Is your garden overrun by grass?

Many gardeners are very enthusiastic when they want to start a garden or a flowerbed. They envision their vegetable crops or flowers looking splendid without much effort once everything is planted and beginning to grow.
Alas, pretty soon life commitments take over and the garden gets neglected. After some time, many gardeners are faced with a garden that has as many weeds as it does desirable plants.
Soon what can happen is the undesirable plants will take over and choke out the desirable species.
It is important to maintain your garden with regular weeding chores. But if yours has gotten away on you, there is still hope of saving the good plants.
One of the worst garden weeds is grass, and often there are a few different species of grass popping up where it is not wanted in flowerbeds and gardens.
Grass can be persistent, but all is not lost. With a little hard work, you can get the invading grass under control and regain the beauty of your garden.
The first type you may have invading your garden is the grass from your lawn. If the edges of your garden are not separated from your lawn in some way, you will have your lawn growing right into your garden as time goes by.
The first step is to cut a clean edge all around the perimeter of your garden using a sharp shovel or edging tool. Make the edge about three inches back from your garden, allowing ample room for a space between the lawn and the actual garden.
This is best if it’s done first thing in the spring but if you didn’t do it then, you certainly can do it any time in the season. To make the work easier, make sure you do it after a rain so the ground is soft and easier to cut.
If you do not want to physically cut an edge each year, then install some permanent edging material to create a barrier between the grass and garden. You may choose plastic edging, rocks, bricks, composite materials, or a cement edging material.
The other type of grass that’s very aggravating to a gardener is quack grass. This grass can be hard to remove and will require hard work, but will be well worth the effort if you have an established bed or perennial garden.
Quack grass can quickly establish itself in a garden because it regenerates in two ways. The first is through seeds that are produced each year, which is why it is imperative to remove the grass before it produces seeds in the fall.
The second way is its ability to send shoots up from its root system.
If you look closely at the root system of quack grass, you will see a node every few inches. At each node, there is a bud that has the ability to produce a shoot.
This is why when you pull the grass out and get a long piece of the root, you may have another shoot attached to it.
If you have an isolated spot, or only a few spots, of quack grass, you may be able to use Roundup to kill the grass right in the garden. But follow the directions exactly and do not spray your other plants.
If the grass is throughout the garden, the best way to eliminate it is to pull it out by hand or with a thorough digging and removal of the root system.
Tilling is not recommended for quack grass because you simply will break up the roots of the grass. Then each one of those nodes will produce a new plant and a new root system attached to each new plant, so you actually will cause your grass population to multiply.
If the grass is caught up in your perennials, too, I recommend starting by digging up your perennials and removing all traces of grass from their root systems. Then set the perennials aside.
If you have to dig up your perennials, I recommend doing so on a cool, overcast day so the hot sun isn’t shining directly on the perennials you have dug up.
Also, you want the soil to be quite moist and friable so you can really get the whole root system of the grass and other weeds.
It is imperative that you remove absolutely as much of the grass root system as you can. Otherwise, just breaking off little pieces will stimulate the grass root system to produce shoots from those nodes.
Start at the edge of a hole you have made when you removed a perennial and work your way outward pulling the grass and roots out, loosening the soil around the roots as needed.
This is labour intensive but the more thorough of a job you do, the more successful your efforts will be.
Once you have removed all of the weeds and grass, you either can replant your perennials or treat the bed with a herbicide.
If you want to treat the bed with a herbicide, read the directions very carefully. Make a note of how long you have to let the bed rest after treating before you can put the ornamental plants back in.
Do not put the plants back sooner than the directions indicate or you could kill them as well as the weeds.
If you are going to apply a herbicide after weeding, I suggest putting your perennials in pots (or another garden) for the time they have be kept out of the bed.
That’s because they cannot have their roots exposed to the elements for more than a few hours (on a cool, shady day) or you will cause damage to the plants.
A good tip to keep in mind when replanting your perennials back in the garden is to thoroughly hose down the roots of each plant until all the soil is washed away. This will wash away any of the weed roots that may be tangled in the roots of the perennial.
Use cool, not cold, water for this. Swishing the roots in a bucket of cool water fairly vigorously will help, too.
Now that all of your hard work has paid off, you want to keep the grass away. If you realize you won’t be able to keep up with regular checks on the garden and weeding schedule, then you may want to consider installing mulch in your bed.
There are a variety of mulch products available—all with their own advantages and disadvantages—so this will be the focus of a series of some upcoming columns.
Just remember that if you install any mulch product, make sure you make a layer at east three-four inches thick in order to smother out the undesirable plants.
With some hard work, you can regain the beauty of your garden and send that grass packing. After that, regular maintenance and weeding will keep it looking good.
If you remove any quack grass as soon as it is a tender young plant, you will save yourself hours of work later in the season. The tender young plants are also much easier to remove.
Trust me, you only will want to do a major removal of quack grass once, so follow these tips and enjoy a grass-free garden.