How to Commit Herbaceous Homicide
It’s raining today…and yesterday and yesterday’s yesterday. It’s all because I started my full-on assault of the Bermuda grass in my “lawn” on Friday. For weeks rain clouds have approached Greenville and then the clouds parted and have gone to the north and the south. My friend who lives in a community to the south and east has gotten all kinds of wet this summer. My area? Dry. My momma would have said the folks in my area of town (including me?) hadn’t been livin’ right. But lo and behold, I started spraying my lawn on Friday, and it started raining on Saturday. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy, happy, happy about this slow rain. And don’t get crazy on me about my spraying the lawn. I used vinegar. It was attempted herbaceous homicide.
While I realize the vinegar will only kill the vegetation above the surface of the soil, it is just one step in my multi-prong approach to eradicate this terminator-like infestation of vegetation commonly known as Bermuda grass. (Betcha hadn’t guessed yet how I feel about Bermuda grass.) Just once in my life I would like to have a really nice lawn. A little, itty-bitty lawn, but a nice lawn nevertheless.
I will confess right here and now…I am not a turf person. I really don’t know much about the stuff except that I do know that Bermuda is just the vegetated state of the Devil himself. It is really hard to get out of the beds, much less remove a large area of it. So I did some research and immediately became despondent. I was instructed to dig it out, smother it, till it, and blast it with deadly chemicals. I was told it could take some time…lots of time. And I am everything I have read that I am not supposed to be…in a hurry! Argh! This is so not right! No plant should be this hard to remove! I am pretty plant deprived! I have been too long without flowerbeds, and I need a fix real fast! I have the shakes!
So my plan of attack is to come at it from several angles.
How to commit herbaceous homicide in 4 easy steps!
Step 1: Smother it!
Several weeks ago I set out to smother the weeds and grass in the front of the house to create new planting beds. Remember all that mulch I had delivered? (see Mulch Matters…) This is where it comes into play. This is so simple and healthy that anyone can do it. I have seen this work with cardboard, newspaper, and even builder’s paper.
Use cardboard, newspaper, or builder’s paper to smother grass & weeds.
Steps for smothering:
- Scalp the area with a mower or string trimmer.
- Cover the area with cardboard, 6-8 layers of black/white newspaper, or brown builder’s paper. Be sure to overlap the edges. (Builder’s paper can be found in the paint departments of home improvement stores.)
- Wet the paper.
- Cover the paper with several inches of compost, mulch, leaves, and/or grass clippings.
Word has it that the cardboard and paper are worm magnets! They love it!
Step 2: Spray it!
Vinegar makes for a powerful and earth-friendly herbicide. Common household vinegar can be used to eradicate most weeds. But beware! Like most (all?) herbicides, it can’t tell one plant from another. So whatever it touches will most likely die. Except Bermuda grass. (Remember this is the Terminator of plants. It may look dead but don’t turn your back or it will grab your ankle.)
Use household vinegar to kill weeds and grass.
- 1 gallon white vinegar
- 2 T dishwashing liquid (blue Dawn is good)
If you need to kill weeds in areas that you do not want ANYTHING to grow for some time (like cracks in the sidewalk, driveway, or a gravel path) add 1 cup of table salt to the above mixture.
Use a pump sprayer. Wait for a day when the wind is not blowing and have at it. It is most effective on hot, sunny days when rain is not in the immediate forecast.
One day after spraying with vinegar.
Step 3: Rototill it!
There are pros and cons to tilling. There are folks in both camps that will tell you why the other is dead wrong. I am choosing to take the middle road here. While, yes, tilling does disturb the structure of the soil, I am going into this with my eyes wide open. After all, this is weed wars. I will add compost later to build the soil, and I promise never to till again.
Summer tilling will expose the rhizomes to the heat of the sun. It stresses the plant. It forces it to use stored energy to regrow. Some recommend that you till again if (when) you see sprigs of grass starting to regrow. You do this until no grass is left standing. But, I am going to move right on to the next step.
Step 4: Cook it!
Solarization is a great way to kill grass. Using clear plastic, cover the area that you want to kill. Be sure to weigh the plastic down so it will not blow away. The heat of the sun will cook everything under the plastic.
Clear plastic is used to cook the grass. Photo: Southernpeony.com
Steps for solarization:
- Rototill the area. (optional)
- Wet the area thoroughly.
- Cover the area with clear plastic and secure it. It is best to cover the edges with soil or mulch to prevent wind from cooling under the plastic.
- Wait. This process may take several weeks.
Rolls of heavier clear plastic are usual available at Home Depot, Lowes, and other home improvement stores.
I could choose any one of these steps alone, but there is a method to the madness. First, and mostly, I have a lot of ground to cover. I am smothering with paper and mulch the areas that I want for planting beds. I am spraying, tilling and smothering the area that I would like to sod. And I would like to get the sodding done by the end of August. I know, I know…I should have started earlier. But I had to wait until all that hardscaping I am doing is completed. Which it almost is. Parts 3 & 4 of the mini-series are coming up very soon!