Bermuda Grass

We had a great turn out for the work day yesterday and got a lot accomplished. Thanks to everyone who dropped by.

The work day began with a demonstration by Brit about how to keep perennial grasses from invading garden spaces.

Know Your Enemy

When summer weather heats up and other plants want to curl up and die Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) seizes the moment to mobilize into action. As some noted it can overwhelm a vegetable plot seemingly overnight. Bermuda grass has thick parent rhizomes designed to withstand extreme summer heat and drought. Creeping stolons grow along the soil surface for up to two meters creating new plants at every node. It can also produce seed for several months. Broken rhizomes stimulate growth making the plant even more vigorous.

With so many reproductive strategies it is important to remove every trace of the plant whenever possible.

Cynodon dactylon illustration courtesy

Here’s what typical Bermuda grass rhizomes and stolons in our garden look like:

Brit’s Removal Method

Brit uses a turning fork. Working in a pattern protects the soil from compaction.

He pushes the fork tines into the earth using his leg muscles. Notice how straight his back remains.

Here he shows how the tool works as a lever. Save your back from injury! The tool should do the hard work. Once the rhizome is exposed, remove it from the soil, toss it aside to die slowly & painfully or better yet take it home to be recycled in your green bin. Our compost system can get hot enough to kill it but it is best not to tempt fate.

Extra Protection

Brit laid down a layer of cardboard along the outside perimeter of his plot to keep the grass from creeping into his plot. Even so, grass tips poked through the tiniest gaps along the pathway. He found that adding a layer of mulch on top of the cardboard eventually completely suppressed the grass. It takes about one calendar year for the grass to die.

Mark pointed out that while this may seem like a lot of work to do up front, the time saved in later years is well worth the effort.

Do you have tips for suppressing invasive grasses? Let us know in the comments.