Is Bermuda grass creeping into your fescue lawn?
Kinda puts a whole new meaning to turf wars when your neighbors grass begins to creep in doesn’t it?
Well, the good news is that you are not alone.
Many people have faced this very issue before.
But is it worth the effort to fight the turf war? Or should you simply put up a white flag and let it crawl on in?
Below you will find out what you need to know about keeping Bermuda out of your fescue lawn.
Then you can decide for yourself if it is worth the fight or not.
Why is Bermuda grass so hard to keep out of my fescue?
Before we go about fighting the Bermuda grass, it’s important to know why Bermuda is so effective at spreading.
As Sun Tzu tells us,
“Know the enemy and know yourself in a hundred battles you will never be in peril”.
Bermuda Grass Grows Aggressively
While both grasses are great lawn grasses, it is a matter of perspective. As there are some distinct differences between Bermuda and fescue grass. And the most important difference is that Bermuda grass is known for its aggressive growth. While fescue spreads itself by seed, Bermuda can simply spread with runners and quickly dominant a fescue lawn.
The bad news is that Bermudas ability to spread through runners enables it to spread quickly.
The good news is it creates a strategy that can be used to fight it and keep it out of your lawn. More on that in a moment.
Warm vs. Cool Season
Bermuda grass thrives in warmer weather and goes dormant in cooler weather. On the other hand, fescue is a cooler season grass.
While Bermuda grass may be preferable in the deep south in states like Florida. Bermuda is not the best choice in states with generally cooler temperatures such as Tennessee as it can cause your lawn to go dormant for long periods of time.
Bermuda Turf War Strategy #1: Solarization and Choking
Ok, so this one is a bit destructive to your lawn. But if there are large areas where Bermuda grass has already creeped into your fescue and established itself, this technique can be effective at killing it fast.
However, this technique will also kill any of your fescue that may be present too. So, it should only be used if Bermuda is the predominant grass.
This strategy works best in the warmer months. To solarize Bermuda grass, simply cover your lawn with clear plastic drop cloth. This will cause the Bermuda grass to die due to overheating, essentially baking the grass.
After about a month the roots of the Bermuda should be fried. This method is a bit faster than choking out the grass.
Choking Bermuda Grass
If you have ever left a blanket or a tarp on your lawn for a bit too long, you have seen how quickly it can turn your grass brown.
This is the same principle used when it comes to choking out Bermuda grass. Albeit it will take a bit longer.
To choke out Bermuda grass spread landscape fabric or a tarp over the area you want to eliminate, weigh the tarp down so that it will stay in place and wait.
After 2 months, (yes, it takes a while) the roots of the Bermuda grass should be defeated.
Bermuda Turf War Strategy #2: Create a Physical Barrier
If your neighbor's lawn has a lot of Bermuda grass, and you want to keep it out. You can build a barrier between your lawn and theirs to keep their encroaching Bermuda grass at bay.
Build the barrier at least 10 inches deep so that the Bermuda’s rhizomes can't spread underground into your lawn. While Bermuda can still climb over the barrier, you will be able to see the grasses attempt to jump over and you can cut back weekly or fortnightly with your weed eater.
Much like the borders and edges of your garden beds, a proper border can deter Bermuda grass from encroaching, but it will still require vigilance on your part to keep it out.
Alternately, you can create a chemical barrier by spraying Roundup or other herbicides along the perimeter of the property each month. And there are other chemical solutions too.
Bermuda Turf War Strategy #3: Chemical Warfare
Look, if you are going to use chemical weapons in your turf war, be sure to wear proper PPE.
There are a few herbicides that can target Bermuda grass, while leaving your fescue unaffected.
However, you can also use a spot treatment like the man in this video:
Fusillade is a selective turf and ornamental post-emergent herbicide.
Fusillade kills a lot of weedy grasses and plants in your lawn and landscape, but it won't harm fescue or Zyosia grasses. So, it is a great choice for removing Bermuda that has embedded itself behind enemy lines without harming the grass you want to keep.
Ornamec is basically like Fusillade. It is a highly selective post-emergent herbicide that will kill Bermuda grass and leave your fescue alone.
Which one you use may depend on what is available in your area.
Unfortunately, pre-emergent herbicides won't help you when it comes to Bermuda being that it simply spreads using runners.
The 3rd herbicide that is effective against Bermuda grass that is safe to use in fescue lawns it Triclopyr Ester. Triclopyr can be used to spot treat Bermuda grass in your lawn.
However, no matter which chemical you use, it will require diligence and multiple applications a year to suppress Bermuda grass.
Finally, you can use Roundup.
Here's the catch, unlike Tryclopr Ester, Ornamec and Fusillade, Roundup is not selective and will kill your fescue and your Bermuda grass alike.
So other than around your borders, you may want to use the solarization and choking the grass instead. Especially as Roundup is removed from store shelves due to the side effects associated with its use.
Truly, it is likely going to take a combination of chemicals to get the Bermuda out of your lawn.
There is a great multi-step pesticide application in this video here:
Bermuda Turf War Strategy #4: Get Defensive with Aeration and Overseeding
Look, while you need to be offensive to get the Bermuda out of your fescue, you don't want to forget to bolster up the strength of your fescue. Annual or biannual aeration and overseeding is a great way to help your fescue fill out the lawn and crowd out any Bermuda grass that may be trying to break in.
Aeration in the fall and spring in combination with spreading quality fescue seed is a great way to help you keep your fescue strong, so that it can keep the Bermuda grass out.
Core aeration is the best option as it helps to decompact the lawn as well as getting your fresh fescue seeds into the soil so that they have a better chance of sprouting.
Is the Bermuda vs. Fescue Turf War Worth it?
While Bermuda is a great grass to have in the south, it can be a nuisance in more northern lawns. No matter what strategy you use, it can take years to get Bermuda grass out of your lawn. And keeping it out will take never ending diligence.
So is it worth it? Well, that really is up to you and how much time you want to spend battling. Ultimately the turf war can be won, but at what cost?
If you are a DIY gardener, then you may not have much difficulty handling the task on your own.
But if you want to hire a pesticide-applicator to do the work, it is going to cost a lot!
Whichever you decide, we would love to hear about it! Share the best photos of your lawn with us on Twitter @YourGreenPal.
Powered by Froala Editor