda needs warmth to grow, and needs at least some water during that period. We have no water, none, zip, zilch, zero from mid-April to at least mid-september, many years the rains don't start until January. Bermuda doesn't go completely dormant during most winters here, but neither does it grow during that period. As you have noted, my solution would not work under your circumstances.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 3:03PM
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Yeh...I'll just keep using vinegar then laying cardboard over for awhile.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2001 at 1:52PM
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A year ago I tilled up an area of bermuda and doused it with Roundup. When I thought the area was completely free of this monster grass I covered the area with cardvoard and newspapers and then added 12" of topsoil and mushroom compost, then seeded with fescue. The fescue did well during the fall and winter and this year the bermuda has taken over.

I have tried a flame thrower, Roundup and would use diesel fuel if it were no illegal to get rid of this stuff.

It grows everywhere and is impossible to get rid of.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2001 at 5:58AM
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Perhaps I need to explain, not only will the Bermuda receive no help from the local climate, I am not going to provide drought relief either. Plants will be provided INDIVIDUALLY with water by the wilt method through their first summer, no automatic sprinklers here, if there is no water, bermuda will not grow, I have seen it with my own eyes (if I'm going to eliminate it, do you think I am going to water it in the meantime?).

    Bookmark   August 31, 2001 at 10:06PM
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Ha! I've got you beat! I covered the area where I wanted the bermuda to die for an entire year with black plastic. I read that this would not only sterilize the soil, but kill any seeds, grass roots, whatever. So I pulled off the plastic and planted a garden, and there, in the middle, coming from who knows where, was - you guessed it - bermudagrass! I think the roots came from the neighbor's yard. They say that the only way to rid yourself of it is to kill your whole yard and start over. Unfortunately, then a bird will drop a seed, and here we go again!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2001 at 6:21PM
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Missed your post earlier about having no rain from April to September. We have been in a four year drought, and never get rain from the end of the rainy season through about late April, early May, and despite the fact that I do not water the lawn, the bermuda has survived all! It's pasture grass. If it can survive being stomped by hundreds of cattle, it can survive anything! In SC, they burn it off every winter, and it comes back green and beautiful every spring. Sorry to sink your ship, but if you think mulch and no watering is going to kill it, you'll be a very frustrated person.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2001 at 6:28PM
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Dafla, during our rainy season, temperatures are too cool for bermuda, it does not always go dormant, but it does stop growing. By the time temps reach acceptable levels, we are usually bone-dry. It can stay dormant for some time (years), but I expect the fungi and bacteria to eat it after a while.
I am well aware of it's ability to survive drought, but to grow it needs warmth and moisture, it will have both, but rarely at the same time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Local Climate

    Bookmark   September 1, 2001 at 11:12PM
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I covered one section of bermuda grass with layers of newspaper, and then with black plastic. It stayed that way until the plastic was beginning to come apart (parking area) and then had gravel put down. So far, so good! Only at the edge of the plastic, is there any bermuda, and I keep having to spray it. Now if I could only do all the other areas that way (I'm working on it!). I hate the stuff!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2001 at 12:07PM
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sharon_9_fl(z9 FL)


What's the latest on the bermuda grass elimination project?

    Bookmark   October 13, 2001 at 10:17PM
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Here in So Cal the tree mulch includes lots of eucalyptus. Wouldn't that affect the plants that you are putting in? Maybe you don't have many eucs where you are.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2001 at 3:19PM
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Eucalyptus has been determined NOT to be allelopathic by the University of California. The lack of undergrowth is due to deep shade, too much competition for water and nutrients and heavy litter suppressing (by suffocation) the growth of less vigorous plants.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2001 at 2:23PM
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Ray_Scheel(z8b/SS31 E. TX)

The only possible solution may be to overplant with a grass that when properly cared for *and* mowed at a large height (something taller your variety of bermuda will attain if watered) will out-compete the bermuda remaining *after* an heavy dose of Roundup followed by tilling and raking the soil (to remove runners which will realidy re-root and emerge from the tilled soil with a stronger and deeper root system than before). After you have pampered the taller grass until no sign of the bermuda remains, mow it close for a couple of *years* and apply Roundup to remaing patches of bermuda as they appear.

I am actually trying to establish bermuda in my "lawn". I live on a sand hill at the end of a dirt road, and the area around the house is comprised mainly of the grasses that sprung forth after the area was clear-cut for counstruction by the prior owners about 7 years ago. I have seen bermuda runners traverse distances of greater than 30' in a single growing season, and am expecting that with a continued regimen of mowing and transplanting chunks of sod to have nearly complete coverage of the yard by the end of next fall. The only place its outcompeted is by some St Augustine under the shade of trees which I water in the summer.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2002 at 6:29PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

This thread is still alive since August??

As a Texan, I agree with Ray. I live in pretty good shade and have absolutely no problem with bermuda grass. I had a plumbing problem a few years ago and the contractor dumped a load of bermuda-infected soil onto my St Augustine. The bermuda tried for two years to establish but couldn't. Last year I covered it with sand and compost and picked the bermuda out when it poked up through the compost. Now it's gone.

The only bermuda I have is in the one place where I have unimpeded morning sun.

Our local organic guys also talk about overwatering the areas where you want the good grass, because bermuda "doesn't like it" that wet - whatever that means. I'll try that this year on my remaining bermuda.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2002 at 1:44AM
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Update, I just removed the top layer of mulch (exposing what looks like beautiful compost). I just planted a Pistacia chinensis in front of the house and seeded the yard with native wildflowers to keep annual ryegrass in check when it starts blowing in a few months from now while I aquire the rest of the plants. Right now I'm on the economy plan and have been scavenging plants from empty lots, and willing neighbors and friends. All in all, a resounding success.

Ray and Dchall, I don't mind anyone elses lawn, I just don't think they were intended for a climate like this, nothing personal against bermuda, I dislike any lawngrass in my yard equally.

This spring I'll post before and after photos in the garden galleries (to set everyones mind at ease, for some reason when I say xeriscape people envision a desolate vista with a few cacti and gravel and if I say mediterranean they give me a blank look).

    Bookmark   August 30, 2002 at 1:29AM
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I'm moving to a place that has nothing but bermuda grass for a lawn and hope make way for several garden plots. My old home has it too and when I started those plots 15 years ago it was a manual hand eradication method foot-by-foot digging and ridding of roots. That works ok but not practical for my larger plans. I hope to solarize a large plot next spring, then till it up, resolarize, retill, cover with cardboard and then with compost. Think that'll work? Trying to avoid chems. vgkg

    Bookmark   August 30, 2002 at 1:10PM
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As long as bermuda is shaded it won't grow. Your only problem is that in your area the seeds germinate readily, I'm not overly optimistic about organic control in a summer rainfall region.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2002 at 7:47PM
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sharon_9_fl(z9 FL)


Bermuda doesn't seem to be that tough a weed here in central Florida. It's very persistant, but grows fairly slowly. I expect it doesn't like infertile sand, and perhaps it will be worse when my soil is improved.

However, I did produce a pure stand of bermuda last fall. I decided to solarize a garden plot (for nematodes). All the plants died except for the bermuda, which seemed to really appreciate the "greenhouse." Perhaps if I had solarized in midsummer, I would have killed the top growth of the bermuda, but there is no way solarizing will get the deep rhizomes.

I dug up the bermuda (just going down a fork-depth), mulched as you plan to, and planted. I see a few sprigs of bermuda in the garden, but it's no big deal. I kind of think that the luxurious growth of the bermuda under the plastic might have resulted in me getting more of the total plant when I dug it.

I wonder about tilling. Can you dig with a fork? It seems tilling would result in gazillions of pieces of bermuda, all capable of producing a new plant. Can you start the cardboard mulch now? (Those moving boxes are awesome!) I don't know what your ratio of planting row to path is, but you might consider digging clean, relatively narrow, planting rows and wide, cardboard-covered, deeply mulched paths for next year. You might even use cardboard or newspaper to line the vertical "walls" of your planting rows. By the end of the year, the bermuda that has been completely covered in the paths should be severely weakened (I know the rhizomes can SURVIVE longer than a year.) You should then find it much easier to clean out wider growing rows in that mulched area.

Sounds like you have a challenge!


    Bookmark   September 2, 2002 at 1:33PM
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arkiema(7b Arkansas)

I garden surrounded by 60 acres of costal bermuda.
Not my choice but as we grow our hay to feed it's either fend it off or quit gardening. I choose to fight it.
And the only way is to dig out the stolen..... or fry it with chemicals.....
There is a 6 ft, 6 inch steel pipe at the corner, surrounded by 50 ft of cement in all directions. Bermuda grass grows out the top of the pipe each year often getting over 3 ft long...
The 12 inches of leaf mulch is only forcing the stolens deeper. I've used, carpet, plastic, cardboard, a 40ft x 20 heavy guage pool liner,650 lb rolls of hay (stored for 14 months will kill most anything beneath it, not bermuda) newspaper as well as many un -lady like words.....the only thing I've found to even be slightly effective in keeping it out of my beds is an 8 inch trench dug and fill with quickrete edging all my beds.
But it only slows it down long enough for me to dig it out before it crosses the barrier..
I'm intersted in the final results of this experiment , hope you'll keep us posted.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2002 at 6:39AM
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