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Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

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Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  Jsisemore on 1/1/2011, 9:10 pm

I've done square foot gardening for a few years now. I'm quite frustrated with it. We live in a rural area and placed our boxes on "lawn" that's more like short pasture and a big mix of things along with grass. Well, even with very expensive weed barrier, TONS of Bermuda grass just grows right through, making a path for other weeds. Last year the boxes were just overrun. Our finances are such that I can't order a truckload of gravel to keep the boxes off any sort of grass or weeds. Any ideas on how to solve this problem?

Also, I've noticed that we have carefully calculated Mel's mix for the number of boxes we have. First of all, once the boxes are all full and watered, the mix compacts and we maybe have about 4" of soil to use. Secondly, I guess I assumed that once we went through the big expense of buying all the things to make the mix, we'd never have to replace it. Well, between wind, weeding and harvesting removing some, my boxes are at least half empty for the next season. I'm planting a garden to save money, and we've been without an income. I can't keep filling them up with expensive mix. Is there a better way to do this?

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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  boffer on 1/1/2011, 9:44 pm

Hi,

Welcome to the forum. After reading about everyone's epic battles with Bermuda grass last spring, I recommend bringing out the big guns! get that pesky wabbi It's a problem for a lot of folks.

There seems to be two solutions. Put everything you can find on the ground, extending 12 inches past the box sides. More weedcloth, plastic, roofing, plywood, cardboard, carpet, and anything else you can find free/cheap.

The other way is to get the box off the ground. Attach plywood to the bottom of the box and raise it up. Set it on rocks, blocks, bricks, firewood rounds, benches, tables, etc.

It's true that, mathematically, a 4x4x6 inch box will hold about 8 cubic feet of MM. Unfortunately, it does compact when watered, so 10-12 cubic feet is more realistic. That being said, a lot of stuff will grow well in a half filled box.

A good alternative to topping off the box with Mel's Mix would be to scrounge some cow or horse manure, preferably composted, to fill the box back up. It never hurts to add extra compost.
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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  camprn on 1/1/2011, 9:45 pm

glad you\'re here to the Forum!
As to your dwindling level of Mel's Mix, if it was me, I would top off the box with compost and mix it up instead of making a whole new batch of mix.

I don't have any experience with bermuda grass but I hear it is very difficult to remove. There are a few threads here that deal with it's eradication, but our search feature isn't the greatest. Click this ~~~> link for some eradication advice.

Last year I began a new garden in an area of established lawn. I decided to take the extra step of sodbusting where I was going to put my boxes and I am glad I took that extra step, I didn't have grass growing up even though I didn't use weed barrier.
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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/1/2011, 11:00 pm

My 2c without reading others' comments...

1- Mel says to add a scoop of compost after harvesting, mix it in, and replant. He does say you don't need to add peat moss, vermiculite, fertilizer, or dig in dirt again, but does tell you to add compost.

2- Along with the composting theme, have you thought of making your own? It's relatively easy, and without an income, it should be something considered. Get anal retentive about what you throw away. Several regulars here can recommend links about composting. THAT is your real money saver! You may be shocked at what you use everyday that, with a little effort, can be composted and reused over and over again.

3- If wind is a serious concern, you may be headed for hoops and covers to fight the erosion. Added investment, but it will help.

4- Bermuda grass is a real pain in the you know where. No doubt others feel your pain here. Consider raising your boxes off the ground a couple of feet. Concrete blocks are cheap, lumber can be obtained from construction sites, and many other things can hold your soil off the ground. That may be your best solution.

If you can't get those boxes off the ground, I guess you have to fight it manually. You are going to have to strip it back by hand about a foot or two away from the boxes. Once that is done, you will likely have to keep a very close eye on it. Those runners are sneaky. I would recommend creating a "slit" border and weekly running a spade through it to slice those runners off.

Hope this stuff helps. But, sometimes we have to get resourceful and creative when that money tree stops blooming. I can tell you that I have been forced to do things I never thought I could, too. Somehow we make it. Where there's a will, there's a way.
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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  Chopper on 1/1/2011, 11:38 pm

Bermuda grass is like nothing else on earth in its tenacity. There is no pretending you can just pull it out - it only make it happier and it comes back double.

Best bet: Take out boxes and save the MM. Check for any bermuda pieces and remove them. Spray the area around with roundup and when they start coming back spray again. I have used it successfully on bermuda grass. Then cover the area with weed cloth, plastic, newspapers or any other handy barrier. Then replace the boxes and fill with saved MM. Top with compost as per Mel's directions.

Alternately: if you have no veggies in the bed now, spray with roundup weekly. NEVER pull bermuda grass. Seriously - any little piece left in the ground will sprout. Try to leave a week between last spraying and planting of new veggies - use the bottle directions for a guideline. Spray leaves of bermuda with roundup anytime you see them raise their ugly heads. Eventually they will disappear.

For those who gasp at such measures, I am guessing you never had to get rid of it. I am a minimalist when it comes to herbicides and pesticides but I take no prisoners with bermuda grass - otherwise it will take me prisoner.

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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 1/2/2011, 1:19 am

Just like us here in the midwest with nutsedge. All hands on deck!
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Welcome!

Post  Megan on 1/2/2011, 5:11 am

Jsisemore,

I don't have anything to add on Bermuda grass (I guess I'm lucky not to have any practical experience with it), but I did want to say, welcome to the Forum! glad you\'re here

Mel's Mix does compact. Last year was my first year, and I did make a big effort to tap the Mix off the roots of the plants I harvested, and/or try to get most of it into the compost heap. (That started off with great enthusiasm, and dwindled as time went on.) But, here's the good thing: You can grow fabulous veggies even with just 4" of Mix, and my garden was proof of that. I agree with what's already said here that topping off with compost is just fine. Another idea is mulch. It helps to retain water and might reduce the wind erosion.
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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  acara on 1/2/2011, 8:43 am

LOL ...kinda funny to read this .... as we grow bermuda, on purpose down here, as an alternate to St. Augustine (SA is a water hog & chinch-bug bait).

Only way I've found to keep Bermuda where you want it (or dont want it), is a carpet underlay.

Easy and cheap ...... Apartment complexes at end-of-month are usually your best bet. They change the carpet with every new tenant & your usually welcome to haul off whatever you like if you ask politely.

One word of caution ..... hose it down well, or roll it up and soak it in a empty trash can overnight. Sometimes the carpet has residual cleaning products in it like shampoos or that sprinkle-on carpet deodorizer.

The padding works almost equally as well (with less chance of contaminates), but doesn't last as long.
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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  Chopper on 1/2/2011, 5:28 pm

@acara wrote:
Only way I've found to keep Bermuda where you want it (or dont want it), is a carpet underlay.
Easy and cheap ......

What a great solution! Especially if you spray with roundup before you lay it down. LOL Twisted Evil

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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  acara on 1/2/2011, 9:31 pm

Matter of necessity, from my previous hobbies ...

Bermuda peeking out of your SFG ..... bad

Bermuda (or other roots) growing/poking through the EPDM liner of your several-thousand gallon Koi pond/water feature ..... game over.

Carpets' the cheapest thing I've found that blocks just about anything from coming up (and still allows water through).
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Bermuda Grass-grrrr!

Post  ander217 on 1/3/2011, 10:39 am

Welcome to the forum, Jsisemore. Our garden is located in a former cow pasture, and we also have a Bermuda grass problem here. We didn't want to spray herbicides so we go a different route, but it takes much longer and involves a lot of work. (We have a large area to deal with.)

When we added a new area to our garden, the year before we intended to plant, we covered the area with about 12" of mulch. In the past we have used rice hulls, grass clippings (seed-free, of course!) and/or wheat straw. We then put a layer of black plastic over the whole thing, and let it cook all summer under the hot sun.

All of those materials have worked well at killing all of the grass, although the best was an 8" layer of rice hulls topped with about 8" of grass clippings. We had a giant compost pile cooking under the plastic, and the next year it raised some of the best tomatoes we've ever grown. (This was before we started SFG, and we just cut slits in the plastic and set out the tomato plants.)

When we placed our first long SFG boxes against the fence, we didn't even think about the bermuda grass problem, but it quickly became a problem. It grew through the weed barrier on the bottom of one of the boxes as if it wasn't even there.

We picked up that box and placed thick layers of newspapers under it. That helped, but more bermuda was still coming under the fence getting in between the box and the barrier. We kept piling straw on top of that grass, piling higher and higher, until eventually the mulch kept it under control. But still it kept trying to encroach under the fence.

Finally, last fall we spread our thick mulch all around the outer perimeter of our fence and covered it with black plastic over the winter. We shoveled on a layer of rice hulls for aesthetics, but they weren't necessary. We hope to find the soil ready for planting flowers and a few strawberries right through the plastic in spring, and we hope it will be easier to keep the bermuda grass out of the SFG by heading it off at the perimeters. We may have to pound strips of tin or some other metal into the ground at the edges of the outer beds to keep the underground runners from spreading below to the fence, but so far the thick mulch has worked well for us.

The only downside to it is that we have a vole problem, and they just love all that mulch. But hopefully, Juicy Fruit will control them. (It just doesn't seem fair to be blessed with both bermuda grass AND voles.)

Good luck in dealing with your bermuda grass problem, and keep us posted if you find something that works.

(Yes, Boffer, I know TTs would eliminate both voles and bermuda grass problems. I'm not sure why I can't get my head around going that route - it was hard enough getting this old row-gardener to completely embrace SFG. Baby steps, you know. But don't give up. I'm still thinking about thinking about considering them.) uphill and win
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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  boffer on 1/3/2011, 11:20 am

@ander217 wrote:(Yes, Boffer, I know TTs would eliminate both voles and bermuda grass problems. I'm not sure why I can't get my head around going that route - it was hard enough getting this old row-gardener to completely embrace SFG. Baby steps, you know. But don't give up. I'm still thinking about thinking about considering them.)

TTs are kinda like answering machines, microwaves, and cell phones. You don't realize how valuable they are until you get one! So why not do one 4x4, plywood bottom, set it on a table, and grow some greens and carrots. If you don't like it, take the plywood off at the end of the season, and put the box on the ground.



Let me tell you 'bout the old days when...
we used to do our gardening on the ground!
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thinking

Post  ander217 on 1/3/2011, 11:25 pm

Well, now, you've got me thinking about considering them. Of course, it's not just me but "HWMBT" (he who must build them) who also has to be convinced. I guess I could start sweet-talkin' him and see how the wind blows.

(Do you realize how long I fought against getting a microwave???)
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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  miinva on 1/3/2011, 11:47 pm

I would LOVE to have a TT or two! If only I remembered how to weld... I'll have to see if I can find a local craftsman who won't charge me an arm and a leg Smile I really, really want one that has a metal angle iron base.

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Re: Bermuda grass and Mel's mix questions

Post  boffer on 1/4/2011, 12:45 am

@ander217 wrote:...Of course, it's not just me but "HWMBT" (he who must build them) who also has to be convinced. I guess I could start sweet-talkin' him and see how the wind blows.



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