The Bermuda Challenge

Bermuda invasion from my neighbor's healthy Bermuda grass patch.

Bermuda invasion from my neighbor’s healthy Bermuda grass patch.

Bermuda weeded out, but it will only take a month of so for it to come back.

Bermuda weeded out, but it will only take a month of so for it to come back.

I have this thing against Bermuda grass in my garden. Actually it is a complete intolerance of it.  I’ve been digging out and removing Bermuda since I was a teenager.  People that say it cannot be done, I simply scoff at.  Getting rid of Bermuda is not that hard, it just takes some diligence.

The trick is to simply spade the grass up and remove all the rhizomes.  The rhizomes typically stay within the top foot of ground, but they can also extend down two feet.  You never want to rototill the ground.  That just breaks the grass into a million pieces.  In fact, I just do a couple shovel fulls at a time.  Removing the rhizomes is a slow, meditative process. Just the kind of thing that people living a busy hectic life could enjoy.

Once you’ve cleared up an area, the best thing to do is not plant it right away.  Water it and watch to see the Bermuda sprout again.  I used to try to get every single rhizome the first time around.  Never did work.  Now I am less meticulous.  I just wait for the missing pieces to sprout and use the spade to get out the rhizomes I’ve missed.

Here in Phoenix I have a special pile where I put the grass.  A couple summer months in the sun and it is completely “solarized” and stone dead.  Then I can use it for mulch without worrying about it sprouting.  When I lived in the coastal regions or places with less room,  I would put it in the trash.

After about one and a half years of living in my home I had managed to eradicate all the patches that had inhabited my quarter acre.  On the south side this entailed entering my neighbors property and digging out their patch by hand.  The only Bermuda left was coming in from my neighbor’s yard on the north.  Since their entire quarter acre yard was infested I knew the only way to get rid of the Bermuda on the north side of my house was going to be to build a wall or barrier that extended deep down into the ground..

I started with a trench that went down two feet.  Originally I thought I would pour concrete in the trench, since I couldn’t think of anything that would create a seamless barrier.  I knew from experience that any seams would be easily penetrated by the Bermuda rhizomes.

Bermuda barrier trench

Bermuda barrier trench

Trench is two feet deep.

Trench is two feet deep.

I used a combination of weed block and plastic.

I used a combination of weed block and plastic.

The finished edge.

The finished edge.

Bermuda easily penetrates the weed block cloth, but is stopped by the plastic.

Bermuda easily penetrates the weed block cloth, but is stopped by the plastic.

In the middle of the trenching process, someone suggested weed block as an alternative.  This came in a 150 ft roll so it would be seamless.  I had some questions about whether it would be durable or strong enough to keep out the Bermuda, but since I couldn’t find anyone on the web that had attempted what I was doing I was the guinea pig.  It seemed like it might work.  I decided to add a layer of plastic.  I thought the Bermuda would have less of an incentive to penetrate the weed block if it didn’t know there was water in my yard.  The plastic would provide a moisture barrier.

I also attempted some chemical warfare.  On my neighbor’s side I poured about 8 gallons of vinegar and about 160 pounds of salt along the property line.  I thought this might deter or stunt the Bermuda growth.  It actually didn’t seem to affect the grass growth at all.

Well the results are in.  Just a few months after the trench barrier was completed I found the fresh growing tips of Bermuda had easily penetrated the fabric.  The Bermuda was growing up in between the cloth and the plastic.  This is shown in the final picture.  In addition, the plastic that is exposed to the sun is already chipping apart.  This is to be expected.  I wonder how well it will hold up underneath the ground since it is all that is holding the Bermuda back.

Originally, I was going to finish the top of the barrier with a concrete wall about 6 inches high.  I was expecting the neighbor’s Bermuda to continue to grow over the top and try to infest my yard, but figured that would give me the edge on it.  I don’t mind doing a sweep every couple of months and weeding any above ground trailers.  The Bermuda is not coming through the weed block that extends above the ground.  It is only right below ground level that it seems to get the needed traction to bust through.

Now I am contemplating going down six to twelve inches with concrete and trusting the plastic to hold underneath.  My assumption will be that the Bermuda will not have a strong drive to move towards my yard once it hits the plastic.  My other alternative is to sell the house.  Hahaha.

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