886b4391ef8b32eb668da1fb1ec5bde1

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

Purple Caribbean Copper Plant Monthly Plant Care
Shrubs Steve Brigham

Caribbean Copper Plant - Purple (Euphorbia cotinifolia var. Atropurpurea) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

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

Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

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

Rose (Rosa hybrid 'Home Run') - Monthly…

1704 Proven Winners
Rose Monthly Plant Care Midwest
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Peach (Prunus persica) - Monthly Plant…

1835 Coastal Sage Gardening
Peach Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Aloe spp (Aloe) - Monthly Plant Care…

10789 Solana Succulents
Aloe Monthly Plant Care
You can have these monthly Plant Care Reminders sent directly to you each month!

Gardening Articles

Carol Mccray
Landscape and Design Carole McCray

Gardening on Paper

The glossy garden catalogs have begun to arrive in the mail. Perusing these publications can be a bright note on a cheerless winter day.
Patrick Anderson
Expert Bios Patrick Anderson

Patrick Anderson - Southwest

Region: Southwest

Want More Birds in Your Garden? Add Water

3954
DIY Bird Saucer
I’ve probably never met a gardener who didn’t also enjoy the delightful sounds and sights…

Julie Plath - Southwest

15757
Julie Plath
Region: Southwest

Chris Greenwood - Southwest

9649
Chris Greenwood
Region: Southwest

Plant Recommendations

Dudleya pulverulenta
Plant Recommendations Dave Ehrlinger

Fire Safe Plants - Southern California

Dave Ehrlinger's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Fire Safe Plants for Southern California. 
Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'
Plant Recommendations Tiger Palafox

Flowering Perennials - Southern California

Tiger Palafox's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Flowering Perennials for Southern California.

Bulbs - Southern California

5238 Ron Vanderhoff
Oxalis ambigua - photo by Ron Vanderhoff
Ron Vanderhoff's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Bulbs for Southern California.

Water Plants for Containers - Southern…

3715 Julian Duval
Julian Duval
Julian Duval's Top Plant Recommendations: Water Plants for Containers in Southern…

European Fruit Trees - Southern…

9011 Richard Frost
Anna Apples
Richard Frost's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite European Fruit Trees for Southern…

Featured Plant Care

Citrus & Avocado Tree Guide

Citrus & Avocado Tree Planting and Care

in Edibles
Citrus and Avocado trees are well adapted to most areas of San Diego County, from the…
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…
King Palm Plant Care

The King Palm (Archontophoenix) Care & Use

in Trees
Jungle Music Palms and Cycads is a family owned and operated business established in 1977
Oranges Monthly Plant Care

Oranges - Sweet (Citrus sinensis ) - Monthly Plant Care Calendar

in Edibles
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…

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)