Let's face it if you spend more then twenty-four hours in your front yard landscape in Huntsville, Alabama; you are going to find some Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass can be very invasive and painful to get out of your garden beds. We get this question a lot; "Does weed paper get rid of Bermuda grass?"
We here at White Shovel are always studying low maintenance gardening and landscape methods and how they apply to the landscapes in Huntsville, Alabama. One of the tests we ran was on Bermuda grass.
We took an area of grass that was rich in Bermuda but had a lot of weeds in it as well. It was essential to have an area with other weed type grasses to balance the test.
Most weeds will die if you smother them, or keep them away from the sunlight. So, what we needed to know was what would Bermuda grass do.
Weed fabric, or landscape fabric, often used in landscape beds under mulch to keep weeds out, is often resorted to when putting in a new landscape. As such, we wanted to know what the best landscape fabric would do to Bermuda.
To complete our test, we made sure we had a good sunny area, and the Bermuda grass was well established. We then wanted something to represent the most robust landscape fabric. We didn't use real landscape fabric as we were attempting to smother Bermuda grass completely.
Using a twelve by twelve blue tarp, we carefully spread it over the area. Then we dumped ten yards of mulch on top of it. We didn't want to take any chances of any light getting through the tarp, and we also wanted to make sure the tarp was pressed hard down on the Bermuda grass.
Next, we waited!
While we are waiting, let's back up.
When you are prepping the soil for the installation of a new landscape, it's essential to remove the Bermuda grass from the area altogether. We use a sod cutter, which eliminates a top layer of soil that contains the roots of the Bermuda grass. We then use a heavy mattock to chip out the remaining roots around the edges.
The importance of this removal process came to light when we removed the tarp after a month.
As the team carefully shoveled all the mulch off the tarp and pulled it away from the surface. We weren't surprised to see what appeared to be dead Bermuda grass. But as we looked much closer, the grass had last it's color, and was rapidly growing toward the edges of the tarp. It's growth patterns were going wide, looking for light. That's why when you put down landscape fabric over Bermuda grass, you will eventually see the grass growing out the top of your bushes and shrubs.
The next thing we did is let it sit for a week. Within two weeks, the grass was greener than ever, and all the weeds had died.
In the end, what you want to take away from this is a good lesson. Don't lay landscape fabric down over Bermuda grass if you are planting plants. It can be instrumental under pathways where you are not cutting holes in the material for plants. But in beds, you need to remove the Bermuda before putting down your Landscape fabric entirely.
We recommend not using fabric whatsoever, as this makes maintenance difficult, and stops the mulch from breaking down into the soil.