How to Kill Bermuda Grass Organically
Bermuda grass is a warm season grass that spreads by underground roots that slowly creep in all directions. It can be very difficult to remove and many commercial companies and homeowners will use chemicals to kill it before removal.
There are however some organic approaches to removal of Bermuda grass that are rather straight forward, requiring a little sweat and hard work!
By reducing chemical applications you will keep your soil healthy for future planting by keeping your microorganisms alive.
Things you will need:
A round pointed shovel, rake, mulch.
Method 1: Removal of Bermuda Grass Manually
(The pictures demonstrate a small area of sod being removed and mulched heavily. This can be applied for larger areas of sod)
Manual removal of Bermuda grass can be accomplished. If you have a lawn area that you would like to remove to turn into a perennial bed, vegetable garden area, or slate patio you will need to physically remove the Bermuda grass first.
One of the best methods for this is to take a sharp round pointed shovel with a long handle (Less bending over) and face off with your lawn. You will want to imagine your lawn area as a challenge to be removed piece by piece.
After you reach the end of this line step back about 8 inches and create another perpendicular line. Follow this to the end. You will want to keep stepping back until you have created lines about 8 inches apart all the way from one end of the lawn to the other.
Now that you have lines going one way you will repeat this with lines going the other direction so you create squares about 8 inches by 8 inches.
Take your shovel and starting at one end use your shovel to take out the first piece by shoveling under the grass. You don’t want to stick your shovel in and pry up, instead use the shovel to skim under the grass about 2-3 inch below the blades of grass.
Don’t dig down, dig parallel to the ground. This will help you to avoid removing too much soil. After this first piece is out remove one line all the way across.
Push forward line by line until all the grass is removed.
Wait a few weeks and if small shoots pop up, go back through and dig up the roots that were missed on the first pass.
Mulch heavily with 3-4 inches of bark, wood chips, etc.
You may have to hand weed out some small areas from time to time but essentially you have remade your area without any harsh chemicals. You can also consider using a sod cutter machine for large areas to cut underneath the sod you want to remove.
A metal bladed edger can also be used to make the lines and reduce labor time. In the end a sharp shovel works just fine!
Method 2: Sheet Mulching after Manual Removal of Bermuda Grass
Things you will need:
A round pointed shovel, cardboard, rake, pitch fork, mulch.
(The pictures show a small demonstration of sheet mulching over some grass that is growing into a landscaped bed. You could duplicate this for larger areas laying down overlapping cardboard as you go and mulching thickly with 4-5 inches)
Sheet mulching to organically organically kill Bermuda grass.
Take broken down cardboard or heavy newspaper and over lap the flat sections by 3-4 inches covering the entire area of sod you have just removed and then cover this with 4-5 inches of mulch such as bark, wood chips, compost, etc.
The cardboard will take a year or so to break down completely and will block out light as well as act as a physical barrier to the grass growing through.
Sheet mulching works best in two situations. After following method 1 above you decide you only want to plant a few plants in the new area but don’t want to worry about running down stray roots as much after the removal. So you can go ahead and sheet mulch the whole area and mulch over the top. You cut small holes in the cardboard where you want to plant your plants.
Sheet mulching will not be compatible with vegetable gardens or areas that will be heavily planted.
Sheet mulching is also a decent organic method to kill Bermuda grass in established planting beds that you cannot dig in very much. Hand clip low lying branches of established shrubs to lift them off the ground by 3 inches or so then lay your cardboard over the grass following by a heavy dose of 4-5 inches of mulch keeping the material away from the crowns of established plants.
For large lawn areas it will probably not be effective to sheet mulch right over the top of the lawn. You will have regrowth as it can take a very long time to kill off all the Bermuda grass roots. Removal and then sheet mulching will be more effective and also make it easier to plant in the areas following removal.
About the Author:
Jonathan Aflatooni is the co-owner of Blacklotus Landscaping LLC and co-owner of Amber Bear Nursery and Farm. Jon has many years of practical experience in the field, from propagating his own collection of plant life to creating and designing new landscapes.