Let’s Grow!
Timing is the key to controlling invasive bermudagrass

Look familiar? Invasive Bermudagrass can take over your lawn and your gardens. (GoodSeed Farm Photo)

Look familiar? Invasive Bermudagrass can take over your lawn and your gardens. (GoodSeed Farm Photo)
By Steve Boehme

So many readers have responded our previous columns about “Bermudagrass”, this topic deserves a follow-up. Timing is key; Bermudagrass control is most effective if done in July with a follow-up in August. If you want to stop a Bermudagrass invasion, get started with a spray program right away. If you wait too long the grass will go dormant and spraying won’t be effective. Because there will still be seed in your soil and beds, you’ll have to be vigilant in future years or it will get re-established.

We’ve seen many landscapes where Bermudagrass has taken over lawns and then invaded flower and shrub beds. The grass creeps along the ground, rooting wherever it touches the soil or mulch, forming a dense mat. It has a strong root system that can grow more than four feet deep. We’ve seen it come up right through asphalt paving.

Needless to say, a weed this aggressive can ruin your landscaping in short order when it moves from the lawn into gardens and tree wells. Few herbicides are effective against it. Before mechanized farm machinery, Bermudagrass was the weed dreaded most by farmers. Considered an “invasive species” in 48 states, it, crowds out most other grasses and smothers gardens. This invasive nature leads some gardeners to give it the name of “devil grass”. Controlling it is a real challenge.

We found many websites online promoting and selling it, both as lawn grass and pasture forage for livestock. It is more popular in the Sunbelt states, where it stays green all year, but many homeowners in Ohio have Bermudagrass lawns. You can spot it easily in the fall because after hard frost it turns an ugly brown in otherwise green lawns. Bermudagrass hates cold weather and survives Ohio winters by extending its roots below the frost line. The deep root system is one reason it’s so hard to control.

If you try to get rid of Bermudagrass by tilling or cultivating, the weed will spread faster because cultivation chops the stems into segments and each segment becomes a new plant. Spraying with non-selective weed killers like Remuda or Roundup can be effective but will also kill the rest of your lawn. No chemical will kill Bermudagrass seeds in the soil. You’ll have to re-treat the area for years to kill new Bermudagrass seedlings. Still, a total “scorched earth” weed spraying, repeated several times, is the best way to start.

Selective control in lawns and gardens is much harder. The only practical solution we’ve found is a selective Bermudagrass killer for lawns, based on fenoxaprop-p-ethyl. We sell it in our garden center, in a ready-to-use hose-end sprayer. You need two applications a month apart starting in July for control, but it’s easy to use and kills not only Bermudagrass but crabgrass, foxtail, sandbur and some other grassy weeds. It will not kill lawn grasses, and with a few exceptions won’t harm other types of plants in your landscape. It takes about an hour after spraying to become rainproof.

After the second application of Bermudagrass killer you should re-seed your lawn with good grass seed; right around Labor Day is the ideal time to do this. You can re-seed a day or two after spraying Bermudagrass killer. We recommend turf-type tall fescue blends for most lawns; our favorite is Wetsel “Class Act II”, a blend of five different turf type tall fescue grasses. We carry it in our store.

Steve Boehme is the owner of GoodSeed Nursery & Landscape, located at 9736 Tri-County Highway, near Winchester, Ohio. To e-mail your landscaping questions click “Contact Us” from their website at www.goodseedfarm.com or call (937) 587-7021.