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How can we kill/get rid of Bermuda grass to start over (without using chemicals)?

Janna djs

Joined: Apr 16, 2013
Posts: 5
We had Marathon Grass in the front and back yard. Over the years, Bermuda grass has infiltrated.
There is such a wealth of knowledge here at, that I have hope that someone can help us with this.

We are now ready to redo our front and back yard.
Front will have no lawn. It will be a garden to draw butterflies, birds and bees
Back yard will have no lawn either, it is going to be a small food forest of sorts (approx. a 20 x 10 foot area)

how can we get rid of the Bermuda so we can start over? (no chemicals)

Our landscaper (is traditional and knows nothing of permaculture) says we must spray to really get rid of it. I can't accept this to be true, but finding conflicting information. anyone have experience with this?
I wish we could hire a permaculture expert in Anaheim CA, but need to get over that ....because we can't find anyone. So, we are going to just try to figure it out as we go, on our own.

thank you in advance for any help you can offer.

John Flower

Joined: Apr 03, 2013
Posts: 15
Location: New Zealand
UC Davis suggests solarization maybe useful. This is killing weeds by covering the ground with plastic and using the sun's heat to kill everything. Here's an excerpt from that, specifically mentioning Bermuda grass:-

Soil solarization controls many of the annual and perennial weeds present in California. While some weed species seeds or plant parts are very sensitive to soil solarization, others are moderately resistant and require optimum conditions for control (good soil moisture, tight-fitting plastic, and high solar radiation). Solarization generally does not control perennial weeds as well as annual weeds because perennials often have deeply buried underground vegetative structures such as roots and rhizomes that may resprout. Rhizomes of bermudagrass and johnsongrass may be controlled by solarization if they are not deeply buried. Solarization alone is not effective for the control of the rhizomes of field bindweed. Control of purple and yellow nutsedge, as well as field bindweed arising from rhizomes and some clovers, can be inconsistent, even under favorable conditions.

Check out their full Solarization Article
Jeffrey Hodgins

Joined: Nov 14, 2011
Posts: 166
Location: Yucatan Puebla Ontario BC
The Idea of a solarization will most likely not work for the roots but if you add steam like they do in greenhouses that will penatrate deeper and get all seeds and roots, unless you are dealing with the big stem bramuda wich has roots up to 16 inches deep. In a greenhouse we use a boiler to pump steem in underthe tarp may be more difficult for you at home. I control bermuda grass in 2 ways at home, by covering with fresh manure or by working the top layer of soil and then pitch forking the roots out. If you work the soil too deep the roots will be buried and grow back. By using manure the grass will grow back but due to the fertility other plants will have an edge over the grass. Adding fertility tends to make useful plants compete allot better with non-useful ones.

I'll tell you a story about it. One time I had huge pile of bean pods and I put them where the bramuda grass was. The beans that were leftover in the pods grew along with squash. The sheep ripped it all apart about 3 times during the season so I counted it as a loss. It ended up producing copious amounts and the grass did not move back in until 3 years later after most of the carbon nitrogen phosphorus and sulfur were gone.

Diversified Food forest maker . Fill every niche and you'll have less weeds (the weeds are the crop too). Fruit, greens, wild harvest, and nuts as staple. Food processing and preservation are key to self self-sufficiency. Never eat a plant without posetive identification and/or consulting an expert.
Alder Burns

Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 958
Location: northern California
I'm dealing with bermuda here too. In Georgia, where we used to live, I simply had to sheetmulch everything, every year, and then plant through it. I was able to live with it and grow food anyway. It really needs some summer moisture, so here I'm trying to sheetmulch an area solid for two summers and not plant anything there and see if I can wear it out. I don't see it thriving just in the broader landscape here. I think maybe if one can just keep away from summer irrigation for a couple of years, that might be enough to subdue it. If you've got permanent plants you need to water, perhaps sheetmulch around these and let the rest dry out?

Alder Burns (adiantum)
Alder Burns

Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 958
Location: northern California
Bermuda also doesn't like full shade. So if you get your food forest stuff up and good and dense, say by planting through sheetmulch, the vigor of the bermuda will decline over time to the point where handpulling a few sprigs now and then will be all that's needed.... Same with the front....just plant real densely. But I would try to give it a year under cardboard, without water, to weaken it first....
Steve Page

Joined: May 19, 2012
Posts: 7
I have a similar problem in central Florida. My grass in front lawn (about 20 x60 and another area 20 by 20) is not Bermuda grass but is some kind of crab grass I would call it. It is thin and grows like St Augustine but looks nothing like it because it is so thin and survives without much water. Not sure of actual name but want to buy some St Augustine pieces and sorta make my own plugs. Not sure how to cut up a square of St Augustine effectively. Trying to save money rather than buy expensive plugs. So I don't want to use chemicals either to kill the crab type of grass and I want to replace with St. Augustine but budget is tight.

I thought maybe use plastic to kill off areas and then plug it with St. Augustine. Then use a propane torch (bought but not used yet) to kill off anything else wanting to grow in the area until the St. Augustine can take over.

Any thoughts on this would be helpful.

Also, after the St. Augustine is in what do I do to protect it from the chinch bugs. I found having lawns before they eventually make there way into your yard. I want to kill them off to protect my investment in my lawn but do not want to use chemicals.

Any thoughts on that as well.

The other area of concern is the different deceases you grass can develop so I need help reading about that stuff too. Because that can kill your investment too.

I just don't want to end up where I began in a couple of years.
Please someone help me.
Wendy Smyer Yu

Joined: Jul 03, 2014
Posts: 8
bump, in case anyone has other info on defeating bermuda grass… has ANYONE had success?

I'm seeing several methods (manual effort, solarization, long-term sheet mulch …)

Edit: meanwhile, I'll add something I found on another thread that seems downright brilliant (

Wendy Blackwell wrote:the real question to ask is "why does the crab grass grow?" the following link reveals some clues.

weeds are pioneers of disturbed land. Indicators of soil quality, deficiencies, and excesses. crab grass grows in dry, compacted, low fertility, low calcium soil. fix those problems, and your cg problem will lessen.

I have a 1/4 acre in Sonoma County. 1/8th of my plot is a weed patch. wild carrot, wild radish, daikon I introduced, prickly sow thistle, bind weed, frog fruit, crab grass...more nameless weeds than I can identify. I mow my weed patch once a month, starting in spring and by now, late july, its still green and growing, yet I do not water my weed patch. Everywhere else the ground is dry, cracked, dusty and sad. My thought is to return the nutrients that the weeds are pulling from the earth, back into the soil, and let them do the hard dirty work of breaking up the clay. I've turned my weeds into a living mulch and tiller. In the winter I run the chickens in the weed yard, so I can sow the orchard (where they spend their summers) with ryes, legumes, and chicken forage and let them decimate Weedlandia, and in the spring, before the last rains I seed the weed yard with whatever I want. its usually a mix of green manures, soil busters, legumes, beneficial incest blends, wild flowers, and any extra seeds I might have lying around. This is my second summer of this plan, and the soil is already improving, and some of my seeded plants are taking root.

in permaculture we don't see problems, we see solutions. Turn your weed "problem" into a solution, and remember, slow and steady wins the race.

also, if you must have a garden to tend while you remediate your soil, lasagna garden a small space intensively, that way if you have to weed, or pile on more and more mulch/manure/cardboard/mulchmanurecardboard, at least its on a small space, while you work on the bigger projects slower.

I know my reply wasn't about destroying crab grass, but maybe destroying it isn't the answer.
Gail Saito

Joined: Dec 31, 2012
Posts: 77
Location: Medford, OR
A year ago I covered one of my many lawns with a layer of cardboard, a layer of leaves and a final layer of mulch. The grass is pretty much gone, with just a few weeds poking through here and there. Yes, it was quite labor intensive, but for the most part, I accomplished what I set out do do. You might also want to try a solution of 20% acidic vinegar mixed with some orange oil. I have used this as a weed killer with good results.
Marianne West

Joined: Jan 05, 2012
Posts: 113
Location: Lemon Grove, CA
First off, there got to be a bunch of people around you into permaculture. Actually, the next Southern California Permaculture Convergence will be in Irvine - really close to you.
This guys are in San Diego County, but I am pretty sure they will come up your way - tell them I referred you

Also, Bill Rowley is in Laguna Beach and has lots of connection all over Orange County. He might know somebody right in your neighborhood.
Bill Roley
Permaculture Institute of Southern California
1027 Summit Way
Laguna Beach, Cal 92651
949-494-5843 office - home
949-413-2524 cell

Then you have the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano. They do teach PDC and probably have referrals.

Finally, this is what I have done with Bermuda grass: I did the cardboard and deep mulch. This will not get rid of Bermuda, but makes it so much easier to pull out. The areas I planted right away, I dug the grass out, root and all. Then planted as tight as possible to create living mulch and just weeded out what was coming up. As i said, going into new areas which were sheet mulched, it is easier to pull out, or plant through the mulch and when plants cover it, it gets to be less and less around. In the meantime, the roots dried make a tea highly priced in Chinese medicine- I forgot the name, but a friend of mine used to sell the roots - income stream. Yeah!!! Also, many animals like to snack on the Bermuda. For example, we just found out that our neighbor has 4 huge tortoises. they love Bermuda grass! We asked for permission to feed them and now, when I pull the grass, i feel very happy because we get to go and visit 'our turtles" and watch them run (not very fast) towards the fence to munch down on it.
Charles Tarnard

Joined: Jul 10, 2013
Posts: 320
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
Pay no attention to this post. It was under researched and over confident.
Marianne West

Joined: Jan 05, 2012
Posts: 113
Location: Lemon Grove, CA
Bermuda is different from regular grass. It will grow up through 3 feet of compost on top. But if it is in loose soil/mulch/compost and is actively growing, it becomes easier and easier to pull it out. It does go inactive in the winter and the roots go very deep to overwinter and then, it is pretty impossible to get rid off.....
subject: How can we kill/get rid of Bermuda grass to start over (without using chemicals)?
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