The war in our own backyards: Bermuda grass

Don’t be fooled by Bermuda grass. It may feign to be your ally but it is nothing but the enemy.

Bermuda tendrils are like alien probes/Ryn Gargulinski

Bermuda tendrils are like alien probes/Ryn Gargulinski

Sure, some may extol the grass’s seemingly stellar qualities. It can beat the heat and quickly blanket large bald areas of dirt.

Lowe’s even has several shelves of the stuff with only a scant selection of anything else.

But don’t get sucked in. You’ll regret it.

My house came with a yard full of Bermuda, looking snazzy, neat and green in mid-October. By winter it was brown and dead, as one of its sneaky ploys is dying off every year so you think you’re rid of it.

But by spring it was back – with a vengeance. The grass took off like a raging flame, promptly ignoring all decorative stone borders meant to keep it contained. It slithered over gravel, coated whole boulders and began a rapid ascent up nearby trees.

Bermuda sprouts long, evil tendrils – not unlike alien probes – with leaves that produce their own roots if they get near enough to the ground.

I think a tendril began to writhe through a bedroom window.

Bermuda grass/Ryn Gargulinski

Bermuda grass/Ryn Gargulinski

That’s when I declared war.

The war has thus far cost thousands of lives and hundreds of dollars. It’s been raging for three years now, nearly as long as World War II, although I’ve yet to use nuclear bombs.

That may still be an option.

My current arsenal consists of shovels, rakes, grass shears, clippers and ragged hunks of metal that never made it into artwork. A personal tiller joined the ranks because of its name, the Hound Dog. It is sharp enough to rip off toes for those dumb enough the landscape in flip-flops.

War tactics include the deep-shovel heave, the hand rake rip-out and the tiller assault. My kitchen funnel pinpoints specific areas in which to strategically stick fresh soldiers, a.k.a. new grass seed, in pockets beneath the clay. New battles are fought daily.

Enlistees come from all walks of life. Kentucky bluegrass. Fescue. A miracle mix “as seen on TV.” All grass blends promise to be 99.9 percent weed-free but for some reason all produce toadstools. I only care no mixes contain Bermuda. Even crabgrass has become my friend.

With two dogs and a big wide world out there, the new soldiers have plenty of enemies. Dogs Sawyer and Phoebe could be my ideal war machines, but they have sided with the enemy. Sawyer eats the roots off new recruits. Phoebe destroyed an entire young battalion when she dug deep right through them to bury a chew hoof.

Crows and doves come as death from above, swooping down to feast on fresh soldier seeds. Another large blackbird ripped up a troop to go build a nest. Phoebe chases nearby motorcycle noise across the backyard but pointedly ignores the birds.

Soldiers die off by the dozens. Some wither and brown when I forget to water. Others float sadly to their demise when I go inside and forget to shut off the hose. Still more succumb to bombings by the dogs with a toxic liquid.

Although I’ve gained much territory since the war began, it has seen its share of casualties. One of the most tragic was a poor baby lizard hiding in the path of the grass shears.

He was cleanly cut in half.

Yet he died a noble hero – fearless and noiselessly for the cause.




Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and Ryngmaster who spends her free time making art and fighting Bermuda. Her column appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski. Her art, writing and more is at and E-mail

Bermuda southeast war zone 2007/Ryn Gargulinski

Southeast Bermuda war zone 2007/Ryn Gargulinski

Southeast relcaimed territory/Ryn Gargulinski

Southeast reclaimed territory 2010/Ryn Gargulinski

wb-logolilWhat do you think?

What plagues your yard?

How do you get rid of it?

Have you ever battled Bermuda grass?

About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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42 Responses to The war in our own backyards: Bermuda grass

  1. leftfield says:

    Bermuda grass is truly an illegal alien in these here parts.  The legislature should look into this and do something. 

  2. Andrew Ulanowski says:

    Morning Ryn! I must say, what a funny article! As I have been doing property maintenance on desert landscaping these past weeks I am familiar with the varmint. I wish you the best of luck!

    C’est la guerre!

    • Rynski says:

      mornin’ andrew!
      glad the article made you laugh – thanks!
      i laugh in print but am dead serious out there daily in muddy slippers – hahahah. thanks, too, for luck with the varmint. it’s guerre, alright – une GRANDE guerre!

  3. azmouse says:

    My frontyard has been plagued with weeds this year from the recent rains.
    Less than two years ago, I had new plastic and decorative rock put out front. Obviously, the weeds mutilated that plastic already.

     The backyard has grass, which concerned me when I moved in because I try to be conservative with water use. It works out okay though, because I have to backwash my pool, so that helps keep the grass happy. 🙂

    other yolanda

    • azmouse says:

      By the way, Ryn, you need to post more pics of your backyard! I’ve seen bits and pieces, but I like the way it looks like you have it sectioned off. I need some ideas for mine!

      slayers booked

      • Rynski says:

        hi slayers booked –
        FOR SURE would love to share more pix of backyard. stay tuned!
        in the meantime, i did just add a facebook photo album on my RYNdustries fan page. “like” the page if you haven’t already and take a gander (open invite for all!)
        here’s the link to RYNdustries fan page, with the backyard photo album about two entries down:


      • azmouse says:

        That was a major sidetrack looking at all the pics on RYNdustries!! WOW! You are definitely a Jacqueline of all trades. You are truly an amazing artist and unbelievably versatile.
        I’m completely in love with that medusa tattoo…..

      • Rynski says:

        aww, thanks azmouse!
        yeah, the medusa tattoo is a good one – my friend magdalena wanted it for her back – i, too, was very pleased with what i came up with.
        the medusa voodoo scarecrow is a whole different medusa!

    • Andrew Ulanowski says:

      Dearest Yolanda,
      Backwashing the pool? Ewwww. No one likes backwash . . . bad enough in your soda but in your pool!?!
      And ‘happy grass’ . . . yeah sister, I know your type. Damn hippies!
      “Fizz” Ulanowski
      cohabit this

      • azmouse says:

        Dearest Fizz,
        Pool backwash is a cleanse and purge kinda thing…it’s beautiful!

        As far as ‘happy grass’, I never inhaled….KIDDING!! I’m the anti-drug queen!
        Sincerely, Yolanda

    • Rynski says:

      dear other yolanda –
      pool backwash seems like it would be healthy for growing things for some reason. and plastic ANYTHING gets so quickly mutilated. i got some of those chintzy solar lights with plastic casings. after about a year, some of them actually SHATTERED when i touched them from the sun damage (the peeps in the tree are coming along nicely, tho…will post update soon!)

      • azmouse says:

        Pool backwash is adored by my roses and orange tree!
        The lemon tree likes the rainwater that pours into it from the roof gutter thingy. Is that what it’s called…a gutter?

      • Rynski says:

        i knew some plants would love the backwash!
        you have gutters? i don’t even think i have them – thought they weren’t en vogue in az, kind of like basements – hahah.

      • azmouse says:

        HA! I do have gutters…but now that you mention it, and looking around, I’m not noticing any other houses having any. I’m not hip, I guess….but one gutter goes to directly watering my lemon tree, one goes to some bushes in the frontyard, and another two goes to the two different areas of the backyard that have grass.
        I love my gutters! haha

      • Rynski says:

        if your gutters are going towards a self-watering rain harvest system, then you are UBER-hip! and way ahead of us gutterless folks – hahah

      • azmouse says:

        I have to be gutter-ly honest…the house came with the gutters and their direction to the plants.

      • Rynski says:

        hahahah! you are still UBER-hip – and what a deal! i’d rather the house come with a rainwater watering system than bermuda grass!

  4. Rynski says:

    p.s. just posted a poll – forgot to earlier.
    p.p.s. yolanda is one of my favorite names.

    • Andrew Ulanowski says:

      cool, i just ‘found’ an old schoolmate, Yolanda V. from Illinois!

      • Rynski says:

        hahah – tell her i like her name.
        there was/still is? a lotto announcer in nyc named yolanda vega – she introduced herself with: this is yoLANda VEga. i used to repeat her name just for fun. that’s when i knew i had to get a life.

  5. andrew says:

    You city folks are just plain silly, fightin’ a weed. let it grow and have the best grass in town, stop the murder of innocent grass. Or I could loan you a hen or two, they’ll eat the bugs and your mean ole’ grass. I could be a chicken renter before Lefty thinks of it. Chicken time-share. The way of the future in dealing with bermuda grass. Sulfurs the

    • andrew says:

      Ryn, Have you heard of a “Chicken Tractor”? beyond bacillus

      • Rynski says:

        hiya sulfurs the beyond bacillus!
        if you change the chicken idea to goat rental, you’re on! i miss my goats and they would eat the bermuda. but they’d also eat the fescue. and the bluegrass. and the jasmine. and the palm trees. and the artwork….
        i’m scared to ask about a chicken tractor…

      • leftfield says:

        Andrew definitely has an entrepreneurial mind.  I believe a “chicken tractor” is a sort of a mobile home on wheels for chickens.  You move it around on a regular basis, giving the chickens the opportunity to forage in new areas for insects, worms, plants, etc, while also allowing to them to leave their little “poultry pearls” behind to nourish the landscape.  Having them in an enclosure at the same time protects them from predation while they work their magic.  

        This all works because chickens have a communistic relationship with their environment and their caretakers.  Unfortunately, among themselves, they can often behave like Wall Street bankers: greedy, selfish and indifferent to the needs of others.  Thus the need for the dictatorship of the chicken farmer and a regimen of strict discipline when dealing with the paragons of poultry perfection.        

      • Rynski says:

        “paragons of poultry perfection!” – you win the cool phrase of the day award!
        the chicken tractor sounds quite cool, actually – do they ever come out of the trailer thing or do they stay inside to graze, simply removing the trailer bottom?
        i’ll order two of them to prepare my yard for the incoming zoysia – but only if they stay in the trailer or sawyer will eat them.
        glad to hear you found communist pets to suit your tastes!

  6. Randy says:

    zoysia grass will help with the battle.

  7. zemer says:

    no grass in my yard…only rocks. This time of year I spray weeds once a week then things slow down until the monsoons hit and the weeds start popping up again.

    • Rynski says:

      hiya zemer,
      rocks are a very good way to go. i may have stuck with that option if the grass had not come with the house. but i must admit my dogs ADORE the grass – even when they are very busy killing it! hahaha.
      you are a true xeriscaper, for sure!

  8. Brenda Nelson says:

    You’re trying to grow grass in southern Arizona?  And Kentucky Bluegrass, of all things?  Have you not heard of the water shortage?  Hard to believe, since you work for a newspaper.
    Here’s how you manage the Bermuda:  (1) First you leave and move to, say, Indiana, or some other state that has plenty of water; then (2) You plant your Kentucky Bluegrass or whatever, and you won’t have to battle Bermuda ever again.
    Alternatively, you stay here, rip out your lawn, and xeriscape your property.  That would be the ethical thing to do.

    • Rynski says:

      dearest brenda/boggleblink,
      alas, i have indeed lost sleep over the unethical practice of having grass in southern arizona – but i could not bring myself to be rid of it once i saw how much my dogs reveled in it. rolling on their backs on sharp, hot gravel, they tell me, is just not as much fun.
      besides, the grass patch is rather small and does provide an enjoyable playground for butterflies, gnats and baby lizards – provided they don’t get in the way of the grass shears.
      as for the seemingly eternal water shortage, that issue will soon also be addressed once my shipment of the low-water zoysia arrives and my home is outfitted with the rain harvesting gutter system enjoyed by loyal reader azmouse.

      • azmouse says:


        Although I felt guilty watering my grass, which I did when I first moved into my house 6 or so years ago, between the gutter system and back-washing the pool, I realized over time that I really didn’t have to water much. My roses take more water than my grass.

        I also find that the joy my dogs have rolling in the grass, sunning in the grass, or me and my dogs just laying in it together, on top of my cats daily outings with me into the grass is well worth the maintenance. My water bills remain well under a hundred dollars a month in the summer, even with the pool and two kids I have here with me. I don’t think that’s bad….

  9. Veganman says:

    SPIDER MITES!!!!! I am going insane (well, actually…..LOL!) trying to control these pests. My trees, patio plants, fruit trees, everything.
    I don’t want to hose my “almost organic” world with poison, but the daily spraying with water isn’t working well.
    I’m probably going to order some beneficial insects from Arbico. (It’s always good to support local businesses.)
    Hopefully a couple hundred thousand green Lacewings will do the trick. My only fear is that they will turn on me when I release them. 🙂

    • Rynski says:

      hahah! here’s hoping no insects turn on you upon release – and good luck! i don’t dig poisons, either, so good for you on organic solution.

  10. Alex says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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