There are pros and cons to the warm-season grass, Bermuda grass (or "Bermudagrass"). Known botanically as Cynodon dactylon, it is great at tolerating heat, drought, and heavy foot traffic. It also has three different ways of spreading: by rhizomes, stolons, and seed, making it a tempting grass choice if you need a lawn that is going to "fill in" quickly.
But, the pros of this grass type quickly turn to cons when you decide to replace Bermuda grass with something else or try to eradicate it from flower beds that it has invaded. Its very toughness and vigor make this invasive plant difficult to get rid of, and under these circumstances, it can essentially be considered a weed.
It is possible to kill Bermuda grass, though. Read on to learn both organic and non-organic methods to deal with it—and possibly prevent Bermuda grass from becoming a problem in the first place.
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Spraying Bermuda Grass With an Herbicide
Some may grow a lawn of Bermuda grass for a while and then decide they want to replace it with another grass. Even if you select the easiest method for this task (the herbicidal method), the process will not be an easy one. The herbicide will not kill any seeds that have been deposited into the soil, which remain viable for years, and one spray is unlikely to kill all of the rhizomes.
To ensure success when eradicating Bermuda grass, buy a ready-to-use herbicide containing glyphosate (like Roundup). Water the lawn well about a week before spraying and make sure it doesn't dry out. Spray the glyphosate evenly across your lawn on a day when it's not windy, wait for the grass to turn brown, and finally, remove the dead sod.
To address the problem of surviving rhizomes, irrigate the lawn again. This will generate new growth from the rhizomes left behind, thereby identifying where you still have a problem.Continue to 2 of 6 below.
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Digging Out Bermuda Grass
What do you do if some Bermuda grass has invaded a lawn composed of other grasses that you want to keep? Spraying with glyphosate is out of the question because it is a non-selective herbicide: It kills everything, so the grass that you want to keep would be harmed, too. Another method is to dig the Bermuda grass out.
First, mow the lawn so that you can better see what you're doing. With a trowel, dig out Bermuda grass wherever you find it, being careful to dig deep enough to get it out even way down at the root level. Place this plant material in a leaf bag immediately for proper disposal, and re-seed the bare spots with the type of grass you want to grow there.
Continue to 3 of 6 below.
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Smothering Bermuda Grass With Newspaper
For those who have been growing a lawn of Bermuda grass before deciding they want to replace it with another grass, there are also organic options for killing it. One is to smother it with a layer of newspapers:
Mow the lawn so that it's easier to get the newspapers to lie flat. Lay down a 10-sheet-thick layer of newspaper across the lawn of Bermuda grass. Joints in the rows of newspaper should overlap each other by a few inches. Cover the newspaper with 6 inches of mulch, and once deprived of water and nutrients, almost everything underneath the newspaper layer will eventually die. At this point, you can prepare the soil to grow a new lawn.
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Using Soil Solarization on Bermuda Grass
Soil solarization is another organic method for killing Bermuda grass. A benefit it has over the other methods is that it kills seed, too. The best time to solarize the soil is in summer, as the hot temperatures will aid you.
Mow and water the lawn, then cover it with a sheet of clear plastic (1 to 6 mil. in thickness). Place cinder blocks along the edges to keep the plastic from blowing away. Keep the plastic tightly stretched out over the lawn for about 2 months.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Dealing With Bermuda Grass in Flower Beds
When fighting Bermuda grass in a flower bed, at least it's easier to spot it. You also have more options: you can choose to stay organic by digging/hand-pulling it, carefully applying a non-selective herbicide to kill it, or applying a selective herbicide to kill it.
As is true when you're fighting it in the lawn, removing Bermuda grass by digging it out is made difficult by its rhizomes. Leave one behind and you'll have to fight another day. And because its seed stays viable for so long, if the bed has become infested with seed, it might be easier simply to start a new bed somewhere else. To avoid having to take this extreme measure, mulch your bed before any seed has a chance to fall in there.
When applying non-selective herbicide in a bed to kill Bermuda grass, you won't be able to spray. Spraying doesn't allow you to target just the grass. Any spray that strays from the target will kill your flowers. Instead, apply the herbicide to the Bermuda grass by painting it onto the grass blades.
But it's easier to use a selective herbicide (one that will kill just grass). Examples are fluazifop-P-butyl and Sethoxydim. Since one spraying is rarely sufficient, re-apply in one week.Continue to 6 of 6 below.
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Prevention is the best method for controlling Bermuda grass, whether you are protecting a lawn or a flower bed.
Protect flower beds against incursion from stolons and rhizomes by edging them. Whatever edging material you choose, it must extend 6 inches deep into the soil to deter the rhizomes; the part of the edging that sticks up above the surface will deter the stolons. Mulch your beds so that Bermuda grass doesn't invade via seed.
Protect a lawn by keeping it lush and healthy. Mow high (grass kept 3.5 inches tall is more difficult to invade) and irrigate properly so that Bermuda grass won't overpower grasses that aren't as drought-tolerant.