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Mr. Smarty Plants - Grassy "weed" invasion in Bermuda grass lawn

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Monday - July 09, 2007

From: Cedar park, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Grassy "weed" invasion in Bermuda grass lawn
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our grass is being totally overrun by this weed.(I don't know what the name is but I do know it's not the dandelion weed or the thin grassy weed). It is Bermuda grass and I really don't know how to describe the weed other than to say it looks like big patches of St Augustine in my Bermuda. It trails and although we use that Scots weed and feed it seems to feed the weed.It appears worst after a big rain. I've actually spent hours removing it only to have it return in double amounts. Any ideas?? I called the Scott people and they said use Weed Be Gone Max. So I'm trying that, but this comes back every year. It appears to have taken over at least a third of my lawn.

ANSWER:

If it's any comfort to you, you might be interested to know that the Bermuda grass you are cultivating, which is a well-adapted but non-native grass for the Central Texas region in which you live, is considered a weed to many gardeners who are trying to keep it out of their flower beds and lawns. A weed is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Bermuda was introduced as a lawn grass and in the South, particularly, has become a problem. Since the focus and expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is limited to plant species native to North America, we may not have the total answer to your question, but might be able to make a couple of suggestions.

To address that question, which is for an herbicide solution to your problem. Most of us use herbicides and insecticides and especially "fire-anticides", when we must, but in this case, an herbicide doesn't appear to be the answer. It sounds as though the weed you hate the most is also a grass. The weed and feed herbicide you have been using is actually designed to get rid of the dicots, or broad-leaved weeds, and feed the grasses. So, in that sense, you're absolutely right, the herbicide you're using is feeding the weed. If it were a grass herbicide, your Bermuda would also be severely affected. So, using more of the same is counter-productive, and with all the rain you have had in your area, you're probably losing a lot of it in runoff, anyway.

You probably don't want to spend all your time pulling that persistent grass out of your lawn, and herbicides are not working. How about selecting the area where the grassy weed is taking over, dig it out, and replace it with low-growing native grasses, or other native ground covers. You might consider Blue grama (Boutelous gracilis), Buffalo Grass (Bouteloua dactyloides), or Mexican Feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima) for the grasses or some low-growing groundcovers like Silver Ponyfoot (Dichondra argentea). They will still need some weeding, but, because they are native, they will be much stronger and more able to survive in this area. They're attractive, should need less watering and won't have to be mowed. Of course, you don't want to start any new plantings in the hot summer of Texas, so wait until cool weather, when plants are more dormant. And you'll need to keep your Bermuda grass out of the bed, so plan to put in some sort of a barrier.

In the meantime, in dealing with that pesky grassy weed, consider this: it's green, just mow it!

 

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