The Q&A Archives: Turn My Lawn Into A Garden

Question: I am totally new to gardening. I'd like to plant a garden on the east side of my home in the back yard. The ground there is currently covered in bermuda grass. What is the best way to kill the grass and dig up the soil? My father suggested killing the grass with RoundUp. If there is a more ecologically sound solution, I'd rather persue that. Thanks for your help!

Answer: Welcome to gardening! If you can, find a friend, sibling, or even your RoundUp-ready dad, to help you with the ground-breaking. Make a party of it, like a barn-raising!

The ecologically sound options involve a lot more muscle and committment than using RoundUp (which you would have to use repeatedly anyway, because bermudagrass is so invasive and persistent). Bermudagrass is difficult to control, but by following these instructions, you can work around (I should say "through") it. If you start now, you should have the soil in good shape for a garden in a couple of months. According to Barbara Pleasant's "The Gardener's Weed Book," (ISBN 088266-921-4), the best way to deal with it is to first dig up as much of it as you can, removing as many root and shoot pieces as possible. Edge the area with 6" wide paving stones, and cover the area with clear plastic for 3-5 weeks. The hot sun will "cook" the root pieces that remain under the plastic so they won't resprout. When you remove the plastic, mulch with a thick layer of newspapers followed by straw or other organic mulch. The bermudagrass will probably find a way into the garden here and there, but the mulch makes it a lot easier to pull out. Keep things growing as much of the time as possible to compete with any lurking bermudagrass. Best of luck to you!

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