I see many articles online about no-till and leaving the soil whole. I get what is being said, but what do you do about Bermuda Grass? It is great for our cows and goats, but it seems to grow up through anything. I have tried raised beds and weeding, but it just takes over. I have tried black tarps over an area for weeks. We have put out thick mulch (wood chips). It has even come up through the cracks of pavers on our back porch.
that's a great question. i have a lot of things in my garden that need to be pulled out or they take over. When I can, I clip plants to not disturb the soil, but I don't get worked up about pulling out the bad guys (after all, I bury bokashi and organic matter every so often). My garden mantra is "do the best you can." I don't need perfect.
Oh look, Alex let the dogs out. Good on ya mate! (sorry been hanging with some Australians lately)
No-till is becoming one of those "BUZZ" words and not in a good way for the most part.
Bermuda Grass is one of: a) bane of all gardeners b) great fodder for ruminants, horses and donkeys c) nearly impossible to get rid of once the rhizomes become established
Whew, this will take some time to cover well, but I am up to it right now.
Ways to get rid of Bermuda: 1)acidify the soil so it reads 2.0 or lower on the pH meter. (this is not recommended unless you are also going to leave the area as dirt, perhaps like a baseball diamond?)
2) compact the soil to a depth of 2 feet. (this also is not recommended since you are only going to be able to use that land for parking or something other than growing any plants)
3) digging it out by machine or by hand. (talk about a long time to get to the desired results)
4) Skull and cross bones (yes you know what I mean, I just hate to use those words these days, and that is enough said about that)
So, all those above ideas are fail in my book, but they each will stop Bermuda pretty well and not even the last one is guaranteed to work long.
The One Way I have managed to kill off Bermuda (it works but will take one entire growing cycle (year))
Set your mower to as low a setting as possible, and cut the Bermuda. (if you are lucky you will actually "scalp" the grass so that soil is what you see)
Do not water the area you want the Bermuda absent from.
Every time you see any green Bermuda leaves, go back and scalp the area again. (this is the chop it till it dies method)
Optionally you could build a multi layer screening setup, till and scrape that top two feet of soil, run it over your new sieves and then put the cleaned soil back, hoping no pieces of Bermuda make it back to the area.
This one is highly labor intensive, fuelish and disruptive to the point of death for soil and it's microbiome, but it does work faster than all the other methods while not creating any nasties in the soil.
For gardens you need to put in a 2' deep root barrier (very much like when you want to corral bamboo) which will stop the spread of the Bermuda outside that barrier from coming inside the barrier.
Another other alternative is to "weed" weekly all year, every year. Then there is always the "learn to live with it" ridiculous indeed idea.
Raised beds can help with prevention once you have dug out at least most of the Bermuda grass roots. I've seen 3 foot deep raised beds that didn't have any even though they were surrounded on three sides by Bermuda lawn.
That gardener told me they marked where they were going to build the beds then they used a tiller to "loosen" the grass roots so they could hand pick them before they started building up the soil level.
They also mentioned they used a lot of peat moss at the bottom of the bed (soil interface) then used soil from there up to the bed's soil level, they added compost each year to top up the beds.
I don't have any Bermuda in our garden area (we do have it in our pastures) but I think the nut grass and Johnson grass makes up for that lack of Bermuda somewhat.
We pull out any offending grasses as we go about our weekly bed checks and harvesting or planting.
Straw bale gardening works well for getting rid of Bermuda, so I've been told by two folks, I can not confirm those reports though.
Oh, what a tough challenge. I agree with RedHawk about scalping the grass as low as you possibly can, but this is only step one in a long process. You might consider flame weeding the patch first, wait a few days for the top growth to stress the roots, mow right down to the ground, and flame again. After flaming a second time. I would consider laying down some type of compostable barrier. Personally I was thinking about laying down a layer of cardboard, followed by a second layer of cardboard, then really pile on the topsoil (I personally would want it at least a foot thick), plant, and cover again with straw once the veggies sprout.
Overall the plan would be to distress/weaken the Bermuda grass as much as possible, then give it a barrier that it cannot grow right through, followed by enough soil to thoroughly block out sunlight.
Eventually that cardboard will break down, and hopefully it will outlast the Bermuda grass. This is not exactly a guarantee, more like a race against time. Hopefully you can damage the Bermuda grass enough that it cannot grow back in time to grow through the cardboard barrier and through the layer of topsoil.
This is all just a suggestion and feel free to modify or ignore it as you please.
I put down a thick layer of wood chips last spring. Of course Bermuda showed up also. I find that I can get into the wood chips a couple of inches and remove a lot of the bermuda roots. Will have to keep at of course and add more chips and more chips.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss
It is 10 inches all around but 18 inches around the trees. But they have been gobbled up by Fungi so a couple inches at most. I am gathering another large load of wood chips to apply another 10 inches. After I put that down I may end up using a lot of vinegar, soap and salt to make some spray.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind. - Dr. Seuss
I have read that comfrey can act as a root barrier, But only starting to grow it so no personal experience. I have several rhizome-based grasses on my property and am beginning to think of how to deal with it. I don't know my grasses at this stage though except for the ones I planted myself: ryegrass, rye, oats.
I do suspect I have some bermuda. I also have one bigger and thicker stemmed.
I've had good success using a thick layer of a few inches of Fall leaves. Laying them down whole, instead of shredded, tends to help them mat together that will block out almost anything, and if something does make it through, it should be easy to pull out if needed.
It can work best to leave it in place for as long as possible, and should totally smother it out after a year.
Plants can be planted into it earlier though, with the leaves being pulled back and planted into, and then the leaves put back once the plants get some growth on them.
The leaves will also build super healthy and fertile soil in the process, so it can be a double win!
Striving to grow things as naturally, simply, and cheaply as possible!
My YouTube channel
My front yard was infested with bermuda grass, it was almost like the previous owner WANTED grass in the yard! Well, I put a stop to that! 8) I started with what is typically called a loop hoe:
This will cut the roots just under the soil. The grass can have some really long roots, like 4-5 feet long running under the surface though. I found that after some rain or watering adjacent plants, the grass would return. But a combo of the loop hoe, followed with a layer of cardboard which was then covered with 4-6" of mulch was enough to keep the bermuda grass gone for several years, with only a tiny shoot popping up where the cardboard didn't overlap, and that was pulled up by hand. Since we don't get much rain, the cardboard is still there now after 3 years but in the edges where the cardboard isn't, the bermuda grass lies in wait. I usually spend about 1 minute each day as I take the dog out for her walk, to check and pull any tiny shoots I find which helps a lot. The deep mulch also helps because if you tease out the new shoots so that you get some roots, you're also pulling up 4+" of top growth, which the weakened remaining roots have to regrow to get back to the sun again. This winter I plan to add more mulch along the edges which currently have gravel, and that will be the final phase of removing the grass for good.
Ultimately I've preferred the "small efforts, every day" method, if you check frequently the grass never gets a break to rebuild, and the effort is so small that it's not such a chore. but there was an initial big effort to clear it with the hoe and then cover/mulch. If you plan to replant immediately and then you're watering/fertilizing, then you'll have to be extra vigilant on weeding the regrowth.
I'm not quite a lumberjack, but that's OK, I sleep all night and I dream all day; I'll coppice trees, I'll grow my food, and compost poo and pee! With a well and off-grid solar, it's a permies life for me! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FshU58nI0Ts
We have tons of Bermuda Grass and Johnson grass! A total pain in the grass. On my paths, I have an overlapped layer of cardboard and about 6 to 8 inches of wood chips. In my rose garden I have weed cloth down and about 10" of wood chips on that. In another I have about 10" of wood chips only. I can tell you so far the cardboard combo seems to work the best. The Johnson grass pops through the edges, but I found the more I pull less comes back. The Bermuda Grass will eventually crawl in, but if I catch it quick enough it pulls right out. It's slow progress, but progress. I don't water the paths, and that helps. The option with the most weeds is the wood chips alone. Even so there are a lot less then with out the chips, and most of the weeds that pop up seem to be easier to pull. A lot of them seem to have the roots in the chips and pull up easy root and all. We have also just excepted the Bermuda Grass, and Johnson grass. The places we want grass are mostly Bermuda, and Johnson. We mow it and are content with something green, and brown in the summer, because we don't waist water on the yard.
I think the first thing you have to decide is what you want to do with the area the dreaded weeds have invaded and decide from there. Weed cloth can be expensive, probably isn't that great for the environment, but it does work, is easy to install and lets the rain water penetrate the ground. It dose not last for ever, mine was put in years ago and has many holes. I just keep piling on the wood chips and yank any weed as soon as I can. The cardboard is super, you are probably recycling it, that is always a plus, so it's free. I found a way to lock it together using the flaps, and it stays put. The con I see with this method besides the fact that it brakes down and must be redone is I don't think it lets the rain through. At least from my observation it seems to run the water off elsewhere, so if you want to plant there you will want to cut an opening large enough to get the water your plant will need.
Good luck unfortunately there is not magic potion that banishes all weeds from our land, but if you come across one please share.
Bermuda (not-so fondly known as "wire grass" around here) has been my bane as well. Being indeterminate, it is no respecter of mulch nor boundaries. We tilled the entire garden every summer in hopes of staying at least a step or two ahead of the Bermuda and getting a harvest before the stuff choked everything out.
I finally had modest success this past summer. I've been doubled digging my garden beds to create "hugelkultur swale beds" in an effort to retain more soil moisture. The swales are dug down into our clay subsoil and the trenches filled with old logs and branches, wood chips, top soil, and compost. The beds are bordered but not raised. In between the borders I put down double layers of cardboard and covered thickly with wood chips.
This photo is a recent one, but the thing is, those beds and aisles remained Bermuda free all summer! It did try to creep over from the large aisles, so this winter I'm covering the rest of the garden the same way.
I am by no means claiming that I've won the war, but even one summer without competing with wire grass felt like a huge win for me.
What we have here is called quack grass. The roots will pierce right through a potato while it is developing. My grand father said dry the roots then burn them. He tried hanging them on the fence all summer and they still grew the next fall.
OK! Lets get the the least labor method I have found. Put down a solid barrier Like a sheet of metal roofing and put something heavy on it like a stack of firewood. After 6 months everything growing underneath will be dead except coils of the roots trying to find the way out. The deep roots have given their energy to the shallow ones and rotted away so a shallow cultivation with a fine toothed fork can remove all the roots. Then go ahead and double dig your bed but put your barrier wall before putting the soil back in.
I have never been successful at eradicating it from my garden beds. The best I can do is delay it and keep on pulling.
I've found a layer of whole newspapers or thick cardboard will delay it for about a year before it punches through it (not between the gaps but actually through it). At that point I have to remove the layer as the roots are well integrated into the sheet, and then pull the long runners hat are below.
I've found very thick may or straw much like Ruth Stout probably works better. Again, it delays the grass by about a year, but it's much easier to pull that mulch back, remove the runners, and replace the mulch.
The only way I've found so far to keep it out long term is to use hay or straw mulch off the bale (without fluffing it up), and lay it down in compressed sheets about 6 inches deep. The problem then is you can't grow anything at all. But if you have a bed you want to let fallow for a while, that's a good option. I have been doing this in the areas of my beds that I use for succession crops that are waiting for a crop to go in. I prep the bed in spring, then cover all the areas that I won't immediately plant. Then as each area comes due for planting, I uncover a section.
Before I moved onto my property, the previous owners purposely seeded Bermuda grass for their livestock to forage. That being said. After several years of no livestock to keep it down and the spot being vacant. It has taken over.
I've had luck with pulling as much as I could by hand, and then applying brown paper topped with a black walnut mulch (ground hulls and leaves) to eradicate the existing Bermuda grass. That being said, I use this method only in 1 area which has 24inch high raised beds. Juglone is a very effective natural plant killer and high degree of caution should be used. But it has proven effective in my situation.
Currently, I am experimenting with the allelopathic properties of several other plants to be used as a natural way to eradicate Bermuda grass, such as perrenial rye and eucalyptus
Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you! - Seuss. Tiny ad:
permaculture bootcamp - learn permaculture through a little hard work