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Bermuda grass creeping into blueberry

 
Ruben Jaime
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I have Bermuda grass that is starting to make its way into my blueberry bush. I have been cutting it as a see it pop up, I have read that blue berry roots are sensitive, what should I do about the Bermuda grass?
 
Rick Roman
pollinator
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Location: Pennsylvania Pocono Mt Neutral-Acidic Elv1024ft AYR41in Zone 5b
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Cutting back the grass is a temporary fix, it will just grow back. You will need to pull the grass including the roots. Pull the grass, shake soil off roots, retaining the soil and discard the grass. Under the blueberries, put down a layer compost or fresh rich soil and mulch 3 to 5 inches with chopped leaves mixed with pine wood chips. Finally, seed around the blueberries with a legume (nitrogen-fixing) ground cover such as purple, red or white clover. In the photos of my blueberries, you can see red clover (tall growing), white clover (low growing), burdock ( dynamic accumulator) and the encroaching, dense strawberry patch which smothers out many unwanted weeds/grasses.
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Ruben Jaime
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Hi Rick!

Thanks for the response. Ill get to work on that Bermuda grass. Do you have any suggestions on how one might acquire some of those seeds? I don't think I've noticed it at any of the nurseries that I've started going to.

Thank you!
 
Rick Roman
pollinator
Posts: 442
Location: Pennsylvania Pocono Mt Neutral-Acidic Elv1024ft AYR41in Zone 5b
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Most of the clover and burdock in the photos are natural indigenous volunteers. A good skill to hone is "selective" weeding, learning how to identify favorable weeds from the unwanted weeds. For example, when you pull the grass, try and leave behind the beneficial plants like clover.

I do use purchased cover crop seed like the pre-inoculated clover seed from,

Outsidepride.com http://www.outsidepride.com/seed/clover-seed/

Fedco http://www.fedcoseeds.com/ogs/search.php?page=1&totalRows=16&search=clover&item=8331&index=10&page=1

Lakeview Organic Grain http://www.lakevieworganicgrain.com/info_docs/2012%20Fall%20Seed%20Price%20List%20.pdf
 
Ruben Jaime
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Wow, that looks beautiful!

I hope I can get my backyard to something that even comes close.

Thanks for the sites ill look into getting some seed.

As for the weeds, I need to start the id process. Presently I stopped pulling any of it out an just chopping and dropping it.
 
Ruben Jaime
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So just pulling it out is proving to be a challenge. My soil is so compacted that the grass is ripping out of the ground and pulling little to no root matter. My friend has one of those blow torch weeders, would that work? Or is there any other method to get rid of it. Would digging it out be a better idea?
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 301
Location: Upstate SC
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Here in the hot humid southeast, bermuda grass is an even more aggressive invader than it is in the northeast, will outcompete strawberries if given a chance, and will grow up through a several feet deep layer of soil or hay bales piled on top of them. It is practically impossible to dig all of their deep buried rhizomes out of the soil and the only plant I have found that will outcompete them is sweet potato. I'll normally clear out a bermuda grass infested bed by growing a winter/spring crop of small seeded fava beans followed by sweet potato. Bermuda grass is impossible to get rid of permanantly due to all of their dormant seed buried in the soil seed bank waiting to germinate. They have to be managed by providing continuous competition of other plants in the bed to keep the bemuda from having free rein and knocking them back with sweet potato whenever they get too overwelming. Sweet potato makes an attractive summertime living mulch that will spread 8 feet by summer's end.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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I have had good luck with a thick paper layer covered by a thick mulch layer. I use horse/goat feed sacks but cardboard or several sheets of newspaper would work. Just oull any grass that does make it thru/around and it will stop.
 
Ruben Jaime
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Will the sweet potato out compete my blueberry and raspberry bushes as well?
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 301
Location: Upstate SC
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You can keep the sweet potato from root competing with the blueberries by planting a row of potatoes several feet away from the berries and letting the potato runners spread to cover the ground under the berries and shade out the grass.
 
Rick Roman
pollinator
Posts: 442
Location: Pennsylvania Pocono Mt Neutral-Acidic Elv1024ft AYR41in Zone 5b
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Hi Ruban, Consistent mulching will eventually help loosen the hard soil. As Mike said bermuda grass is tough, Jennifer's idea of sheet mulching is sound advise. After sheet mulching, seed with legumes such as white and purple clover, include plants like dock, burdock, comfrey as dynamic accumulators, for impacted soil relief and to create an abundance of nutrient rich mulch. Another idea is to add turnip seed mixed in with the low growing white clover. The economical bulk turnip seed will also help to break up the hard soil. What's really cool is that every plant listed has other uses. All are edible and medicinal, they are all fodder for livestock, wildlife and they support beneficial insects.

Keep in mind, this is a system that works well where I live, you may have to tweak it to best fit your location. But, once the system is in place, weeding, mulching and fertilizing will be happen naturally for years. Thats the beauty of permaculture.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1321
Location: northern California
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My 20+ years in GA taught me also that sheetmulching is the only way to manage bermudagrass (and it's sister scourge, nutsedge). Sheetmulching every year, that is, preferably laying paper and cardboard over the grass as it's growing (rather than when it's dormant, giving the paper a chance to soften first) Transplanting sizeable plants into this, or simply leaving mulched areas for a season to subdue it a bit first, is also adviseable. Small direct seeded crops are the most difficult.
But a plant the size of a mature blueberry bush ought to have no trouble surviving in a bermudagrass sod, especially if it has adequate irrigation. Sweet potatoes, as stated above, and also winter squash, make good groundcovers. To be at it's most vigorous, bermuda and nutsedge need full sun, so overshadowing them with other vigorous plants is helpful.
Another lesson learned the hard way is not to have any kind of permanently edged raised beds, paved pathways, and so on in an infested area. The roots will get up under and beside these and then creep out on top of your sheetmulch. You want to be able to paper the whole area, completely, and the better overlapped it is, the better and longer the control.
 
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