The Bermudagrass Blues

bermudgrassBermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) and a formal garden just don’t mix. I guess if I were growing only annuals and I wanted to dig it up each season that would be a solution, but I want and have perennials and that’s where the problems arise. First of all Bermudagrass has rhizomatic roots that can go 6 feet down and creep into everything. Blades of grass that I’ve seen grow up to four feet high shoot off from the roots. The result is ugly stalks of grass popping up through ground covers, flower beds and shrubs. I’ve tried to dig up the roots but it’s nearly impossible to get them all. Solarization is another option for killing it but it requires large amounts of plastic, something that just ends up being torn to shreds by some animal.

The kind of surprising thing about all this negativity is in a roundabout way it’s what got me to plant some trees in a treeless part of my garden. I read somewhere that Bermudagrass can’t tolerate shade. I figure by the time my tiny trees grow large enough to shade out my vegetable garden and kill all this Bermudagrass once and for all, I probably wouldn’t be living here anyway.

For now I’m forced to live with it but I have some ideas. I’ve found thoroughly edging garden beds helps keep it at bay. Also, edging strips made out of steel would help prevent it from creeping into garden beds but that is not an affordable option for me. Some native grasses form dense, impenetrable tufts. If any Bermudagrass grew nearby it would blend in with the native grass. Other areas filled with perennial  flowers will just have to intermingle with Bermudagrass and be occasionally mowed but I keep in mind the shorter and more compact a wanted plant is, the more ridiculous Bermudagrass is going to look popping up through it. Better to use taller and even wilder looking plants that harmonize better with it.

Bermudagrass is another reason I don’t put down wood chips because no matter how thick the layer, Bermudagrass will grow right through and then be even harder to dig up. In my opinion, pathways infested with bermudagrass are better just mixed with lawn grasses and mowed. So far, plants I want growing have been able to coexist with Bermudagrass which is good because in my garden they have no other alternative.

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