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Organic Gardening & Living Advice

How to fight Bermuda grass in an organic garden
July 15, 2015
By Howard Garrett


Lara Solt/Staff Photographer DMN

Question: We have a community garden that is all organic. We have spent years pulling up Bermuda grass from beds and pathways and are trying to avoid Roundup. We have used the Avenger Weed Killer and 20 percent vinegar with limited success. Now a gardener wants to use salt or salt and vinegar. I am concerned about the effect salt would have in the soil, especially if it leached into our raised beds. Would you recommend this as a killer for the Bermuda? If yes, how should it be applied, what concentrate and what type of salt? L.M., Carrollton

Answer: Salt used in a strong enough concentration to kill grasses and weeds would definitely do harm to the soil. You might want to consider using the commercial organic herbicides Scythe Herbicide, Monterey or BurnOut.

Question: We are having the worst flea outbreak ever. My dogs never have fleas, but this year they are miserable. I am wondering if the nematodes we already had have drowned. Should we reapply?L.F., Dallas

Answer: Nematodes work very quickly to kill fleas and ticks. They are also very tough and durable, so the rain shouldn’t affect their efficacy. The heavy rains could have been a factor, so go ahead and reapply. Also look at giving the dogs the pills called Comfortis, sold by vets.

Question: My friend moved into a house three years ago. The previous owner had what they thought was the perfect chemically treated lawn. The concern is how long those chemicals linger in the soil, with the kids and dogs playing and rolling on the grass. Is there a natural way to flush the chemicals through the soil and have a safe place to play? L.G., Flower Mound

Answer: Applying the soil detox program right away is in order. The guts of the procedure are as follows:

  • Stop using the toxic products.
  • Apply a fine-textured activated charcoal or dry humate at 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
  • Spray Garrett Juice with 2 ounces of orange oil added per gallon of spray.

Find a detailed explanation of the process on my website: dirtdoctor.com/soil-detox-newsletter_vq4673.htm.

Question: Some type of skinny orange-and-black worm is eating all the leaves on my mountain laurels. What can I spray with?  D.H., Farmers Branch

Answer: Use one of the spinosad products like Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew. Next year remember to release trichogramma wasps when the new leaves start to emerge in the spring.

Question: Lightning knocked a strip of bark 5 inches wide off of our huge oak tree. How should I cover the bare wood? R.B., Boyd

Answer: It’s not crucial to cover the bare strip, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to slather Tree Trunk Goop on it. The good news is that when lightning damage is just a strip down through the bark on the outside of the tree, the damage to the tree is minimal. Lightning that goes through the trunk and blows the bark off like an explosion is death to the tree.

Question: I need to know what I can plant in my east-facing flower bed that is located against my brick home. The bed is 2 feet deep. Is there anything that can grow in light sun until 1 p.m. and not burn from the heat coming off of the house? Also, I need to know what will grow in nearly all shade. K.S., Granbury

Answer: In the morning sun situation, look at dwarf yaupon, dwarf Chinese and dwarf burford hollies. Dwarf abelia and autumn sage could also be considered. In the full-shade location, consider the various forms of aucuba, cast iron plant and the shade-loving ground covers such as ophiopogon, liriope, English and Persian ivy.

Question: In our community we encourage the use of drought-tolerant plants. We have naturally wet areas with high ground that keeps sidewalks wet year-round. Many address this problem by laying French drains. Are there plants native to our area that would consume large volumes of water? P.H., Frisco

Answer: All of the bog plants would fit into that category. Look at all of them but especially buttonbush and cyperus, which is also called umbrella plant. Trees to consider include bald and Montezuma cypress, dawn redwood and Drummond red maple.


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