85b5b902a70ac8842dabcd35b490d8cf

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.

 

rvanderhoff

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 our lawns.

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, all successful. I’m available for hire, but my price is steep.

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

Killing a Lawn

Almost all lawns in southern California have some degree of warm-season turf within them. Bermudagrass, also called devilgrass, is the most likely, but kikuyugrass 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.

Since these creeping grasses are at their most active during the warm days of late summer and early fall, this is also the very best time to kill them. From now through the end of 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, under watered, 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 very benign product, breaking down in the environment quickly. But, don’t use the common Roundup herbicide that is seen so commonly. Instead, search for the more expensive Roundup Super Concentrate. The difference isn’t in the concentration, it’s that this version of Roundup doesn’t have the quick-kill “extra ingredients” that the common homeowner versions contain. These extra additives actually cause the active ingredient, glyphosate, to be less effective.

When time comes to spray the lawn, be sure that you’re using the right sprayer. A high quality hose-end sprayer is fine, so long as it mixes accurately and is designed for herbicides, not fertilizers. But it will be harder to contain the spray of a hose-end sprayer, so in tight areas with lots of desirable plants nearby you may want to use a good hand held pump-up sprayer.

Pick a warm day, but not blazing. Air temperatures in the upper 70’s or low 80’s are ideal. Be sure there is no breeze at all; you don’t want the Roundup to drift onto other plants.

Mix the Roundup exactly as directed. Don’t try to make a “super batch” by adding more Roundup than the directions say. This will backfire on you every time and instead of being a systemic herbicide, it will turn the Roundup into a contact herbicide. Contact herbicides simply burn the foliage, but systemic herbicides don’t, they are absorbed into the tissue of the plant and moved through the entire plant before they start their killing activities. That’s why they’re called systemic; they take longer to work, but the kill the entire plant, roots and all. Spray every blade thoroughly, applying the spray from opposing directions.

Now, turn off the irrigation system and just wait. The lawn will look the same for the first seven days or so and you’ll think you did something wrong. Be patient, a couple days later the grass will begin dehydrating. Within two weeks it will be straw brown and dead.

That’s it. You’ve completed a lawn exorcism. Aren’t you proud of yourself? Now you can rake off the dead thatch, rototill and begin your new garden – and the timing is perfect for the fall planting season. The following spring keep a squirt bottle of Roundup handy in case you missed a sprig or two, but your exorcism is complete. You’re now free.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar.

Questions from Readers September 11.

I need to prune some large pine trees on my property. When is the best time for this?

Joyce, Costa Mesa

Answer:

Pine trees in Southern California are often attacked by small wood-boring beetles. The most common species in our area are engraver beetles and turpentine beetles. They are tiny little insects, about the size of a grain of rice, so you’ll likely never see them. They feed under the bark of the tree and interfere with the upward movement of water and nutrients through the tree. Eventually, portions of the tree may dehydrate and even entire trees can be killed. These beetles are actually attracted to fresh cuts on pines. Therefore, in our area, restrict pruning of pines to about November through January, when the adult beetles are inactive.

Assembly_7-24-10_4

Plant Care Reminders

Lace Leaf Monthly Plant Care
Perennials Steve Brigham

Lace Leaf (Anthurium spp.) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Star Jasmine Monthly Plant Care
Vines Steve Brigham

Jasmine - Star (Trachelospermum jasminoides) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Plant Care Recommendations - Perennials…

21747 Mr. Mitch
Plant Care for Perennials in Zone 24
Do you live In coastal southern California? Do you grow any of these plants?

Camellias Planting and Care in southern…

25822 Walter Andersen Nursery
Camellia plant care
Camellias are native to Japan, China and Indo-China, where they grow on well-drained…

Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis) -…

9605 Lucy Warren
Passion Fruit Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Healthy Coastal Live Oak

Sudden Oak Death Found in Presidio National Park

SAN FRANCISCO — A coast live oak tree in Presidio National Park has been found infected with Sudden Oak Death (SOD).
Swarm of Bees
Habitat Gardening Ron Vanderhoff

As Busy as a Bee

Over the past few weeks we have had two or three honeybee swarms here at the nursery.

Take a Step Back in Time at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

6859
Arctostaphylos
Avid gardeners like to visit great gardens, wherever they may be.

If Your Orange is a Lemon, Listen to the Experts

4101
Citrus Tasting
Lance Walheim might be just about the smartest guy around when it comes to growing citrus…

Why Garden Peat Moss Free?

17010
Peat Moss Harvesting
What’s in the potting soil that you are using?

Plant Recommendations

Betty Rollins Oregano
Plant Recommendations Tom Piergrossi

Groundcovers - Southern California

Tom Piergrossi's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Groundcovers for Southern California.
Cuphea
Plant Recommendations Steve Brigham

Hummingbird Plants - Southern California

Steve Brigham's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite Hummingbird Plants for Southern California.

Ghost Plant - A Work Horse In My…

30034 Christiane Holmquist
Graptopetalum paraguay
I like to surround myself with plant “work horses” in my garden. My house sits on a…

Bromeliads - Southern California

10261 Ken Andersen
Ken Andersen's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Bromeliads for Southern California.

California Natives - Southern California

3808 jim threadgill
Jim Threadgill
Jim Threadgill's Top Plant Recommendations: Favorite California Natives.

Featured Plant Care

Rangoon Creeper Monthly Plant Care

Quisqualis indica (Rangoon Creeper) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Vines
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!
Shrubs for Winter Months

Cinderella Shrubs of Winter for the South

in Shrubs
Southern winters are short, and have plenty of camellias in bloom to delight gardeners…
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…
Rudbeckia Monthly Plant Care

Coneflower (Rudbeckia hirta) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Latest Articles

Edit Your Tagged Photos!

How to Edit or Remove A Plant "Tag" In Your Garden Photos

Instead of 'Tagging' your friends on Facebook, now you can 'Tag' your Plants in your…
Seed Starting

10 Easy Cut Flowers to Direct Sow

in Seeds
A cut-flower garden or "cutting garden" allows you to bring the beauty of your garden…
New Plants Added to Database and Tour cgm707's garden!

Do You Have Any Plants You'd Like Me To Add For You?

Our website has so much information being added and updated that I decided to post an…
Six things for your indoor plants during winter

Do These Six Things to Keep Indoor Plants Healthy During Winter

Winter has hit southern California along with the rest of the U.S. No polar vortex here,…

Popular Articles

Baseball Field Maintenance

Baseball Field Maintenance - A General Guide for Fields of All Levels

in Lawn
More great baseball field resources can be found here (including a pdf version of this…
Queen Palm Care & Use

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Microgreens

What are Microgreens and How to Grow Them

in Edibles
Microgreens are tiny leafed vegetables that are grown from seed and require very little…
Kahili Ginger Plant Care

Hedychium gardnerianum (Kahili Ginger) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

User Guides (Slide)

Popular Recommendations (Slide)