In order to expand our garden, we needed to kill the Bermuda grass and then add raised beds. In this post, I share each step of our project — from killing the Bermuda grass (without chemicals) to deciding what to plant. All the resources we used are listed here too.
Don’t let fear of Bermuda grass ruining your garden keep you from starting a vegetable garden. Learn how to kill Bermuda grass organically, and add a space for growing vegetables to your yard.
How to kill Bermuda grass before planting a garden: Our backyard makeover in 10 steps
Step 1: Make a plan
Decide how much of the Bermuda grass to kill. In our case, we still have children at home who play in the grass so we left an area for them to use.
Adding a border like this concrete curbing helps designate each space in the yard.
This article “10 Tips for Designing Raised Bed Gardens” may help as you make a plan for your new garden space.
Step 2: Remove Bermuda grass
Once we knew where the new garden area would be, the next step was to kill the existing Bermuda grass. We did this project in the spring while annual rye-grass is growing and the Bermuda grass is dormant.
Although the roots for Bermuda grass can go more than a foot deep, most of the roots are in the top 6 inches of soil. Removing several inches of the grass will help keep the Bermuda grass under control when it comes out of dormancy this summer.
Using a sod cutter rented from Home Depot, we cut off the top layer of the Bermuda grass. We then rolled it and gave it to someone who was adding grass to their landscape.
Step 3: Install watering system (part 1)
With the Bermuda grass cleared out, we made a final plan for where we would place the raised beds by cutting weed cloth into the size of the raised beds and arranging them.
We tried out a couple of different orientations before settling on where we would locate the beds.
Once we knew exactly where to install the raised beds, it was time to lay the ground work for the irrigation system. Because the area we were using has a sprinkler system, we converted one of the sprinkler heads to a drip system. (The remaining heads were either abandoned or capped off.) From this drip line, we ran a main drip line between where the beds would be and then branched off the main line into each of the raised beds.
Step 4: Lay landscape fabric to kill the Bermuda grass
Adding landscape fabric on top of the soil as an additional barrier to help kill the Bermuda grass is an important step.
Look for a permeable landscape fabric that will let water, air, and nutrients get to soil, rather than a plastic type that repels water.
Cut the landscape fabric to size and then hold it in place with landscape staples.
Step 5: Add raised bed gardens
We assembled the raised beds and put them in place. I use these Deep Root Cedar Beds from Gardener’s Supply in my garden. Read my review of them here.
Step 6: Layer cardboard in beds to kill Bermuda grass
The garden beds and watering grids came in large cardboard boxes which were perfect for layering in the beds as an additional barrier to kill the Bermuda grass.
Step 7: Add soil mix to beds
My favorite soil mix for raised beds is a combination of compost, vermiculite, and peat moss.
You can read more about “The Best Soil for Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening” in this article.
Step 8: Add wood chips between the beds
A layer of wood chips on top of the weed cloth between the beds helps keep the Bermuda grass from coming back. The wood chips also give the garden a complete, finished look.
We used brown wood chips from Home Depot. You can also get wood chips for free from ChipDrop.com.
Step 9: Install watering system (part 2)
I attached watering grids from Garden in Minutes to the irrigation lines we fed into each bed. The watering grids provide consistent and even watering, and divide your garden for square foot gardening. Best of all, they are simple to install. Adding a control valve in the line helps control the pressure to each bed.
Step 10: Plant your garden
The hard work is done, and now for the fun part — planting. Use a planting guide meant for your area, and add seeds and transplants to your new garden.
I planted roselle hibiscus, sweet potatoes, squash, beans, Malabar spinach, luffa, Armenian cucumbers, tomatillos, zinnias, sunflowers, basil, and more in my new garden beds.
Monday 3rd of April 2023
How has this held up years later? Any break through Bermuda into the garden space?
Tuesday 4th of April 2023
It's been great - the first year I had a couple places come through where there were gaps in the weed cloth. Now if I come across the weed cloth in areas I pull it up - no need anymore. No Bermuda in the beds at all.
Monday 19th of September 2022
This is great! Very helpful. Thanks for sharing the steps both with pictures and wording. I do best when I can "see", on that note "seeing" your new shade a few weeks ago helped me to design mine similarly. Found someone to help us with the metal poles, but with my HOA I couldn't go as high as yours. The pictures of the steps has my husband on the right path for final instal. Again, THANK YOU!
Monday 19th of September 2022
Wonderful! So glad it was helpful. Best of luck with your garden.
Monday 23rd of August 2021
I’m not a fan of weed cloth. I prefer using just the cardboard even though it MIGHT need to be redone after a number of years. We are currently struggling with a large property covered in weed cloth that is now tangled with vinca, weeds, and tree and shrub roots. It’s terribly hard to pull up! That said, since you ended up covered your whole area, why did you cut the cloth into pieces under the planting beds instead of just laying it down as solid sheets across the whole area, overlapping each section a bit?
Monday 23rd of August 2021
Good point about the weed cloth. It's hard to come up with that much cardboard at times. As far as cutting it - I also used the cut weed cloth to finalize my design. I wanted to play around with placement and weed cloth was an easy way to do that without moving heavy beds around.
Thursday 25th of June 2020
Nice! Best of luck with your space.
Saturday 2nd of May 2020
Nothing gets rid of the invasive grass and weeds. I have tried everything. I am pulling weeds every 2 weeks.
Sunday 3rd of May 2020
Bermuda grass is tough. My areas with weed cloth are Bermuda free. However, any spots that I missed laying cloth down now have Bermuda grass growing in them. I'm going back and layering more weed cloth and cardboard.