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Is Bermuda Grass REALLY as bad as they say?  RSS feed

 
Greg Perry
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We live on acreage in Oklahoma and are moving more and more towards permaculture. We adopted the Back to Eden garden philosophy last year with the wood chips and are loving it. We are planting out in our land surrounding our cleared area too. We implemented Paul's chicken paddock system this year and our ladies love their new, rotating home!

Our big problem is Bermuda Grass. I haven't heard Paul talk much about it but I suspect they don't have much of it in Montana where they don't have a month or two of 100-degree days,

Even with deep wood chips, the Bermuda grass travels and takes over. Even when we weed, it takes over.

Did I say it takes over?

My REAL Question: The permaculture philosophy just lets things grow where they land, no weeding, etc. We'll be doing more and more Seth-like stuff as each year passes. BUT - if, in general, we just let things fall where they may and let the earth take over and do its thing, is it possible that we could completely IGNORE the invading Bermuda grass in our garden without ANY side effects?

You know the traditional gardeners - weed, spray Roundup for the Bermuda, weed, spray more Roundup for the Bermuda, till, spray more Roundup, just keep that bare earth BARE!!!

I assure you, we don't believe those lies anymore. BUT - Bermuda is incredibly invasive.

BUT is the Bermuda our area's way of protecting our garden area? Will it be fine to plant there and just let it grow among the wood chips that we use to otherwise cover around our plants? OR is Bermuda truly a nutrient-robbing problem that we need to address and not ignore?

Thanks! - Greg
 
Courtney Siebken
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Location: Seattle, WA
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I don't really think it's a big threat, just a waste of resources if you plan on maintaining it, which it doesn't sound like you do. My yard is full of the stuff, but I just laid down cardboard and sheet mulched where I wanted to put my veggie gardens and have had no problem with grass creeping into my crops. In other places where I really want it gone I just send in the chickens to scratch it up.
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Greg Perry wrote:We live on acreage in Oklahoma and are moving more and more towards permaculture. We adopted the Back to Eden garden philosophy last year with the wood chips and are loving it. We are planting out in our land surrounding our cleared area too. We implemented Paul's chicken paddock system this year and our ladies love their new, rotating home!

Our big problem is Bermuda Grass. I haven't heard Paul talk much about it but I suspect they don't have much of it in Montana where they don't have a month or two of 100-degree days,

Even with deep wood chips, the Bermuda grass travels and takes over. Even when we weed, it takes over.

Did I say it takes over?

My REAL Question: The permaculture philosophy just lets things grow where they land, no weeding, etc. We'll be doing more and more Seth-like stuff as each year passes. BUT - if, in general, we just let things fall where they may and let the earth take over and do its thing, is it possible that we could completely IGNORE the invading Bermuda grass in our garden without ANY side effects?

You know the traditional gardeners - weed, spray Roundup for the Bermuda, weed, spray more Roundup for the Bermuda, till, spray more Roundup, just keep that bare earth BARE!!!

I assure you, we don't believe those lies anymore. BUT - Bermuda is incredibly invasive.

BUT is the Bermuda our area's way of protecting our garden area? Will it be fine to plant there and just let it grow among the wood chips that we use to otherwise cover around our plants? OR is Bermuda truly a nutrient-robbing problem that we need to address and not ignore?

Thanks! - Greg
I am also in Oklahoma, and inherited quite a bit of bermuda grass. I would prefer the native buffalo grass which has a similar growth pattern, but we each must play the cards we are dealt.

I find that in traditional growing methods, bermudagrass really is a bad invasive weed significantly reducing yields of many crops. However, I use permaculture now, and bermudagrass is my friend. However, I do mow and mulch a lot to keep it under control. Each row crop I grow I mulch the row, and let the grass grow between the rows as a living mulch much like Helen Atthowe developed. However unlike Helen (who used plastic mulch), my mulch is a paper layer covered with hay, leaves, ramial wood chips, or grass clippings. The bermudagrass will eventually come back through this as the weed barrier decomposes. That's ok though. By then my crops should be dominant. If the grass gets too tall, I mow. Each mowing is a fertilizer event. So in the long run I use the grass to keep my land fertile. Just the opposite of a conventional system where you depend on expensive inputs for fertility. I am using a variation of the permaculture "chop and drop", but chopping and dropping bermudagrass instead of tree limbs! Same principle though.

One day I intend to add animal grazers to the system, replacing much of the mowing, to optimise these natural nutrient cycles even more. But so far I just mow. It works great. I love it.
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John Elliott
pollinator
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No.

It's in my lawn mix, and it pops up in my hugelbeds, but I don't consider it a problem and yank it with the regular weeding. I also have bindweed and Johnson grass, but again, they are not a problem because I can yank them and feed them to the animals.

I have come around more to the way of thinking that "weeds" are not problems, but an unexpected bounty of forage for the livestock. The list of things that really are weeds, that is, unwanted invasives of no use, are things like nightshade and horsetail, which can be kept in check by regular monitoring.
 
siu-yu man
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Location: zone 6a, north america
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as they say John, "beauty is in the eye of the horsetail".
http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/horsetail
trade ya some of my bermuda for some of your horsetail?
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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siu-yu man wrote:
trade ya some of my bermuda for some of your horsetail?


OK, but it's a package deal, you have to take the nightshade too. You never know when you might need some belladonna alkaloids.
 
Tracy Kuykendall
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I can throw in some careless weed, kochia, and sunflower to go along with the bindweed, Johnson grass, and Bermuda, but someone's going to have to offer up something good to get in on the nightshade, puncture vine, and grassburrs. Rotating chickens through it will help immensely, if you have enough of them.
 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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If its growing in your wood mulch, are you putting down cardboard first? A combination of solarizing areas, and or sheet mulching can work on larger areas but that is most definitely work.

Sure you can mow it but that takes time and labor and energy if you are not using a push mower. Chickens won't eat enough of it unless you are really keeping them hungry which is going to reduce your volume of eggs.

I have gotten it out of small plots by digging them up, pulling all the rhizomes I can find, watering and fertilizing the spot and then pulling up those I miss after they sprout again. Good light soil helps with the pulling. I have always wondered if pigs would get in there and get most of it. My chickens do not eat much of the bermuda grass but they are hell on the nutgrass, they love it, and eat the new sprouts fast enough to just about kill it off.

I don't mind weeds but I want them to be ones that don't make it hard to work the soil, don't climb up through my other plants, and that produce either food or improve my soil, bermuda grass isn't it. Since permies are not focused on native plants, I figure that we can have the plants we want where we want them.
 
Scott Strough
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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Michael Bushman wrote:If its growing in your wood mulch, are you putting down cardboard first? A combination of solarizing areas, and or sheet mulching can work on larger areas but that is most definitely work.

Sure you can mow it but that takes time and labor and energy if you are not using a push mower. Chickens won't eat enough of it unless you are really keeping them hungry which is going to reduce your volume of eggs.

I have gotten it out of small plots by digging them up, pulling all the rhizomes I can find, watering and fertilizing the spot and then pulling up those I miss after they sprout again. Good light soil helps with the pulling. I have always wondered if pigs would get in there and get most of it. My chickens do not eat much of the bermuda grass but they are hell on the nutgrass, they love it, and eat the new sprouts fast enough to just about kill it off.

I don't mind weeds but I want them to be ones that don't make it hard to work the soil, don't climb up through my other plants, and that produce either food or improve my soil, bermuda grass isn't it. Since permies are not focused on native plants, I figure that we can have the plants we want where we want them.


I have worked out how to sheet mulch large scale with minimal labor. What you see above is small scale. My first prototype test plot which is only 1/10th an acre. But I have also got other larger plots. You can use cardboard or commercial paper as a weed barrier by simply buying commercial sized rolls of it. If you search, you can find them made with recycled paper too. For large scale just roll out the weed barrier and the round bale of hay one right after the other. You can even mechanise it, as hay unrollers are available.

It's true chickens won't eat all the grass enough to replace mowing completely, but say for instance they are being pulled through a tomato patch...cull tomatoes can be recycled immediately by feeding them to the chickens. They will also eat many pest insects. True herbivores like cows or sheep can graze both before and after the crop. Small herbivores like rabbits can also go between the rows in something similar to a chicken tractor. It will take some time to prove it, but I am confident that animals can be integrated into the system and reduce the need for mowing substantially, maybe even completely, with just some creativity.

Oh and BTW. no matter what you do with weed barriers, bermudagrass will eventually retake the area. Not through the weed barrier, but by crawling over the top from the sides.
 
siu-yu man
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Location: zone 6a, north america
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John, deal, as long as I can throw in some barberry.

Scott, if you live near a commercial photo studio, you can get those big rolls of paper for free. they use them as backdrops and throw em out all the time.
nice idea with the rabbit tractor down in between the rows. fertilizer lands right next to where you need it.
 
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