The Q&A Archives: A New Garden With Tilled Under Crab Grass

Question: I am stating a new garden and I hope I am not too late 4/30/00)!! It is an 8X24' garden that has been tilled under but I have crab grass roots about a foot deep. I have just spent 6 hours pulling the crab grass out by hand and I am only 1/8 done. There must be an easier way!! I read on your garden advice that covering the area with a black tarp would kill the grass. But will it kill the almighty crab grass root? I would rather not use chemicals.
Also, would you suggest I put compost and peat moss down before I put the tarp on or after?
crabby about crab grass

Answer: Crab grass is an annual grass and not deeply rooted the way you are describing, it also does not become evident until late spring. It is probable that you have some other weedy type of grass. Unfortunately, some of these are extremely difficult to control without chemicals, in particular an herbicide containing glyphosate applied according to the label instructions. To smother it, you would need to make sure the soil is moist, then cover it with either cardboard or five or six sheets of newpaper, then cover that with a heavy layer of mulch. Then you would need to wait for months until you are sure the grass is dead. Some grasses, however, particularly those with strong rhizomes, will survive this to come back and haunt you; tilling it breaks the rhizomes and creates a new plant from each little piece. The organic matter such as compost or peat moss should be added about two weeks or so before you plan to plant, otherwise it will be breaking down during the grass killing process and be of much less volume when you eventually plant.

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