The Coastal Gardener: How to kill a lawn

September 10, 2010|By Ron Vanderhoff
  • In spite of many gardener's fears, lawns can be killed, even bermuda grass. You just need to follow a few rules and avoid some common mistakes.
In spite of many gardener's fears, lawns can be killed,… (Daily Pilot )

The lawn that just won't die! Surprisingly perhaps, that's exactly the fear that many people have when contemplating switching their lawn to something else.

We fuss and labor over our lawns. If we miss a watering, forget to fertilize or ignore our little green oases, we quickly see the outcome: browning, dieback, weeds, disease and so on. So, when the time comes, you'd think it would be easy enough to murder them.

Not so. Grass lawns, especially those in California, can be tenaciously persistent, refusing to die, returning months later to haunt the executioner. Even the idea of removing a lawn leaves many stricken with fear.

"It can't be killed," is the common conclusion.

"It will return", they continue, perhaps meekly at first, but then, when no one is looking, it will enter again, invading the new planted groundcover and twining through the young shrubs.

"Lawns can't be eliminated" is the common conclusion.


Maybe it's called devil grass for a reason? What your lawn may need is an exorcism of sorts. I've performed three devil grass exorcisms to date, each successful. I'm available for hire, but my price is steep.

Instead, I'll explain how to kill your lawn yourself, and be successful.

Almost all lawns in Southern California have some degree of warm-season turf within them. Bermuda grass, also called devil grass, is the most likely, but kikuyu grass and St. Augustine grass are also common. These grasses may have been planted or they may have invaded.

Either way, they should not be underestimated.

Because these creeping grasses are at their most active during the warm days of late summer and early fall, this is also the best time to kill them. Now through October is the best lawn-killing season in Southern California.

Surprisingly, the most important step in killing your lawn is to get it healthy first. This contradicts most people's common sense, but a sickly, under-fertilized, underwatered, unhappy lawn won't be killed. So, if you're planning on killing the lawn next month, start watering it now, twice as much, and feed it too. Get it lush and healthy first and your lawn will be much easier to kill — really killed.

In almost all respects I'm an organic gardener. But, for killing warm-season lawns nothing other than Roundup will work. Roundup, although synthetic, is a benign product, quickly breaking down in the environment.

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