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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 - November 04, 2014

From: Memphis, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Planting, Propagation, Seasonal Tasks, Problem Plants, Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Bermuda, not the only option in Memphis
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

I'm building an energy efficient home in Memphis and want to extend that strategy to the landscaping. I'd like to plant native grasses, but this lot is surrounded by lots sodded with Bermuda grass. I'm certain anything I plant will be overtaken. Should I just sod with Bermuda and use native plantings in the garden areas? Thanks!

ANSWER:

Do not sod with Bermuda! Stand in front of a mirror and make a promise to yourself that you will not plant Bermuda grass. We are kind of kidding but it is our mission to promote and use native plants so let's talk about possible ways for you to protect yourself from the encroaching neighbor. This exact problem is a big issue and tough to tackle. You could give up and just sod with Bermuda but if you have spent time and money to build a green home, you might find that seeing the Bermuda in your yard will just make you sad every time you look at it.

You can keep the surrounding lots of grass at bay with some maintenance. A fence along the property line is a good start, this will keep the seeds from getting into your yard if the lots are mowed. If your lot is clean and doesn't already have a ton of Bermuda in it then create about a foot or two of blank dirt around the base of the fence to edge and keep clean from anything growing. If you have a boundary that you can keep clean, then it will take some maintenance to pull up any runners that cross the fence. Dispose of the runners into the trash. Don't compost the material, toss it!

Bermuda is a very aggressive invasive species. It will grow from seed, above ground stolens or tiny rhizomes below the ground. The worst mistake people make is that they try and till it up. By tilling you are cutting the grass into hundreds of pieces that will make new grass right away.

If you opt to plant the Bermuda then you will have it in every area of your property, including your garden space. If you don't want a fence then you can still create some space between the properties to keep clean but you will have to watch for new seedlings of Bermuda grass coming up and again weed them out as soon as you see them and throw those away.

Your fighting the good fight and the first step is to identify a non native when you see one. The hours you spend edging around your property will still be less than the hours you will spend weeding your garden if you deliberately invite this pest to play.

 

 

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