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Bermuda grass is really ruining this experience for me.  RSS feed

 
Dougan Nash
Posts: 67
Location: Eastern Shore, Maryland
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I started gardening in my back yard a few years ago. I didn't know about permaculture then, so I didn't observe first. I have pretty much all of zone 1 covered in Bermuda grass. It weaves itself into everything. I have tried planting into it, digging up some, even sheet mulching. Nothing works. This stuff feels unstoppable. I hate it. I have tried the problem is the solution approach, not working here. I can't compost it, I can't eat it (could juice it, but not what I want), and I can't grow into it.

I decided to put a raised bed over a patch with some cardboard underneath, no luck. In 2 month time it has popped up like a huge middle finger. There are a few parts of my yard without it, but most of the yard is this thing's domain. I don't know what to do. My plan this fall is to wait for it to enter dormancy and dig it all up, spare no runner. Any other suggestions?
 
chip sanft
Posts: 380
Location: 18 acres & heart in zone 4 (central MN). Current abode: Knoxville (zone 6 /7)
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Yeah, the aggressive grasses are really a pain. Those rhizomes can stretch surprisingly far and, as you've seen, they'll poke through most anything.

What I do is pull them when I see them early in the season, cover them with mulch if they bother me in early summer, then pretty much just ignore the grasses once the garden is growing. Grass definitely needs sun and things like densely planted squash can shade it out. Once my other plants get established, they seem to do fine despite grass. I think the okra actually laughs at it, but that could be my imagination.

At the end of the season, I then mulch everything heavily and let it be.

I don't aim for a "weed" free garden, for a few reasons. First, organic matter is organic matter, no matter what kind of plant it comes from. Unplanned plants catch sun, too, and as long as they aren't removed, the nutrients they make and accumulate still end up in the soil. The second reason is I'd rather have unplanned plants than bare soil. Of course there are some unacceptable interlopers that might appear (poison ivy, for example), but in general unplanned plants are more of a resource than a burden. It's just a matter of finding the balance so your planned plants succeed in the competitive environment.
 
Casie Becker
garden master
Posts: 1403
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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What's different about the parts of the yard where it doesn't grow?

In my yard I tackle a small bed expansion at a time with very thick (12 inches) mulch and usually a double layer of cardboard underneath(accidentally typed concrete here). Then edge the bed with rocks to keep my territory defined. Keeping it to small sections lets me keep up with any runners that do manage to poke up or grow over the edging. After a year of this there's hardly any energy left in the grass so I just have to defend the borders.

In my experience the only thing that can defeat runner grasses is persistence. Thick mulches or very healthy loose soil can make it much easier to pull up the grass when it does encroach.

It is very important to pull as much of the below ground portion (the rhizome) out as you can manage, each time you weed. Otherwise it just sprouts multiple runners from where it breaks off and is even harder to pull next time.

I don't know if I have any bermuda in the grasses in my yard, but I have had runners grow through 10 feet deep pile of mulches. If it's not bermuda, it's at least comparably aggressive.
 
Michael Bushman
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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You won't like my approach but it works.

I dig it ALL out, go down about a foot and then sift all the soil through a 1/4" metal mesh screen mounted in a 2x4 frame on legs. As you can imagine, it is a lot of work but when you are done you have gotten rid of 95% or more of it.

Then you amend the soil so it is nice and loose and so when you DO see a remnant, pulling it out 9 times out of ten means you get the whole thing. If I pull a few times and it comes back, I dig up the spot.

I have eliminated crabgrass out of areas using this method. if there is an easier way that actually works, love to hear it.

Oh, in clearing a larger area, I leave a 2'buffer between the areas I am starting to garden and the areas I haven't dug up and filtered yet.
 
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