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Kill Grass in Flowerbeds

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Kill Grass in Flowerbeds

Foxtail Grass

Photo © flickr user lcm1863
A reader contacted me to ask about a common flowerbed problem:

“I live in western PA. I have a flowerbed in my lawn about 20 ft or so from my back door. I worked really hard at weeding it out and have planted several flowers so far this year. I have planted pansies, sweet peas, celosia, ageratum, marigolds, gomphrenas, catnip and, for the second year in a row, I planted morning glory seeds around the base of my bird bath and shepherd's hook. I also have a butterfly bush, bee balm, salvia, lavender and butterfly weed.”

“Now for my problem: it has been raining and raining and there is grass growing all around all my flowers. I still have some seeds I wanted to plant out there. I know I can get out there with a hoe and go at it where the seeds go, but how do I hoe up all the grass around all the other plants...especially around the sweet peas? My husband said I needed to spray the whole flowerbed with KleenUp, but how do you do that when there are perennials in there that don't even show up before the bed is being prepared? I'm afraid of digging up the flowers. I also have a hard time pulling them out; I'm 63 and I can't get up if I get down on the ground, so I can only bend over.”

Jamie responds:

KleenUp is a broad-spectrum herbicide, so it will kill any ornamental plant it comes into contact with as well as the grass and weeds. For grass growing in close proximity to ornamental plants, you can apply a selective herbicide that targets grasses, without harming your garden plants. Depending on your state’s herbicide restrictions, you may see different grass killing herbicides sold under the brand names Grass Beater or Grass-B-Gon. These herbicides will kill most annual grasses like crabgrass and foxtails, as well as perennial grasses like nimblewill, and quackgrass.

If you have perennial nutsedge, which you can identify by the small tubers in the root ball, you need to apply an herbicide specifically labeled to kill nutsedge. Nutsedge isn’t a grass, but rather is a member of the sedge family.

If the grass is close to, but not touching your garden flowers, you can place a cardboard shield between the garden plants and the grass and use a broad-spectrum herbicide on the grass. Do this on a calm day to prevent herbicide drift from damaging your flowers. For any garden plants that are still small, you can protect them with a bucket or large flowerpot.

Once you achieve control with the selective herbicide, prevent the grass from coming back:

  • Keep a three-inch layer of mulch on the garden to discourage new grass seeds from germinating.
  • Apply a corn meal gluten based product to prevent grass and other weed seeds from germinating. This also prevents flower seeds from germinating, so apply after your flowering plants germinate.
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