Get rid of the grass before gardening

I would like to expand our garden into a grassy area of our lawn. While I can rent a sod cutter to get most of the grass, what should I use to permanently get rid of the grass before I plant the garden this spring?

Thanks.

— Sid

You’re absolutely right to be thinking about getting rid of the grass.

Stripping the sod out with a sod cutter makes it look like the grass is gone, but if your grass consists of Kentucky Bluegrass, it will resprout from underground stems. Before you know it, your garden will be as full of grass as it was before.

The easiest way to get rid of the grass is to spray it before stripping it out with an herbicide containing glyphosate. Most independent garden centers carry a product called Kill-Zall that has glyphosate. This herbicide is absorbed through green foliage (that’s why you wait to strip the grass out) and is moved down into the plant to kill all of the underground parts.

The only problem for you I see is that you may need to wait to put in your garden until later in the spring. You want to spray the grass after it has started growing in the spring, usually mid- to late April.

You can speed things up a bit by watering the area well the first week of April. That’s before we usually get irrigation water, so it may mean dragging the hose out there and hooking it up to your domestic water.

Once the grass is greening up and growing well, and after you’ve sprayed, I’d wait a couple of weeks to give the herbicide a chance to move completely into the plant and to make sure that pretty much all of the grass is dead.

Once that’s done, strip the dead sod out, and you’re ready to get going.

You won’t be able to use the Kill-Zall in a vegetable garden. It’s not labeled for that use.

If you’re just planting flowers, you can use it.

You want to be careful to only spray the weedy grass and to keep it off of your desirable plants. This product doesn’t have any soil activity where it can be absorbed through the roots so it should be safe to use around existing ornamental plants.

In a vegetable garden, you have a couple of choices.

The first is to dig up the patches of grass that sprout up in the garden.

This is easier if you do a good job amending the soil by mixing in a good amount of compost before planting. Be consistent with it this year, and you should pretty much have the problem licked.

The second choice involves mulching.

Putting down a layer of mulch on top of the ground helps prevent weeds from sprouting.

Bluegrass is more tenacious than most, so I’d use a special method of mulching. Putting down a layer of newspaper is surprisingly effective.

What you do is to put down three to five layers of newspaper on top of the soil around your garden plants. You can wait to put it down after your plants are planted or the seedlings have emerged, just don’t wait too long as the grass will be more effectively eliminated by starting early.

You don’t want to put the newspaper over areas you’ve seeded. The seedlings won’t come up through it.

You also need to put a layer of straw, wood chips or compost over the newspaper. This protects the paper from drying out and blowing away as well as cushioning it so you don’t poke holes in it when you walk over the area.

This method isn’t perfect. There will be a few sprouts of grass that will make their way through. When that happens, use that first method I mentioned.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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