Feeling Herbicidal

I did something today that I never wanted to do — ordered an herbicide to kill off the Bermuda grass that’s taking over my lawn and choking my new lawn to death. The lawn isn’t really new anymore — it’s ten months old — but in places it’s really regressing, and I want to try to rescue as much as I can.

If I can.

The two biggest areas of grass are doing well, probably because most of the weeds had been dug up beforehand. I’d dug the weeds out of one section, and the people who did some of the rock work around the house dug up the other area almost by accident, but it turned out to be a good thing. The problem arises in those areas where the sod was laid over existing weeds. I remember asking if we should dig up the weeds but was told there was some sort of weed barrier to keep the weedy grasses from working their way to the top of the new sod, but apparently, that wasn’t true.

So, now a large swath of my cold-weather grass has been eaten by the warm-weather Bermuda grass. I’m hoping that the herbicide — which is specifically geared to this very situation — will help. Then I can simply reseed the lawn in those areas. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to dig up the Bermuda grass and then reseed my lawn.

So not my idea of fun!

I could, of course, let nature take its course, but then I will end up how I started — with Bermuda grass and lots of weeds. What will be working in my favor is that the weather will cool down eventually, the Bermuda grass will go dormant, and the cool-season grasses will (with any luck) take hold again.

It’s for this very reason (the complications of having a lawn) that I considered putting in a wildflower field instead of a lawn, but if the area where I did plant wildflowers is anything to go by, that sort of yard is just as problematic. Grass and weeds grow thickly among the wildflowers. I manage to keep the places I can reach looking okay — or at least I did until I all but gave up when the weeds overtook my ability to deal with them — but so much of the wildflower area is beyond arm reach.

It looks as if I will be doing a lot of digging to clear out as many weeds as possible this fall, though as I have learned, they will simply grow back. The weeds, especially the weedy grasses, are just too well-entrenched, which is why, as much as it goes against my nature, I ordered the herbicide.

Just because I ordered the grass killer, though, doesn’t mean I will use it. I guess it depends how herbicidal I feel when I receive it. Today, I wouldn’t have a problem using it. I went outside to get a photo of the brown swath mixed with Bermuda grass across the path from the pretty green area where the lawn is doing well to show what I’m talking about, and I couldn’t take the picture. It just looked too pathetic and made me feel sad and herbicidal. Instead, I’m using a photo of my zinnias to accompany this post and add a bit of cheer.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

The Grass From Hell

I malign this poor grass. Bermuda grass is only the grass from hell if you’re trying to dig it up. It’s a chore, that’s for sure! Because of it’s extensive — and deep — root system, it takes several stabs with a shovel to get deep enough to pull out even a small chunk of the grass. And it does come out in chunks of soil and roots.

I imagine this ability to bind soils makes it a good grass in windy areas, such as this one. I certainly don’t lose any topsoil (assuming there is any at all in this ancient yard) during the high wind storms. The deep roots make Bermuda grass hard to kill with neglect. Even if it turns brown in the heat of summer, it will always come back with a touch of rain. Despite that — or maybe because of that — it is heat and drought resistant. When I figure out what areas of my yard I want to be green, I’ll water the heck out of the grass and end up with a lush looking lawn.

For now, I know one area I don’t want the grass — it’s between the two sidewalks and would be hard to mow. Besides, that island will make a great zinnia bed. And so the grass has to go, though to be honest, right about now, I’m rethinking that plan. I’ve worked a couple of hours today and yesterday, and oh, am I exhausted! To say nothing of sore and weak-kneed. The area is approximated six feet by sixteen feet, and I’ve managed to dig up maybe 24 square feet so far. Lots of hard shoveling! And even after digging up all those roots, chances are the grass will come back because not only does it have such an extensive root system that it’s impossible to get every bit, it also propagates by seed, and there’s no telling how many seeds are left behind. No wonder the preferred method of removing the grass is to zap it with Round-up, but that’s not anything I would ever consider.

I have a hunch this is the wrong time of year to be digging up grass or doing any gardening other than planting a few things that prefer to be settled in the fall, but the way I figure, I’m here now, the grass is here (and by no means green, not even on the other side of the fence!), the ground is still faintly damp from the recent though long-melted snow so the digging is a mite easier, and it’s a good reason to be out in this perfect fall weather.

The weather will change again next week, but with any luck, I’ll have most of the island grass-free, ready for spring fertilizing and planting.

I did mention, didn’t I, that we planted my greengage plum trees? (Well, my contractor and his helper did, I just stood around and pretended I was working.) I had an extra tree (I’d ordered it for a friend who no longer had a place for it) and without any better idea of where to put it, we planted in the middle of the island. I’ll have to prune it every year to keep it small, but that will make the fruit easier to reach — assuming there is fruit and assuming the birds leave any for me. In a way, it will be like a birdfeeder without all the work and the mess. (Though I am sure there will be other messes, but I don’t want to think about that.)

If by chance, I’ve whet your appetite for digging, you are welcome to join me in my yard tomorrow around mid-morning. I have an extra shovel.


“I am Bob, the Right Hand of God. As part of the galactic renewal program, God has accepted an offer from a development company on the planet Xerxes to turn Earth into a theme park. Not even God can stop progress, but to tell the truth, He’s glad of the change. He’s never been satisfied with Earth. For one thing, there are too many humans on it. He’s decided to eliminate anyone who isn’t nice, and because He’s God, He knows who you are; you can’t talk your way out of it as you humans normally do.”

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