How to kill Bermuda grass
What it means to kill Bermuda grass
Because of it’s aggressive growth and persistent nature, Bermuda grass is very difficult to kill and eradicate. Continuous applications of herbicides are required to kill Bermuda grass. While Bermuda grass is well known for its aggressive nature and is used as a favored turf or lawn grass in many regions, it is this same nature that also makes it a weed for other grasses and plants. It is one of those grasses which can return even after it's dead.
Due to its extensive root system, Bermuda grass is very difficult to be killed and eradicated completely from a field where it has grown vigorously. The underground roots and the runners above ground spread everywhere. As a result even flower beds and other adjacent areas can also become affected. While trying to remove Bermuda grass, just getting rid of the roots will not solve the problem. Several applications of herbicide are required over a month to kill 90 to 95% of Bermuda grass.
Complete Lawn Clean Up
Herbicide like glyphosate is very common for killing Bermuda grass. But remember, in order to get good results, herbicide should be applied (i.e. sprayed) on the grass leaves. This is because the leaves are the most effective part to absorb maximum quantity of herbicide and not the roots. The targeted area should be coated with a heavy misting of the herbicide to let it soak into the leaves and in turn slowly break down the enzymes that the grass depends on for growth. Then let the grass rest and dry naturally.
Another important point to remember is the time of herbicide application. In dormant state (like in January) Bermuda grass absorbs less herbicides. This is the time when they draw nutrients up from the roots and therefore the chemical applied on the leaves is unlikely to reach down to the root system. So this is not the time to kill Bermuda by use of herbicides. Application of herbicides should be done from spring to fall, when the leaves are fully developed and green and readily soak up the most nutrients.
You should not clip and mow the lawn before getting rid of Bermuda grass. Instead, one or two weeks before the application of herbicide, water the lawn thoroughly so that the leaves of Bermuda grass get green and well spread out to absorb the chemical effectively. There are several ways to irrigate your lawn thoroughly. If you prefer the sprinkler system, ensure the setting makes the grass douse at regular intervals.
Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide, and known in the market with commercial product names such as Roundup, Accord, Rodeo, Touchdown etc. It can kill most of the Bermuda vegetation. However, as mentioned earlier, it is not effective when Bermuda grass is in dormant state. Glyphosate can kill the deepest roots of Bermuda grass. After treatment, graying and browning of colors takes place within 7-10 days.
Read the labels carefully and follow the instructions for dilution, application method and even how to clean the spray equipment. You will need to repeat the herbicide application and watering of lawn every ten days or so until new sprouts of Bermuda grass stop reappearing. Apply herbicide on the entire grass area.
Soil particles that adsorb the herbicides, get transformed into carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water, phosphate and other common natural components. And by this it kills the Bermuda grass by stopping an important metabolic process.
However insects and animals are not affected by this. Bermuda grass can also be controlled by Turflon ester, another herbicide. You should spray it three times in 3-week intervals during the growing season (usually May-July).
It is important to keep a few things in mind while using herbicides such as Glyphosates. It is not a selective herbicide which essentially entails that it can be harmful to any plant that it comes in contact with and not just the targeted weed and grass. Moreover these are toxic in nature and thus using protection like gloves, facemasks, respirators etc (or as per directions on the label of the product) is imperative.
Given the resilient nature of the Bermuda grass, you might have to repeat the process several times (sometimes as many as 5 times) to get the results. Continue to treat your lawn once a week to prevent the grass from making further inroads and spreading and before it begins turning brown as it starts dying. before planting any other plants in the same soil it is best to wait at least 2 months given the harsh nature of the herbicides and its effect on the soil.
Clearing Bermuda grass without the use of herbicides
If you have small parcels of lawn that need clearing of this grass, there are a few techniques that you can try.
Choke the root system by cutting off nutrient supply: Hand pull or mow the grass very short, as much as possible from the targeted area. If you are hand pulling them, simply grab a handful near the roots and pull out with a firm hand until the root system is dislodged. The patch then needs to be covered with multiple layers of cardboard (several layers of wet newspaper or a landscaping fabric also should do the trick) which cuts off the supply of sunlight, moisture and nutrients to the roots.
Next you add mulch on the cardboard layer (ensure the seams of each cardboard piece is properly overlapped) and cake it up to a 5-6 inches thickness, packing it up lightly on the entire area. Rest the entire setup for about 2-6 months. This time that the grass is left without any exposure to water and sunlight, makes it redundant and difficult to survive.
Use a landscaping fabric: Before placing the fabric, weaken the grass by pulling out manually or mowing the lawn close to the ground as much as possible. Then place a sheet of the landscaping fabric over the area. Handling the sheet with care is essential and ensure no wrinkles, tears or damages are inflicted to it while handling. It has to lie smooth and flat over the ground. Cut the fabric as per requirement but do so very carefully and diligently. Now cover the fabric with a 4-6 inch layer of mulch and rest it for 6-8 weeks. Keep an eye out around the fabric for new growth.
Doing it manually: Mow the grass thoroughly first. Then start digging out the grass well below the root level. Make sure the uprooted grass and roots go into the trash and not the compost or left on the soil as they can lead to a re-growth. You may have to repeat the process three or more times to effectively kill all the underlying roots and stolons. This is however a very tedious process and leaves a lot of room for mistakes. For instance if you happen to leave behind or miss out any live roots, the problem will recur. Moreover, you might lose a lot of precious soil in the process.
Solarization: This is quite an effective way to remove Bermuda grass and is less labor intensive. It is best done in the hottest summer months for maximum benefits. First you have to normally water the entire area and then cover the whole place with a clear plastic tarp. the edges of the tarp should be secured down properly. You can make use of bricks and stones for the same. Leave it for around four weeks and then remove the tarp from over the dead grass, which can then be raked away or left to decompose.
Selectively Removing Bermuda From Other Grasses
The earlier method of applying Glyphosate (like Roundup etc.) all over the area works when you are trying to completely clean up your lawn. Remember, Glyphosate is NOT a selective herbicide and kills almost all plants including other grasses and weeds.
So if your requirement is to eliminate only the Bermuda grass selectively while not affecting other desirable grasses, check out Selective Bermuda Grass Killers
to know about the selective herbicides that need to be used, the method of application and timing.
Removing Bermuda from flower beds & ornamental plants
There are some methods that you can use for spraying herbicides on Bermuda grass while protecting the wanted plants. I generally put up a low height partition between Bermuda grass and the desired plants using a piece of cardboard or thin plywood.
Now you can apply the herbicide by a pressure tank sprayer and create a fine mist on Bermuda grass. Or alternatively place a plastic sheet on the flower bed to protect them from the spray.
If there is space between wanted plants and Bermuda grass, a small paint roller and a pan can be used to kill the Bermuda grass. Keep the glyphosate solution in the pan and roll the moistened roller over the undesirable Bermuda grass.
Tank-type pressure sprayer can be used only in larger areas and isolated spots. Otherwise the spray can drift through the greenish bark of trees and shrubs. Even small amount of glyphosate can cause severe growth defects to all kinds of plants. You can also use Ortho Grass-B-Gon Grass Killer (Fluazifop-butyl) to kill Bermuda grass while avoiding injury of ornamentals plants like flower beds. Other types of herbicides like Grass-Getter, a post-emergent grass killer can also control Bermuda grass by repeated application.
Eradicating Bermuda grass before seeding Fescue
If you have a Bermuda grass area that you want to clean up before seeding fescue, you can follow these steps (Note: You should start about five to six weeks before overseeding with fescue, and also plan to do it between Spring to Fall.)
1. Mow the grass at 2.0 inches
2. Fertilize it with 1.0 lb. of nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft and water the lawn normally.
3. Spray the lawn in the morning with a Glyphosate variant like Round-up.
4. Let the spray dry off. Turn the irrigation off for that night only.
5. Turn on the irrigation the next day and water normally.
6. In 5-10 days, (while you keep watering) 90% of the Bermuda grass will turn brown.
7. Apply another 1/4 lb. of nitrogen per 1000 sq ft. and cover the whole area.
8. If there are some patches that are still green, re-spray with Round-up (and repeat steps 3 and 4 for those green areas).
9. In another 7 days or so, all Bermuda grass should be killed.
Raj is an avid traveler, a travel journalist and a blogger. As an author of this website, he shares deep insights on Bermuda and related areas of interest. Since years, he has been helping countless viewers by posting quality articles, answering questions and sharing experiences on this website. Launched in 2008, this website is Bermuda's one of the leading sources of information since many years.
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Viewers' Reviews & Comments
Mesut (October 2018)
MSM turf safely can be used for Bermuda grass. But may need at least 3 applications.
Michellle Lafaye (August 2018)
Using Glyphosate is the worst possible thing you can do for the environment, your family, your neighborhood and water. It has been proven that Glyphosate causes a diversity of cancers. It is very important that the poison is now in all of our foods, waters, and even in mothers breast milk. What a person has to do is the back breaking job of wetting the ground and keep pulling out the roots by following the roots to their end. Yes it takes time It may take years but I've done it this way. If I see new clumps trying to come up I remove then when they are small as it is easier to track the complete trail of the root through the moist soil. You have to get down and you have to get dirty. I refuse to poison my world with Glyphosate. The plus of pulling out the roots.....Its super exercise, encourages exposure to sunshine for about 1 hour a day, You get to talk to people who pass, and after all this grass is gone you can happily plant all those beautiful plants you dreamed of. SAY NO TO GLYPHOSATE.
David Taylor (May 2018)
Bayer Bermuda grass control is not effective. I applied it as directed for years over a bluegrass lawn and the Bermuda just thrived. I would not recommend this product.
Kristine (May 2018)
Hi- Instead of killing the Bermuda, cultivate it. Thats right and also use the rye as a filler off season. Crab grass wont grow as easily in the stuff like this with a good barrier. Bermuda is sexy! You should know my neighbors all look at the Bermuda grass when I'm working in the yard. Bermuda is Beautiful, Bermuda has Courage, Bermuda is Strong.
Dustin Majchen (April 2013)
It is actually best not to Rototill the soil after trying to get rid of Bermuda. Scratch the surface with a flat shovel or steel rake. If the glyphosate is still working in the plant you should not disrupt the roots. Although do not re plant grass right away due to the residual activity of the Glyphosate. To suppress the Bermuda there is a chemical available called Turflon. It will not kill the Bermuda but it will Suppress. You must spray a few times while the Bermuda is actively growing to keep it under control. Dethatching in your fescue lawns that do have Bermuda actively growing will be necessary.
Brian (January 2013)
Beginning the middle of August through mid October I used Ortho with Glyphosate to kill roughly 1700 square feet of very pesky and aggressive Bermuda grass. I'm planning to put down tall fescue sod down in the spring to match the rest of my yard.
Question..... Before putting the sod down should I till the soil containing the dead Bermuda grass or just lay the sod over the dead Bermuda grass?
Additional Question...... Should I treat the soil with a pre-emergence or something else before laying the sod. Looking forward to responses...
Raj - bermuda-attractions.com (January 2013)
Hi, after killing Bermuda, I would till the soil so that it gets loosened, then try to get the dead grass out of the soil as much as possible, and add a fresh layer of soil (like topsoil) before laying the sod to get best results. Regards,
Jesse R. Davidson (August 2012)
Two years ago, I noticed an area on each side of my driveway, where the grass looked completely different from the rest of my lawn. These areas appeared after reseeding around two trees (one on each side of the driveway) with Scotts Patch. The area re-seeded on each side was probably ten feet by ten feet. At first, I noticed an area about one foot by one foot in each re-seeded area. Over the year, these areas were spreading into the mulched areas around the trees. The following year, I could tell this stuff was starting to take over.
This year it had spread into an area of approximately twenty feet by twenty feet on both sides of the driveway. It was even pushing up through the cracks in my asphalt. Okay I thought, it's time to fight this stuff. First, I took a sample to the local landscaping company. They identified it as Bermuda grass. I was instructed on how to kill it, and was told to be aggressive in my attack. A week ago, I finished my fifth application of round-up. Yesterday, I was spot killing the few struggling plants that remain. I have been at this all summer, and I probably won't be able to re-seed until next spring.
I have been told that if only one plant survives, I will have the problem again. This stuff is from Hell, and I'm wondering if I will ever be free of it. My advice, if you ever end up with this in your lawn, don't wait on your attack. Hit the area while it's small, and hit it often.