How to get rid of bermuda grass in flower beds?

Product Q&A


Bermuda would be considered a grassy weed, so you need a product that is geared towards grassy weeds and not broadleaf weeds. We want to be clear that bermuda can be suppressed, but it is VERY difficult to kill completely. It will take multiple treatments to finally kill it. But Fusilade II is usually the go to product for this issue.

This is directly off of the product label:

Apply 0.07-0.14 oz/1000 sq. ft. (3-6 oz./A) along with 0.25% v/v (1/2 pt./25 gals.) of a nonionic surfactant. Application should be made every 28 days when the grass weeds are actively growing. The higher rates may result in temporary discolorization of the desirable turf with recovery in 10-14 days. Do not apply to desirable turf which is under stress. For best results, make applications in spring and fall and avoid treatments during July and August.
Complete control of undesirable grass may take 1-2 growing seasons.

We also recommend calling your local county extension office as they usually know the optimum times for spraying lawns in your area.

Answer last updated on: 02/08/2012

Managing Bermuda Grass: Learn How To Kill Bermuda Grass In Lawns

Bermuda grass is an aggressive warm season turfgrass and fodder. It can become invasive and infest other turfgrasses, most notably zoysia grass and tall fescue. The usual herbicides may be toxic to the wanted species, so managing Bermuda grass when it invades the lawn takes some special steps. Controlling Bermuda grass in flower beds is a little easier, but the tenacious roots require deep removal or the plant will simply reestablish itself.

Read on to learn some tips on how to get rid of Bermuda grass but not the plants you want to keep in your garden.

Bermuda Grass Control

Bermuda grass is native to the harsh climate of Africa. It is widely used in the southwest and southern United States. The plant’s vigor and tolerance of heat, drought and heavy foot traffic make it an ideal choice to colonize difficult to maintain, low nutrient areas.

It also makes Bermuda grass control difficult in areas with already planted species that you don’t want damaged or overrun. The plant establishes from deep rhizomes and surface stolons, which all need to be removed or killed for complete control.

Both cultural and herbicide methods may be how to kill Bermuda grass in lawns and garden beds effectively.

Managing Bermuda Grass Naturally

The best way to prevent Bermuda grass from infesting your lawn is to maintain healthy, thick turf. Keep the mowing height fairly high (3 to 3 ½ inches tall), irrigate to 6 inches twice per week and fertilize at the appropriate time and rate for your sod species.

Mulching flower and plant beds will help minimize Bermuda grass invasion. In areas where other plants do not exist, solarization with black plastic or constant rototilling, while withholding water, may prove effective Bermuda grass control. Use edging in beds installed 6 inches into soil to prevent the grass from spreading into and competing with your shrubs and flowers.

Vigilance is required to get rid of Bermuda grass but not plants in highly established gardens.

Controlling Bermuda Grass in Flower Beds

Effective management of the grass in established beds with other plants can often be done by simply digging out the plant. Ensure that you get all the rhizomes and stolons, and do it before the plant sets seed. If seed is present, all bets are off, as it can persist in soil for 2 years or more.

Over a period of time, culling the grass deeply and manually will minimize its presence. If you haven’t got patience for that type of work, use an herbicide such as glyphosate. This is a non-selective chemical which systemically kills any plant it contacts and should only be used for careful spot control. Do not use in windy conditions or where other plants may become affected.

For more specific management in crowded beds, try a product with the acting ingredients Sethoxydim or Fluazifop. These are safe to use near broad leafed perennials, shrubs and trees.

How to Kill Bermuda Grass in Lawns

When Bermuda grass is threatening to overrun your lawn, it’s time to get out the big guns. No one likes to have to resort to chemical warfare, but this persistent grass is one of the times it might be necessary.

As with everything, timing is essential. Treat the weed when it is actively growing between the months of May and September. Apply in early spring when growth is less than 6 inches high and again before new growth reaches the same height.

Most of the chemical controls must be applied by a licensed professional, but Triclopyr is one available at most nurseries. Follow the directions carefully and apply every 4 weeks during the growing season.

For control of seeds, use a product with Siduron, which is safe to use even in newly seeded grass but cannot be used before seeding an area. It is a pre-emergent and should be applied every two years before the Bermuda grass seed germinates.

In all cases, follow the manufacturer’s application instructions, cautions and rates of mixing and spraying.

How to Lose Your Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is a popular choice for lawns in the hotter regions of the West for very good reasons. It loves heat, it’s remarkably resistant to wear and tear, and, as turf goes, it’s relatively drought tolerant.

But its admirable vigor also makes this turf a challenge to remove if you decide to replace it with something else. Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) spreads by underground stems (rhizomes) and aboveground runners (stolons). It seeds pretty aggressively too.

Because it’s so tough and persistent, most professionals and homeowners use an herbicide (generally glyphosate) to kill it.

They spray, strip off the dying sod, irrigate to generate growth of any surviving rhizomes, and then repeat the process at least once (one treatment rarely kills a Bermuda lawn).

But if you don’t want to use glyphosate―and the herbicide is not as benign as originally believed―you do have other options. Three professionals weigh in.

1. Owen Dell, landscape contractor and author of Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies, Santa Barbara

Strip it.

Dell swears by this method to get rid of all kinds of lawn, including Bermuda. He strips off the grass, covers the soil beneath it with three layers of cardboard, tops the cardboard with 4 or 5 inches of mulch, then lets the whole thing sit for six months.

But he warns: Once you’ve gotten rid of the Bermuda, don’t assume your job is over. “Bermuda seeds are in the air,” he says. “It may be one year or it may be five, but they’ll be back.” So be vigilant.

2. Cheryl Wilen, area advisor for Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties under the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program

Use a fabric barrier

Too impatient to wait six months? Put down heavy landscaping fabric after you scrape away the grass. Next, cut holes in the fabric―the smaller the better―just where you want to plant.

This method only works for permanent plantings such as shrub and perennial borders, not for annual and vegetable beds that get changed out frequently, she says.

Cover the cloth with mulch to keep it from degrading in the sun. If possible, irrigate with drip so that only the planted areas get moisture. You’ll have to monitor the cut-out areas for Bermuda intrusion, but the rest of your yard should stay weed-free. (The roots in the covered portions of soil simply stop growing.)

Harness the sun

Covering Bermuda with clear plastic and letting the sun’s rays bake it to death can be very effective in the summer if you live inland, says Wilen. But it doesn’t work if you live on the coast where summer weather is often cool; and it doesn’t work in shaded areas.

For a different method: First, stop watering and let the grass turn brown. Then mow it as close to the ground as possible and rake up the clippings. Irrigate once, then cover the turf with heavy, clear plastic and leave it in place for four to six weeks.

3. Karen Contreras of Urban Plantations, specializing in ornamental edible gardens, San Diego

Dig it

Contreras removes Bermuda grass after the weather cools and some rain has fallen, because the grass is more pliable then. She digs down 4 to 6 inches and turns the soil over. Then, because she wants to conserve as much topsoil as possible, she separates the clumps and pulls out the roots by hand. If you want to save even more soil, says Contreras, throw sod and roots on a tarp afterward to let them dry out for a few days, then shake off the excess soil.

More: Lose your lawn – 14 inspiring yards

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Tuesday – May 12, 2009

From: Alpine, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Using salt to kill bermuda grass
Answered by: Nan Hampton


(Submitting to site per your request on Facebook, plus an added bit o’info) I am considering trying to kill off the bermuda grass around my raised bed with salt. Vinegar isn’t cutting it.. S’pose it would work? And how long would the ground be unusable before I could try to plant a native grass in its place? I live in Alpine, Texas – if that has any effect on the answer..


Salt is NOT the best choice for killing bermuda grass since it is very salt tolerant.

(See: World Feeder International—here is a quote from this web site: “We have had actual instances of farmers on the Texas coast pumping brine water directly from the gulf and watering their pasture and the grass thrived just as well as the neighboring pasture being irrigated with fresh water.”)

You would have to apply so much salt that it would take a VERY long time to bring the level to somewhere close to the point that other plants would tolerate it. Below are some suggestions for getting rid of bermuda grass with links to experts who have tried the methods. These are from the answer to a previous question Mr. Smarty Plants received about eliminating bermuda grass:

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. You can find more tips from Native American Seed in Junction, Texas about solarization and establishing a native grass lawn.

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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Can You Get Rid Of Bermuda
Without Hurting Your Fescue Grass?

Killing bermuda grass is a challenge in any setting, but especially when you don’t want to ruin your tall fescue lawn. There are two approaches to take to this dilemma. You can do just one or the other, but doing both of them simultaneously will produce the best results.

Will that get rid of bermuda in a fescue lawn? Maybe yes, maybe no. It requires some diligent attention on your part, a bit of work, being persistent and patient, and spraying a very specific weed killer at regular assigned intervals.

Even with all that, the end result may be what the experts and/or the chemical companies cooly refer to as “suppression.”
But maybe you can take it all the way to eradication.
Are you interested?

Sponsored Links

Killing bermuda grass that has invaded fescue grass will depend on this basic formula: make the fescue happy and make the bermuda sad. Then make the bermuda feel even worse, till it surrenders. There actually are specific steps that you can take to accomplish that.

The preferred growing conditions for tall fescue vs. bermuda grass are quite different. Plan to do everything possible to help the fescue thrive. At the same time the bermuda will start to struggle because it cannot compete so well in this new environment.
Several aspects of lawn care are important to favor the fescue over the bermuda. We’ll get to that shortly.

First, let’s investigate the potential of several weed killers for eliminating bermuda grass.

That’s what most of you are probably searching for — hoping for the proverbial ‘silver bullet’ that will solve your dilemma easily and quickly.

Don’t hold your breath. Do continue reading.

Herbicides For Killing Bermuda Grass
in Fescue Lawns

Important Basic Information:

Most broadleaf weeds that infest your lawn can be treated with herbicides from a wide selection. Usually one or two doses of weed killer will knock them out permanently.

A fescue lawn can endure this because these chemicals are Selective — they kill some types of vegetation, but not others.

Grassy type weeds present a problem, since whatever kills a weed grass will also kill a lawn grass. A grass killer is selective enough to not kill ornamental plants, but not selective enough to isolate a cultivated grass, just because we use it for our lawns.

But even if that were technically possible, it would not solve our problem. Many contact-type grass killers just kill top growth, which is not adequate for getting rid of bermuda.

Bermuda grass is different, and requires a Systemic Herbicide. This is one that affects more than just the visible parts of a plant. The product is absorbed through the leaves into the system of the weed, or translocated.
When a chemical is moved to all parts: roots, rhizomes, stem, stolons, leaves, seed stalks, and seeds, the active ingredient gets to work where it can make a difference.

Know Your Enemy Before You Engage:

Some weeds, like dandelions and of course bermuda grass, maintain a dominant presence through their nutritional reserves that exist below ground.
If you care to know more about the structure and growth of bermuda grass, you’ll find pertinent information in these Garden Counselor articles:

How To Identify Bermuda Grass

How To Kill Bermuda Grass

Understanding how this weed survives, against the odds, might give you the motivation to persevere through the long process of killing bermuda grass in a fescue lawn. Or it might give you a realistic assessment of your situation — that your attempts may never be entirely satisfying. Then you can decide to proceed with different expectations, or not at all.

Your Chances For Success:

The bottom line? Most grassy weed killers are inappropriate for this need. Exceptions? There exist a few weed killers that do what we need, but not completely and not immediately. Chemical herbicides that are labeled specifically for killing bermuda grass in fescue lawns require repeat applications.

You might be successful within one year’s growing season… IF… the bermuda grass is not deeply entrenched. If it is a very mature infestation, you will face multiple years of repeating the same process. It’s up to you, and you’ll never know if you don’t try. So if you have the gumption to take on this monster, here’s what you’ve got to work with.

List Of Herbicides:

These links go to separate pages on this site to give a detailed perspective, plus application instructions.


Go to Info Page on Ornamec Bermuda Grass Killer

2. TURFLON ESTER by Monterey Lawn & Garden Products

Go to Info Page on Turflon Ester Weed & Bermuda Grass Killer

3. Other products: (info now being processed for later contribution)

Make Tall Fescue Happy & Bermuda Grass Sad

(Editor’s Note: The plan is to finish off this article with tips for helping the fescue lawn dominate and thereby enhance the conditions for killing bermuda grass. I wanted you to have the info for using the most appropriate herbicides, immediately, and the rest of the article is not yet ready.The lawn care material will be added when completed. Until then…

One essential condition that you should introduce, if not already doing so, is this: mow your lawn at the correct height.
Tall fescue grass thrives at a mowing height of 2 to 3 inches.
Bermuda grass prefers a low mowing height.
Mow your lawn at the higher rate and start depriving the bermuda of the sunlight it demands.

Sponsored Link

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How To Kill Bermuda Grass for info about bermuda and tips for spraying.

How To Identify Bermuda Grass to learn about bermuda growth habits and how they impact your lawn.

Bermuda Grass Pictures for photos and descriptions.

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Bermudagrass LawnsMost Common Southern Grass

Bermudagrass, sometimes spelled bermuda grass, is the most commonly used warm season grass in the U.S. Native to Africa, it was introduced in the U.S. in the 1700’s and is currently found in over 100 countries worldwide. In other countries it goes by kweekgras (Dutch), devil’s grass and gramillia (Spanish), to name a few. It is either a beloved friend or hated foe.

Important Uses of Bermuda grass

Bermudagrass has more uses and varieties than you can shake a stick at. Different varieties seem to dominate different parts of the country. You have greater flexibility with seeded forms but you will have to nuture the grass till it comes in.

Sod forms of bermudagrass provide an instant lawn, but due to lack of water (from cut roots) and the need to lay the sod quickly after cutting, it is generally sold, harvested and laid often within a hundred mile radius of the sod farm.

Some varieties are designed for extremely low growth and are used on southern golf greens where it is maintained at a quarter inch high.

Others are used on highly manicured lawns and fairways where it can look like a living carpet. Still other varieties are grown in pastures where it is used as hay for livestock. Texas uses one variety on its roadside due to its drought resistance and its ability to endure the blistering Texas heat.

In the U.S., this grass has had a love/hate relationship. It has earned its place as an exceptional turfgrass and is widely used on lawns, athletic fields and golf courses. If you don’t want it, it can be a nightmare to get rid of.

The trouble often occurs when “wild” common varieties get out of control or sprout voluntarily in places where they were not wanted. They can over take a lawn becoming the dominate grass. They can cause problems by spreading into a neighbor’s yard, spread into flower gardens and even invade field crops. One of its most troubling attributes is how difficult it can be to completely eliminate.

Of all the “wild lawn grasses” I see creeping into yards bermudagrass is the most common, at least it seems in this part of the country. It can spread quite easily and once it is in the lawn can be hard to deal with.

The most used type is “common bermudagrass” (Cynodon spp.). This is the type most often seen growing in lawns, parks, playgrounds, and roadsides. The range for the common varieties extend throughout the south and southwestern states and in the transition zone. Its northern range ends around central to northern Missouri. Click on the link to see a map of The Climate Zones of Grass Adaptation.

All of the improved varieties of common bermudagrass can be started from seed. (These common varieties should not be confused with the higher grade, hybrid bermudagrass varieties.) The common varieties produce seedheads that contain viable seed. They are drought tolerant and produce a thick turf under moderate fertilization. One drawback is that the seedheads are considered to be unsightly. The seeds are very small and a teaspoon can contain over a thousand seeds. The hybrid varieties may produce a few seedheads, but the seeds are not viable. In rural areas, certain common and hybrid varieties are used as a forage crop for livestock, especially horses. It is catching up to tall fescue as a favored forage grass in parts of the transitions zone.

Common Plant Characteristics of Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass spreads by the production of rhizomes and stolons. The photo shows bermudagrass stolons (runners) spreading into the planter. Rhizomes are underground stems, while stolons are above ground stems. These stems are not roots, but are true stems that grow horizontally, producing new plants as they grow. These runners make bermudagrass both a blessing and a curse.

The above ground stolons and below ground rhizomes will root at the nodes. A “node” is a reproductive point along the stem where a new plant will emerge. Nodes occur every few inches. Each new plant that emerges from a node is a clone of its mother plant. Once a plant has rooted and emerged from the node, you can actually cut the stolon separating it from the mother plant, and the new rooted plant will continue to grow. It will then take on the features of a mother plant by sending out new stolons and rhizomes.

There is an advantage to cutting stolons. Cutting the stolons between the mother plant and daughters is sometimes done by turf managers to accelerate grass spread and to thicken grasses. When the stem is cut to separate the mother from the daughter plants, the separated daughter plant becomes a new mother plant and starts sending out stems and rhizomes and the process starts over. For more infomation on rhizomes and stolons, click on the Plant Structure page.

The roots of bermudagrass can grow quite deep, sometimes reaching over 24 inches. These deep roots help ensure the survival of the species during drought.

Hillsides, irrigation ditches, river banks and the like have benefited from bermudagrass’ excellent erosion control and its ability to recover from damage.

A Cautionary Note About Common Bermudagrass

Special Note: Common bermudagrass (Cynodon) is considered a weed in some states. (Hybrid and improved varieties may be legal, however.) If you are uncertain you should check with your local university extension office before planting. Once it is started, it can be difficult to permanently eliminate. This grass type can be very invasive. It can even displace other grasses. The seeds are so small, they can be transported from yard to yard by lawn mowers, birds, shoes, or other means.

There are a number of herbicides labeled to kill bermudagrass. The most effective method is to use “Round-Up” (glyphosate). If you choose this method, first, do not cut the grass for a few weeks to ensure there is sufficient vegetation to absorb the chemical. Second, make sure you spray when the grass is actively growing, not when it is stressed or in a drought state. It may take a couple applications to ensure it is gone. Round Up is non-selective and will kill every grass type it touches.

Round-up breaks down quickly after touching the soil, so you can reseed or replant as soon as practical. If any seed is in the soil, however, it can germinate. Round-up has no residual effect, so it only kills the grass that is actively growing when it was sprayed.

If you have bermudagrass growing in tall fescue, you can use the herbicide called Ornamec. It controls several types of grasses without harming the fescue. Be sure to follow label instructions.

To keep the rhizomes (underground stems) out of garden areas, you need to dig a trench and put in a border around the garden. Make sure the border you use is placed deeper than the rhizome depth and seal all seams or holes. Use plastic or other ground covering as a barrier in the garden. Don’t use only bark or wood chips because the grass will grow through it.

Advantages and disadvantages of bermuda grass

Advantages of the common and hybrid varieties

Bermudagrass is easy to grow. It takes no effort at all. It grows in full sun and thrives in hot weather. It can grow in almost any well drained soil and makes a thick lawn. Common bermudagrass and the improved varieties of common bermudagrass, (which is different from the hybrid varieties), can be started from seed and has better drought tolerance than the hybrid varieties.

Common bermudagrass seed is less expensive than most warm season grass seeds. It can survive a little flooding, but not prolonged. The common varieties do not require as much fertilization as the hybrids, however, both types need a high nitrogen program to maintain a dense turf. An actively growing and thick turf will prevent most weed growth.

All varieties are well suited for high traffic areas such as athletic fields, golf courses, schools and playgrounds. If damaged, it recovers and heals quickly. It performs well under moderate wear and soil compaction.

The hybrid varieties are bred for many different growing conditions. Some are used on golf course greens while others for fairways and lawn use. The hybrids are superior to common varieties in looks and performance. A drawback to hybrids is that they cannot be started from seed. All hybrid seed is sterile, so grass sod or plugs is the only method of planting.


The major disadvantage is its poor shade tolerance, growing only a few feet into a heavily shaded area. In slight shade, it will produce only a thin turf at best. It really needs full sun. If your lawn contains many shade trees, you may consider a more shade tolerant turfgrass.

All types of Bermudagrass have poor cold tolerance. When soil temperatures reach 50 degress for several days, it will go dormant. When the grass is dormant, it loses chlorophyll and turns a straw colored. A common practice is to overseed with ryegrass to provide green color in winter.

Bermudagrass needs more nitrogen than most grasses and performs best under a high nitrogen program of 6 to 8 lbs per 1000/sq. ft. per year. In the spring, the lawn can become quite weedy until the grass emerges from dormancy. A thick turf is the best weapon against weeds.

Commom bermudagrass can be difficult to kill if it is unwanted. Adding to the difficulty are the tiny seeds, which are viable for two years in the soil. Pulling up the stolons will not help since there are plenty of rhizomes and seeds you can’t see. Rototilling only helps to spread it faster. Some have found it easier to favor and manage the bermudagrass as the primary turfgrass.

Turfgrass maintenance

Irrigation and drought tolerance

The common varieties are more drought tolerant than the hybrid varieties. However, during drought conditions it will stop growing. You will need to water it to keep it growing.

This photo above shows a fescue lawn that is suffering from heat and has gone dormant. The fescue lawn that is easily being overrun by bermudagrass. In 100 degree weather, this lawn received no rain or additional irrigation for several weeks. The bermudagrass is doing well while the fescue is suffering. The deeper roots of the bermudagrass are a major factor in its success.

The drought of 2012 caused lawns to suffer greatly. My fescue lawn was decimated that summer and even the bermudagrass struggled. However, the bermudagrass responded quickly once moisture returned, but I had to reseed (overseed) the tall fescue to restore the lawn.

The hybrid varieties will thin out without sufficient water during the summer. The amount of water needed will depend on heat and soil types, with sandy soil requiring more water than loamy or clay soils. Each cultivar will respond a little differently as well. During dry conditions, try watering one inch a week and see how well the grass responds. Grass that has started to go dormant before water was applied will take longer to recover and green-up. Grass that has been consistently mowed very short will have a shallower root depth, showing signs of drought faster.


Common bermudagrass should be not mowed lower than 1 inch. Hybrids, depending on the variety, can be mowed as low as 3/16 of an inch. The rule for mowing is not to remove more than 1/3 of blade length at one time. Removing too much cuts down on its ability to conduct photosynthesis and must replace the grass using stored energy. If you currently maintain the grass at 3 or 4 inches tall and want to lower the mowing height, mow the lawn several different times over several days, lowering the blades each time. The grass will adjust to the lower mowing heights by producing more tillers (new blades). More tillers will make up for the previously taller blade length. The grass will need the extra blades to continue the same amount of carbohydrate production as it had before.


For bermudagrass to look and perform well, it will need to be fertilized. Common and hybrid varieties perform best when fertilized at a rate of 1 to 1.5 lbs of nitrogen for each month the grass is actively growing. The maximum amount should not exceed 8 lbs. of nitrogen per 1000/sq.ft. per year. Disease problems, such as spring dead spot, could result from over fertilized grass. Click on the link for complete information on Fertilization.


Bermudagrass is one of several grasses that can create thatch. Thatch is not soil, but an organic layer that develops between the soil and grass vegetation. It primarily consists of shed roots, stems and other grass debris. Grass completely sheds its root system twice a year, one root at a time. It grows new roots to replace the old ones and these shed roots are a major contributor of thatch.

These shed roots and organic debris can form a spongy barrier that prevents water and nutrients from reaching the roots. The roots can’t tell the difference between soil and thatch, so the new roots will frequently grow through the thatch. The grass suffers because thatch dries out much faster than soil and the new roots quickly die. If the thatch completely dries out, it can crust over becoming “hydrophobic”. Water will not penetrate through hydrophobic thatch, but instead, will pool on the surface. Fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have difficulty penetrating the thatch and become trapped in it. Tests have shown that almost 100% of insecticides become trapped in heavy thatch. This could also prevent the insecticides from controlling the target insects.

Core aeration opens up the soil allowing water and air to reach the root zone. You should leave the cores on the grass to break down naturally. As the cores break down, they feed the soil micro-organisms.

Top dressing is the process of scattering a thin layer of organic matter over the surface of the grass. A thin layer of quality organic matter will feed the beneficial micro-organisms that, in turn, feed on the thatch. If needed, vertical mowing or dethatching machines, can be rented to tear out the thatch.


Some of the more serious pests that feed on bermuda grass are armyworms, cutworms, sod webworms, and white grubs.

Bermudagrass mites and mealybugs can be a problem by piercing the grass and sucking out the plant juices. This can stress or thin the grass, but usually will not kill it. During the summer, when the grass is actively growing, it can easily handle small numbers of these insects.

There are a number of controls for these insects. The Neodusmetia sangwai, a fly like parasite, has elimated most of the mealybug (Rhodegrass scale) in Texas and is also being used elsewhere.

A good biological control for white grubs, sod webworms and cut worms is the microbial insecticide called “Baccilus Thuringensis”. Once consumed by the insects, it kills by producing toxins within their gut. Mach 2 is another biological control for insects that pupate. The active ingredient is “Halofenozide” and kills the target insects by interrupting the pupation stage of larvae without harming beneficial insects. This product needs to be applied well in advance of any damage. It will have no effect of applied at the time insects are damaging your lawn.

Quick kill products include trichlorofon (dylox) and carbaryl (sevin). Be aware that thatch can hinder the downward movement of insecticides to the root zone where grubs live.

Some pest controls, including some biological controls, are available only to certified pesticide applicators. Many commercial applicators will apply what you need without selling you a whole program. Check with companies in your area to see.


A few serious fungal diseases can affect home bermudagrass turfs. Spring dead spot, brown patch and dollar spot are among them. Bermuda decline (root rot) is another disease that occurs in poorly drained soil.

Spring dead spot starts as circular spots about 6 inches wide and can grow to 2 or more feet in diameter. It begins in the fall, but the damage will not appear until the spring. It is a problem on lawns where high amounts of nitrogen were used throughout the year and especially in the fall. Thatch build-up only worsens the problem. Avoid high nitrogen applications in the fall or late summer. If you have a history of spring dead spot, use the fungicide Rubigan at 6 oz./1000 sq.ft. in the fall. This fungicide will provide good results in spring.

One application per month of one lb./1000 sq.ft. of potassium chloride or potassium sulfate in the fall will help reduce the severity of disease in spring.

Understanding how to properly measure and apply nitrogen fertilizers, along with thatch removal, will help prevent the disease. The fertilization section will show you how.

Dollar spot is typically a symptom of a lack of nitrogen. The spots are from 1 to 3 inches in diameter. Multiple spots can connect together forming larger spots. Proper fertilization and irrigation usually prevents this problem.

Brown patch occurs in the hot, humid and wet periods of summer. It begins as a 1 foot patch and can enlarge to several feet in diameter. The lesions that appear on the grass became tan in appearance as the grass tissue dries out. A sign of brown patch is the webby mycelium that appears on the grass on damp mornings. Avoid applications of nitrogen fertilizer and well as weed control when this disease is present. Nitrogen will only feed the fungus. As humidity decreases and weather dries out, the disease subsides and the grass usually recovers. As long as the grass crown is not affected, the grass will grow out of it. If you live in a section of the country where high humidity is the rule and not the exception, following good cultural practices is essential to avoid the disease.

Large Patch is related to brown patch, but strikes in cooler weather. Large patch is a problem in spring as it is emerging from dormancy and in the fall as it is entering dormancy. The symptoms are the same as brown patch. Nitrogen promotes disease activity, so wait to fertilize until late spring when the grass has greened up and is growing. If you have had problems with large patch before, it is important to avoid nitrogen applications in early spring and late summer through early fall.

Fungicides like Daconil are available to help control brown patch and large patch if necessary. Fungicides must be applied in the early stages of disease development for best results. Please see the Grass Diseases section for more help in identifying and controlling diseases.

Herbicide Use

Be sure to look at the label carefully before applying a herbicide. Some herbicides will weaken and kill bermudagrass.

In tall fescue pastures, GrazonNext, is a broadleaf herbicide that actually will kill bermudagrass while not harming fescue. While it is not intended to control bermuda, it is often used in pastures where animals are grazing because animals do not have to be moved to another pasture before spraying. Where bermudagrass is creeping into pastures this is a good choice to weed it out without damaging other grasses listed as being “safe to Use” on the label. Always read the entire label before using any herbicide and be sure to use all the PPE (personal protection Equipment) listed on the label.

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Tips for battling Bermuda grass

BERMUDA GRASS IS THE BANE OF A GARDENER’S EXISTENCE. It is a warm season grass, and in our climate, actively grows during the mid-spring and summer season. It is dormant in winter and looks dead. Don’t be fooled. Creeping through the soil, or along the surface, thick distinctive yellow roots or above-ground shoots called rhizomes crawl and spread in every direction.

Bermuda grass can grow a couple of feet a year. It is often found in lawns, and from there — if not controlled — spreads into flower beds where it threads its way through other plant’s roots, effectively making the grass impossible to remove without digging up and removing plants it has become intertwined with.

Bermuda grass propagates both vegetatively from rhizomes and also from seed, but the rhizomes are by far the fastest and most effective way it reproduces. If soil is rototilled, each tiny piece can root and grow. If you dig it out, each piece left behind will grow. There are, however, various ways to control and remove Bermuda grass. Some require time and patience, others painstaking digging and weeding. Some opt for spraying it with herbicides. You can minimize its presence in your lawns by using specific lawn care practices.

Bermuda grass is an introduced grass probably originating from tropical Africa, not from Bermuda. It very likely came in as seeds in contaminated hay, and there are also records of imported Bermuda grass seed in Georgia in the 1700s. Reports of flats of Bermuda grass being sold in San Francisco in 1856 for $5 exist. It has since spread to many states as a weedy plant in gardens and on farms. Worldwide, it is considered one of the most problematic weeds for farm crops in the grass family. Improved hybrid strains of Bermuda grass are used as a turf grass in the southwest. Other strains are used as pasture grasses.

If you have a patch of Bermuda grass in your garden, the time to act is now. Dig it all out before it spreads and becomes a much bigger, more complex problem. If soil is moist, this task is fairly easy although tedious. After you are finished, repeatedly check the area during the growing season. Diligence is necessary to continue to dig out and remove any stray strands that survive your removal efforts. Do this right away before these strands gain strength.

BERMUDA GRASS IN LAWNS: In our area it thrives in dry infertile soil. In a lawn, it is usually found where lawn grass is weakest due to poor growing conditions such as too-low mowing, inadequate irrigation and poor soil fertility. Many lawns contain all of these conditions. Robust lawn grasses (especially fescues) adequately watered, fertilized and mowed at the highest lawnmower setting can usually out-compete Bermuda grass. If you have Bermuda grass in your lawn, water regularly, fertilize in the appropriate seasons, and very importantly, mow at the highest settings. Bermuda grass should diminish over the course of a season or two. In the fall, seed any weak areas with grass and clover seed. Strawberry clover is an excellent, drought-resistant lawn clover.

SPRAYING BERMUDA GRASS FOR REMOVAL: Some people are adamantly against spraying herbicides, while others will resort to spraying herbicide to kill Bermuda grass. This column does not recommend this practice in particular – but contains information to minimize the use of herbicide products if you make this choice. Some people say that herbicides don’t kill Bermuda grass, but sprays are effective using specific methods. Spraying Bermuda grass when dormant won’t kill it so don’t spray in winter, early spring or late summer. Wait until the grass is green and actively growing in early or mid-summer, then spray. One application should kill almost all of it. A very small amount of spot re-spraying or digging should take care of any areas that did not get adequate coverage the first time. The Bermuda grass at this point can be safely dug out, removed with a sod cutter, or can be sheet mulched over. “Organic” spray products such as vinegar will only burn the surface growth back and will not affect the vigor of the underground growth parts.

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