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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Removing Bermudagrass for Desert Landscaping

Q. We are going to be removing about 3500 s.f. of bermuda grass. What is the best and easiest way to do this ?

A. I am assuming this is common bermudagrass, not hybrid bermudagrass. Many of the hybrid bermudagrasses are more restrained in their growth and easier to remove and keep under control. Common bermudagrass is more wild or rank in its growth and more difficult to remove and get under control. The easiest way I feel would be to irrigate and lightly fertilize the bermudagrass and mow it a couple of times so it is growing well and healthy.
Sod removed with sod cutter in prepartion for the
installation of desert landscaping
        You don't want the Bermuda to enter into any kind of dormancy before you try to kill it and remove it. Once the bermudagrass is happy and growing well then you will try to kill it. The best time to remove it is in the fall when it is sending energy reserves into its roots and stolons. There is a net movement of stored energy in this direction in the fall. In the spring there is a net movement of materials towards leaf and shoot growth. You will not get the best control in the spring but it is what it is.
        Like I said, get it happy and growing well and when you have a solid stand of grass which has been mowed then spray it with Roundup. Make sure that you use a spreader/sticker in the spray mix and follow the directions precisely. I would also use distilled water, not our tap water since it is quite alkaline. Some people have reported a better kill with Roundup if there is a small amount of nitrogen mixed with the solution. You can take a tablespoon of ammonium sulfate or urea per gallon and put it in the mix as well if you want to but it is not necessary in my opinion. It is important to get an even application of Roundup over the entire grassy area. You do this by spraying the Roundup in an East West pattern first and then spray the second time in North South pattern so that you get good coverage.
        When you spray, you should be moving your spray applicator at a speed of about 3 ft./s over the area. Do not stop and give some areas a larger dose. You're just wasting chemical. Keep the applicator moving at all times when your spraying. It is important to keep your spray applicator moving at the same speed across the area slightly overlapping the sprayed area each time you cover it. Let the grass dry for 10 minutes or so and repeat the application in the opposite direction. Do not irrigate for 24 hours after the application.

        Give yourself about 10 days and you should see the grass beginning to decline. Roundup does not work quickly so do not expect to see dead grass the next morning. It won't happen. Rent a sod cutter and cut the sod out as deeply as you can. Once the sod is removed begin irrigating the area heavily and frequently and apply a light application of fertilizer to try to stimulate any bermudagrass which is remaining.
        You will probably see spots of bermudagrass trying to come back in seven days if it is hot outside. Spot spray these areas with the same Roundup solution as soon as you see them emerging. Stay on top of these spots and kill them as you see them. Do not let these get out of control. This is very important. I am not telling you to keep an old solution of Roundup. Every time you spray you need to mix up a new batch. These solutions are not stable very long and begin to disintegrate fairly quickly.

        Once you feel you have most of the bermudagrass under control you can begin to develop your landscape. If you are putting in desert landscaping with rock mulch, the bermudagrass will reemerge where you have your drip emitters around the new plants. You can Spot spray this emerging bermudagrass with Roundup making sure none of the spray lands on desired plants. It is okay for it to land on the soil or rock but not on green leaves or stems of living plants.
        Other chemicals you could use around shrubs and groundcover plants for bermudagrass control are Fusilade and Poast but they can be a little sketchy in their control. You can also grub new growth out with a hoe when you see it but do not let the grass go to seed or get very old or it will get established again. Bermudagrass will not grow in complete shade so making sure you  are shading the soil with rock, mulch or competitive groundcovers like turfgrass is good control.

There is more information on Bermudgrass here.

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