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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Wednesday - November 22, 2006

From: Cameron, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Removal of Bermuda grass in lawn
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Help! I am looking for a way to get rid of coastal bermuda grass in my yard, short of all out toxic chemical warfare. Is there any thing that can be used other than herbicides. Thanks.

ANSWER:

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.

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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