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There are some wetlands in our subdivision which are overrun with phragmites. Some of these have established themselves in our neighbor's backyard and now they're spreading throughout our lawn.

I've tried pulling a couple of them out, but they have these hefty runners under the ground and pulling them out (when possible at all) totally rips up the lawn.

This is our backyard. You can see the phragmites peeking over the top of the fence and shooting up in our lawn.

phragmites in lawn

Here is a closer view.

phragmites in lawn

What is the best way to get rid of these? The only thing I can think of is to mow them down (again) and apply an herbicide (RoundUp? Rodeo?) directly to the stems with a sponge brush or dropper so I don't kill the grass, and possibly to try to put a barrier along the fence (which would probably involve trashing the lawn).

As an additional complication, our yard appears to be poorly graded, so that corner of the yard is constantly soggy, which I'm sure the reeds love.

Does anyone have suggestions? How can I get rid of these?

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    Dig a hole in that corner of the lawn, plant waterlilies and flag iris? It will never make good lawn, and trying to convince it otherwise is a losing battle - might as well have a little pond there. – Ecnerwal May 1 '15 at 14:40
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Is there downhill gradient along that fence that leads to an area where the water can be discharged?

Dig a ditch to provide drainage, you need to drop the water table.

Face the neighbors side with at least 18" of a solid impervious barrier so the rhizomes can't penetrate and then dig the incursion out of your yard.

Otherwise as pointed out in the comment by Ecnerwal, create a decorative wetlands area and figure out how to put in a rhizome barrier to keep the reeds out of the rest of the lawn.

And thanks for the word of the day for what I've always called marsh reeds. Then there's tussocks and saw grass, at least you're not having to fend those off as well. If it gets damp enough, the horsetail starts to get hold as well.

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Yours does not look like a heavy infestation - yet. Mowing may not do much in this case as the shoots can be maintained from the neighbor's population. Manual removal will be a part of any management strategy, but this document by The Nature Conservancy lists some other tools that would be useful. I think the injection of roundup into the top of cut stalks looks promising - 90% eradication.

However any such efforts will be in vain if you don't block the rhizomes and stolons (which can travel more than 40'). The barrier method suggested above will be essential to permenant control.

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