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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - May 12, 2009

From: Alpine, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Using salt to kill bermuda grass
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

(Submitting to site per your request on Facebook, plus an added bit o'info) I am considering trying to kill off the bermuda grass around my raised bed with salt. Vinegar isn't cutting it.. S'pose it would work? And how long would the ground be unusable before I could try to plant a native grass in its place? I live in Alpine, Texas - if that has any effect on the answer..

ANSWER:

Salt is NOT the best choice for killing bermuda grass since it is very salt tolerant.

(See:  World Feeder International—here is a quote from this web site:  "We have had actual instances of farmers on the Texas coast pumping brine water directly from the gulf and watering their pasture and the grass thrived just as well as the neighboring pasture being irrigated with fresh water.") 

You would have to apply so much salt that it would take a VERY long time to bring the level to somewhere close to the point that other plants would tolerate it. Below are some suggestions for getting rid of bermuda grass with links to experts who have tried the methods.  These are from the answer to a previous question Mr. Smarty Plants received about eliminating bermuda grass:

Bermuda grass is not easy to remove completely. Part of the problem is that it has multiple means of propagation—by seeds, rhizomes (underground lateral stems) and stolons (above ground lateral stems).

There are essentially three choices of methods to remove your bermuda grass:

1. Dig up all the plants along with all their roots, rhizomes, and stolons. This is a daunting task for an entire lawn, but it is not impossible. There are tools to help you with this. You can use a sod-busting shovel or rent a sod-slicing machine. The problem lies in the fact that the rhizomes can be as deep as 6 inches and these tools may not be able to get below the rhizomes and their roots in an initial cut. You may have to dig out soil below that level. Even a small piece of rhizome left in the soil can root and form a new Bermuda grass plant.

2. "Solarize" the plot by covering it with plastic to kill the grass. This will take a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks and the problem is that solarization may not kill all the deep rhizomes and roots.  You can find more tips from Native American Seed in Junction, Texas about solarization and establishing a native grass lawn.

3. Finally, you can apply herbicides judiciously. This is the least environmentally friendly method, but chemicals used with care can be very effective. It may, however, take as many as 3 or 4 treatments with an herbicide containing glyphosate (present in Roundup, Bronco, Landmaster, Ranger, Pondmaster, and Rattler) to completely kill the Bermuda grass. The Wildflower Center neither condones nor censures the use of herbicides; but, for your safety and for the preservation of the environment, we do strongly urge you to read and follow carefully the instructions in the use of such chemicals.

You may want to use a combination of the three methods above to remove your Bermuda grass. You can read articles from the University of California Integrated Pest Management Program and from the Arizona Daily Star describing in greater detail these methods to remove Bermuda grass.

 

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