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I have an area in my front yard where I have a row of dwarf Buxus surround by a strip of decorative pebbles.

I layed down a sheet of lining to prevent the grass from growing through the pebbles, but this hasn't stopped it. Within six months the grass has taken over.

The grass can't be easily pulled up by hand. I've tried this, but it is futile. Say the area is about the equivalent of 1m2, it takes about a week to pull up a third of the grass and that still doesn't get the roots. This type of grass grows like a vine, not in clumps. A section easily breaks if you pull it and the roots and other sections are left in the ground.

How can I kill the grass without poisoning the plants?

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Would flame weeding work? Alternatively, would you be open to re-doing the area in a way that prevents weeds? –  bstpierre Oct 3 '11 at 23:56
    
Presumably the grass is growing over the pebbles? (we have creeping grass like this - and it is a pain) rather than up through the pebbles, and through your lining? Make sure the lining is above the soil but below the pebbles - so soil on the lining otherwise the grass will root in this. –  winwaed Oct 4 '11 at 2:50
    
@bstpierre - Flame weeding may be a consideration, not sure how safe that would be with the liner underneath? –  xiaohouzi79 Oct 4 '11 at 2:53
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@xiaohouzi79 Can you please post a photo of the area & maybe one showing a close-up of the unwanted grass (so we might try to identify it)... –  Mike Perry Oct 4 '11 at 3:11
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@MikePerry - But then you will see how bad my yard looks ;) I'll try and get one later today. –  xiaohouzi79 Oct 4 '11 at 3:19
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

A couple of suggestions based on the info you've provided.

First, you can try flame weeding. (If your liner is very shallow (sounds like it is), you may want to skip this -- or at least test a small area to see if it is going to melt the liner.) Read the directions! The objective is simply to scorch the leaves of the weeds so that it dries up and dies. You aren't trying to burn the weeds. It may take several passes over the course of a few weeks to completely kill it -- whenever you see new grass popping up, give it another scorch.

If that doesn't work, or you can't/won't try it, I'd suggest reworking the entire area. If you're only working with 1m2, it shouldn't be too bad.

  1. Remove the pebbles, save them in a bucket.
  2. Remove the liner, discard. (it probably has a lot of holes.)
  3. Dig out the soil under the area to a depth of 10cm. Save it to use somewhere else -- mix it into your compost pile if nothing else.
    • If you get to 10cm and still find roots from the grass, keep digging!
  4. Is the grass is creeping in through the edges? (I.e. does this grass live in your yard, and is invading the bed?) If so, you'll need to add some heavy-duty edging along the side of the area you dug out to prevent it from creeping back in. Find some that's the depth of the area you dug out.
  5. Replace the soil with a 5cm layer of coarse sand, followed by a 5cm layer of 7-12mm pea stone.
    • Tamp down the sand a bit (stomp on it with your feet, or use a shovel) so it is compacted.
    • For an area this small, you could consider putting an extra layer of liner between the sand and the pea stone.
  6. Put the liner above the pea stone.
  7. Replace the decorative pebbles you saved in a previous step.

I will freely admit -- this is overkill, and would probably be too much work for a large area, but for a small area with such an aggressive weed, it should do the trick.

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yeah for legal flamethrowers! –  wax eagle Oct 4 '11 at 15:40
    
Sounds like a do-over :( That's what I was hoping to avoid. Oh well. Hopefully I get it right this time with your instructions. –  xiaohouzi79 Oct 5 '11 at 1:21
    
You may want to post another question so you can ID the grass... maybe there's some alternative control that isn't quite so drastic. –  bstpierre Oct 5 '11 at 2:13
    
I'll just add that we have a lot of this creeping grass. Knowing it was a big problem, I was careful to get as much of the roots out as I could when digging out our xeriscape bed. Those roots do look like dead bits of grass/leaves/etc, but you need to get as much as possible. We still had some come up this year but not as bad as other beds have been (we didn't use the fabric except under the edging stones). –  winwaed Oct 12 '11 at 1:40
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