Let the Sheet Mulching Begin

F-ing bermuda grass. I’ve been battling it and battling it. Ever since this blog began, and it still hasn’t gone away. It’s a rhizome-creeping nightmare. I swear the ants are helping it take over the world somehow. I think of weeds like bermuda grass and bindweed kinda like herpes. You’ll never get rid of them–you just have to learn how to reduce the outbreaks.
So, here’s my latest strategy with the devil grass:
1. Remove as much of the weed from the area–pick axing is necessary to get the giant roots out.
In times past, I would stop right there. But this year I’m taking it further.
2. Obtain cardboard. My sister used to be a breakdancer in the 1980s and she and her crew would pull out the cardboard on the livingroom floor and do some crazy spins on their heads and backs. I remember getting excited when we’d find a big fridge box that we could spread out. Well, the 80s are back for me because I am collecting sh-t tons of ‘board, mostly liquor store Doritos boxes (which seems strangely poetic). Then I spread them over the offending outbreak area.
3. Stack like 3 feet of wood chips over the cardboard. I’m lucky I got a free 18 square yard wood chip delivery from Ponderosa tree service. 18 square yards, btw, is bigger than a VW Rabbit. It’s served as a very fun place for children to climb and then play rock star. It makes me think they someone doing a music festival could actually have a completely solid yet biodegradable stage if they got a few of these loads in tandem.
The chips are a mix of pine chips, leaves and bark, some branches. It’s rotting down and eventually the b-grass will return but I’ll be able to pull it out a lot more easily. The best thing about it? Smells like Christmas!!
Gardeners in Oakland or Berkeley can get free woodchips from Ponderosa Tree Service, you just have to have space for a giant delivery truck to drop the load, and you can’t be too picky about what kinda wood chips you get.

8 responses to “Let the Sheet Mulching Begin

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Novella! I am unsure if it will work here in the frozen tundra of Ottawa, but, like you, I am desperate. It is everywhere and when I show my neighbours a small grass plant with a thick white root 3-4 feet long, they become scared! I cleaned out an old vegetable garden, about 200 square feet, and bagged 4 of those paper yard waste bags full of just Bermuda grass. Scary stuff! I had to stop using Round-up because it is banned here except in special cases but I am going to try for some, cut the grass really short and paint the first blades to pop up using an artist’s brush and Round-up. If that doesn’t work, cardboard and wood chips may follow.

  2. I think the sheet mulching will make a big improvement. Yours is the perfect application, especially since you can add a LOT of mulch on top. Thanks for the post!

  3. I feel your pain. I am constantly battling Bermuda grass here in My Long Beach yard. I have learned the hard way not to turn my back on it, or it sneaks over or under the borders and into the flower beds. Unfortunately it is a decent lawn grass for SoCal, recovering on its own after a drought, and my dog and kids still play on it, so I am kind of stuck with it for now.

    My main method of dealing with it has been methodical digging and sifting out of every last bit. It works until the bermuda grass hits a growth spurt the next season, and then I have to repeat the process. 18 seasons and counting. I feel like Sisyphus with his boulder rolling up hill in hades.

    Long beach offers free mulch to residents from tree trimmings, too. Maybe I’ll try your method.

    Thanks. I always enjoy your posts.

  4. Here in Arkansas, I’ve done cardboard with arborist chips over bermuda grass many times but have never gotten it thick enough (three feet may be no joke!). One area had three layers of cardboard covered by six inches of mulch and the bermuda still came through. I then put more cardboard on top of that and remulched. We’ll see. What happens with a thinner layer is that you’ll wind of with a pure stand of bermuda after a couple of years, having only killed out everything else with the sheet mulch. Some areas of my yard you now have to step up to access as I’m mulching a foot deep.

  5. Neill….fellow Ottawan here. I used mulch this year in my vegetable garden…really did keep the grass to a minimum. It wasn’t bermuda grass, mind.

    That being said, we used sawdust and newspaper for poison ivy at my mother’s cottage. nice thick layer of newspaper, then sawdust, repeat a couple of times…it’s really worked so far, and the only thing that worked previously was roundup

  6. Do you still have rabbits? If so, perhaps you could cut the Bermuda grass and feed it to them. I’ve read that they really like it, and it’s quite healthy too, and free, of course.

  7. I don’t have Bermuda grass, thank God, but we did have a big problem with Japanese Silvergrass that had gone rogue after some previous owner planted it all over the place. It’s similar – a rhizome spreading grass that is more or less indestructible though perhaps a bit less tenacious than Bermuda. But in my research of ways to try to get rid of it, bermuda grass was the only thing that seemed to come up regularly. One thing we did that seems to have helped a lot was to first weed extensively, trying to get the roots out fully, then added some dirt, put down layers of overlapping cardboard and planted a healthy sweet potato crop right into the cardboard. The sweet potato vines go crazy and take up all the space. This year, so far so good. It’s probably not nearly as hearty as the Bermuda but this could be worth a try. Plus we got a kickass sweet potato crop out of it! Here’s my write up: http://www.thegardenofeating.org/2014/05/outcompeting-invasives.html

  8. Nancy Sutton

    Oh, I know the ‘smells like Christmas!’ in summer… talk about being rich… a pile of woodchips 😉

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