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Preparing My Yard for Sod — Erradicating Bermuda Grass

2.5 years later, the Fescue still looks great!

I have been in the process of trying to replace a yard full of Bermuda Grass with Dwarf Enduro Fescue since I recently added new sod into my back yard, and I don’t want to chance the Bermuda Grass from hitching a ride on my lawnmower and ruining my back yard. Bermuda Grass is very hardy and has been proving itself difficult to get rid of. I think I may have just-about gotten rid of it all. Or at least I hope I have.

Since Bermuda Grass can propagate by seeds, rhizomes and stolons, simply pulling it out, or even mowing very short won’t get rid of it. After researching several resources on the web, I now have a yard full of dirt, a couple random weed seedlings and no grass. This week my new sod arrives, marking my point of no-return.

I have been very patient, and deliberate in my approach in getting rid of the Bermuda Grass, since making a mistake could be very expensive to correct later.

Here is what I did to get rid of the Bermuda Grass, hopefully permanently:

  1. Sprayed a grass killer on the entire lawn that would kill the roots. Bermuda Grass has a deep root system, and leaving any part of it behind alive in the soil will get you more growing back later.
  2. Watered the lawn as normal a couple days after the treatment
  3. Repeated the spray one more time.
  4. About a month after the lawn completely turned brown, I used a rented sod-cutter to remove the top two-inches of soil. This worked with mixed results as my soil was a bit hard and I hadn’t ever used a sod-cutter before.
  5. Removed all of the old sod and had it hauled off.
  6. Rented a tiller and tilled the entire yard
  7. Smoothed out the yard and installed a sprinkler system. (For anyone looking for a fantastic resource on this, I recommend Jess Stryker’s Irrigation Tutorials. )
  8. Watered the dirt as if I was trying to grow a new lawn from seed. My goal here was to get all of the seeds in the dirt to germinate.
  9. To my surprise, more Bermuda Grass started showing up again, and these weren’t tender seedlings. These were new shoots from the bits and pieces of rhizomes left in the dirt, sometimes 2 inches down!
    • I sprayed more grass killer on the shoots for about a month
    • They kept showing up
    • Over the last several days, I began digging after them to pull out the entire root system, which wasn’t much, but enough to begin something ugly and expensive.
  10. I haven’t seen anything new show up in the last few days, so I ordered some topsoil and my new sod.

With any luck, I won’t have a blog post in a year complaining that the Bermuda Grass returned. I do have one last recourse out there, that I would rather not mess with. Apparently there is a product out there called Ornamec that is capable of selectively killing Bermuda Grass while leaving Fescue alone.

Please share your Bermuda Grass experiences. This is a popular search topic for folks out there.

Update 02/15/2010:

It has been 2 1/2 years since I went through the procedures above.  Other than a couple small appearances, I have not seen any Bermuda grass appear in the yard.  The bit I did see was on the edges and was easily removed by digging up the roots with a screwdriver.  The largest problem now is the normal weeds that appear periodically.  The photo at the top of this post was taken today.

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