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I have a flower bed with some ground cover, daffodils, tulips and a few shrubs. Lately grass has been growing pretty much everywhere, including through the ground cover.

I tried an herbicide called "Over the Top" which is supposed to kill grass without harming other plants, but its effects were pretty negligible.

Other than or in addition to pulling it meticulously, what's the best strategy to remove grass from my flower bed and then keep it from coming back?

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As Shane mentions in an answer below, it will be helpful to identify what kind of grass is growing. Controls might be different. –  bstpierre Jun 16 '11 at 2:19

5 Answers 5

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Unfortunately, the only effective means I've found of removing it without damaging nearby plants is pulling it up by hand. If it's so overgrown that the roots are intertwined this can be almost impossible. You didn't specify what kind of grass, but from my experience, Bermuda grass is very invasive and will spread like crazy...especially if you have some well tilled flower beds with good soil for it to spread into. Bermuda grass is hard to kill even with Roundup. If you are able to get it out, the best control method is prevention.

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Well, one good way to kill your lawn is to mow it extraordinarily low. The same principle can be applied in a garden to grass or any other weed with garden shears.

If you pester it enough, it may decide to stop growing.

The other option is more mulch.

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Mulch

There are many different ways to mulch.

I would put down several layers of newspaper. You will have to rip up the newspaper as required to get it to fit around the existing plants. Cover over any undesired plants. Then give the newspaper a good soaking to keep it in place.

Then cover over with a thick layer of compost. As this breaks down it will enrich the soil.

Then cover with straw, pineneedles, wood chips or whatever else looks good.

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I saw an episode of Ask This Old House where they were trying to remove long grasses that had grown into juniper shrubs.

Their solution was to use glyphosate (Roundup) to kill the grass, and then to add a steel edging barrier to prevent the grasses from spreading back to where they had removed them.

Glyphosate will kill any vegetation it comes in contact with, so they had the novel idea to use a paint brush to actually paint all the stalks they wanted to remove so as to not coat the existing juniper shrubs. They'd mentioned it may take a couple applications to kill all the grass.

Be sure not to do this on a windy day or some of the glyphosate may still come in contact with plants you'd like to keep.

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Edge your lawn by digging a trench. The edges should be defined as perfectly straight or if you are doing curves, keep the radius consistent until you change directions. If you use a string and stake, the stake is the center of your circle. That radius stays the same until you have to move the stake either outside your lawn or back onto the lawn. Doesn't matter what what the radius of those circles are, they shouldn't be equal and large, sweeping arcs will look more natural. If you have your stake in the lawn, you paint your arc along that circumference until you have to place the stake outside the lawn and draw a new arc. Then you'll keep going back and forth, inside the lawn, outside the lawn until you've connected with where you started. It looks more professional that way. After you are satisfied with where you want your edge, stand on the lawn with a flat spade and cutting through the edge of the lawn dig down at an angle about 4-6". Throw the soil back up onto your beds, picking out chunks of lawn.

The only mulch I use for ornamental plant beds and lawns is human sludge mixed with sawdust and completely decomposed. You will have to call around to find who in your area makes this mulch. It is called different names, the one I used was called 'Gro-Co'. This mulch is beautiful, fine textured, no lumps, sticks, rocks, no pesticide residue, no weed seed!, smells wonderful. If not, find another supplier.

It is a dark taupe color and feeds your soil organisms. Your plants will look healthier than ever (usually one week and the difference is remarkable)! Put it on 2" thick. As with any mulch/soil, keep it away from the base of woody shrubs and trees. If you have any shallow-rooted plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons...daphne, only put down 1/2 - 1" of mulch within the plant's dripline.

This will kill most weeds and prevent any weed seeds from germinating. If a weed grows through or a seed blows on top to germinate, they are very easy to pull out. Don't use any other barriers beneath this mulch as you want the organisms in the soil to be able to eat this stuff. They then take it down into the soil and poop it out, aerating and mixing organic matter into the soil with no effort on your part. You won't need anything else except this trench, a line trimmer and this mulch to keep the grass from germinating or growing into your beds.

Every year or two you will need to replace this mulch. It is disappearing into your soil, improving it! Healthy soil, healthy plants, less water and few if any, weeds! How can you go wrong...you'll still need to fertilize, but not as much. If you are good with a line-trimmer you won't need to re-edge your lawn.

This mulch is also great for your lawn. My supplier could blow this stuff on beds/lawns and really saved a lot of work. Although I have to say this stuff is light and fluffy and easy to work with.

Can't use it for the vegetable garden, sadly, as it is a little higher in heavy metals. Hope this helps...I've done this not only for my yards but for hundreds, maybe thousands of client's yards. I won't use bark, wood chips...I tell my clients if they want that, they can find someone else. If they already have bark, they have to allow me to remove it, especially if someone's put plastic underneath! I usually remove the bark and transfer it to their green-belt area where it works fine under established, native plants.

I want my projects successful and clients happy. That is how good this mulch is and I haven't found anything better, yet. Maybe this will help you!

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