How to Kill Bermuda Grass in Fescue Lawns Naturally

From seed to fertilizer with dethatching thrown in, I’ve written at length about how to maintain a bermuda grass lawn. But what if the goal is to get rid of bermuda grass? What if you have a tall fescue lawn and your neighbor’s bermuda grass lawn is trying to take over?

In this guide, I’ll explore natural methods to effectively kill Bermuda grass from your fescue lawn, ensuring the health and beauty of your tall fescue turf.

Why it’s Difficult to Kill Bermuda Grass in Fescue

Having a lush and vibrant lawn is the dream of every homeowner. However, sometimes unwanted grasses like Bermuda grass can invade and take over a fescue lawn, causing frustration and a battle for control.

Bermuda grass is known for its aggressive growth and resilience, making it challenging to eradicate from fescue lawns. This warm-season grass thrives in hot climates, spreads through both seeds and rhizomes, and possesses a deep root system that allows it to withstand drought conditions.

Its ability to withstand various environmental factors makes it a formidable opponent when it comes to removing it from fescue lawns, especially if you want to do it naturally.

Can You Eliminate Bermuda Grass Without Hurting Fescue?

Yes, it is possible to eliminate Bermuda grass from a fescue lawn without harming the fescue itself. However, it requires a targeted approach and diligent maintenance, especially if you want to do it naturally – without using herbicides. With a little elbow grease and following proper techniques, you can successfully eradicate Bermuda grass while protecting the health and integrity of your fescue turf.

Feel free to skip down to the methods, but first it’s worth knowing some background.

Why Kill Bermuda Grass Naturally? Wouldn’t Chemicals be Easier?

Yes, using a targeted herbicide that kills bermuda grass and spares fescue would be easier, and, to be fair, you may end up having to use a little herbicide have such opting for natural methods to remove Bermuda grass from your fescue lawn offers several benefits.

Firstly, it reduces the risk of introducing harmful chemicals into your outdoor environment.

  • Natural methods are safer for children, pets, and other beneficial organisms in your yard.
  • Many people who tend a vegetable garden or fruit trees don’t like the idea of those chemicals being anywhere near the soil that touches their food.
  • Natural techniques focus on improving the overall health of your lawn, ensuring long-term success and sustainability.
Conventional gardening tools and over-seeding are good natural ways to eradicate bermuda grass from your fescue lawn

Is Bermuda Grass a Weed?

While Bermuda grass is not classified often as a weed, it can certainly behave like one when it invades and takes over other grass species, such as fescue. A weed is, after-all, any plant growing in an undesired location that is taking resources from plants that are desired. So in this case, yes, the unwanted bermuda grass is your fescue lawn is a weed.

Bermuda grass can become a nuisance. Its aggressive growth habits and ability to spread rapidly can hinder the growth and appearance of desired turf varieties. Therefore, it is important to take action to control its growth and maintain a healthy fescue lawn.

Is it Worth the Effort to Fight Bermuda Grass in your Fescue Lawn?

The battle between Bermuda grass and fescue turf can be exhausting, but it is worth the effort to reclaim your fescue lawn. Fescue grass provides a cooler and more resilient lawn, especially in shaded areas where Bermuda grass struggles to thrive. By eliminating Bermuda grass, you’ll enhance the beauty and functionality of your lawn, creating an ideal environment for outdoor activities and enjoyment.

If you just let the bermuda grass grow and do nothing about it, you’ll likely eventually have a bermuda grass lawn. It grows mush more aggressively than fescue and will take over. There are, however, some methods you might take to maintain a mix of the two.

Best Time of Year to Start the War

Timing is crucial when combating Bermuda grass in a fescue lawn. Remember, bermuda grass behaves differently in Texas than it does in Ohio.

Late spring to early summer is generally the ideal time to begin the process, as Bermuda grass is actively growing during this period. By targeting its growth cycle early in the growth season, you increase the chances of successful eradication.

However, it’s important to note that natural methods require patience and persistence, as they may take several seasons to completely eliminate Bermuda grass. Even after you’ve eradicated the bermuda, you’ll probably always need to keep an eye on it. I know, probably not what you wanted to hear.

How to Get Rid of Bermuda Grass Naturally

Now let’s explore effective natural methods to eradicate Bermuda grass from your fescue lawn. Depending on how much bermuda grass has infested your fescue lawn, it may be a tough battle that requires using all the methods below simultaneously. By combining different techniques, you can maximize your chances of success. Let’s dive in!

1. Use the Sun

Solarization is a technique that utilizes the sun’s heat to kill Bermuda grass. Start by watering the area thoroughly, then cover it with a clear plastic tarp. The trapped heat will increase the soil temperature, effectively killing the Bermuda grass and its roots. Leave the tarp in place for six to eight weeks during the hottest months of the year.

To minimize the potential negative effects on fescue grass during solarization, it is recommended to choose the timing carefully. Performing solarization during the hottest months of the year when fescue is less actively growing or entering a dormant phase can help reduce the stress on the grass.

Conversely, this is when bermuda grass is in its peak growth. Thus solarization at the right time will do more damage to bermuda grass than to the fescue. Be sure to monitor the soil temperature closely and adjust the duration of solarization to avoid excessive heat accumulation.

2. Cultivation with Garden Tools

Regular cultivation helps to weaken and control Bermuda grass in a fescue lawn. This method is most effective if you have noticeable patches of bermuda grass in your fescue that you can target. If it’s a big jumble of the two grasses, it may be challenging.

Use a garden rake or hoe to break up the soil and remove bermuda grass rhizomes and roots. Be careful not to disturb the fescue turf while doing so. Repeat this process every few weeks to disrupt the growth of Bermuda grass and prevent it from establishing a stronghold.

For stubborn patches of Bermuda grass, manually removing it with a shovel can be an effective method. Dig around the edges of the patch, loosening the soil, and then carefully lift and remove the Bermuda grass along with its roots. Take care not to disturb the surrounding fescue grass while doing so.

What Is the Best Tool for Removing Bermuda Grass?

A sharp-edged shovel or a turf knife is the best tool for removing Bermuda grass. These tools allow you to cut through the rhizomes and roots effectively. It also forces you to get up close to the bermuda grass giving you a better chance of eradicating all of it. Make sure to remove as much of the Bermuda grass as possible to prevent regrowth.

Old fashioned garden tools are the best way to naturally remove bermuda grass from your fescue lawn

3. Choking out Bermuda Grass Weeds

Another effective method to suppress Bermuda grass is by choking it out with the help of landscaping fabric or pieces of cardboard. Let’s take a look at both methods and effectiveness.

Using landscaping fabric

Lay down landscaping fabric over the affected area, ensuring it covers the Bermuda grass completely. Secure the edges with landscape staples. This barrier prevents sunlight from reaching the Bermuda grass, eventually causing it to weaken and die. Leave the fabric in place for several months to fully smother the Bermuda grass.

Using pieces of cardboard

Alternatively, you can cover the Bermuda grass with thick layers of cardboard. Wet the cardboard thoroughly and weigh it down with rocks or bricks to keep it in place. This method also blocks sunlight and deprives the Bermuda grass of the resources it needs to survive. Leave the cardboard in place for several months until the Bermuda grass has died off.

4. Aerate Your Lawn

Aerating the soil in your fescue lawn helps to improve its overall health and makes it less favorable for Bermuda grass growth. Use a core aerator to remove small plugs of soil, allowing air, water, and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the root zone. This encourages the growth of fescue while weakening Bermuda grass.

5. Overseeding

Overseeding is simply spreading new seed over an already existing lawn. After aerating the lawn, overseeding with fescue grass seed helps to thicken the turf and fill in any bare spots left by the Bermuda grass removal process.

Choose a high-quality fescue seed blend suitable for your region and spread it evenly over the lawn. Keep the newly seeded area consistently moist until the fescue grass becomes established.

Spreading new fescue seed on your lawn is an effective way to choke out bermuda grass

6. Mowing Techniques to Help Fescue and Hurt Bermuda grass

Adjusting your mowing techniques can give your fescue lawn an advantage over Bermuda grass.

  • Set your mower at a higher cutting height, around 3 to 4 inches, as fescue grass thrives with longer blades. This shading effect helps to suppress Bermuda grass growth.
  • Mow your lawn more frequently to prevent Bermuda grass from producing seed heads and spreading further.

7. Killing Bermuda Grass with Vinegar

Vinegar can be a natural and effective herbicide against Bermuda grass. Fill a spray bottle with horticultural vinegar, which has a higher concentration of acetic acid compared to regular household vinegar.

How Long Does It Take Vinegar to Kill Bermuda Grass?

Apply the vinegar directly to the Bermuda grass, ensuring thorough coverage. It may take multiple applications over a few weeks to see results. Be cautious when applying vinegar as it can also damage desirable plants, so apply it carefully and avoid overspray.

Horticultural Vinegar vs. Regular Vinegar. What’s the Difference?

Horticultural vinegar, with a higher concentration of acetic acid (around 20-30%), is more potent than regular household vinegar (usually around 5% acetic acid). The higher concentration of acetic acid in horticultural vinegar increases its effectiveness in killing Bermuda grass and other weeds.

Surfactants Enhance Vinegar’s Effectiveness

A surfactant, short for surface-active agent, is a substance that alters the surface tension of liquids, allowing them to spread more easily and interact with surfaces.

Dish soaps like Dawn can serve as non-toxic surfactant options due to their ability to lower the surface tension of liquids and enhance their spreadability. When added to vinegar, Dawn dish soap can act as a surfactant, improving the vinegar’s effectiveness as a weed killer.

The surfactant properties of Dawn help the vinegar solution adhere to plant surfaces, penetrate waxy cuticles, and maximize contact with the weeds, increasing the herbicidal activity. This combination provides a natural and eco-friendly approach to weed control, as vinegar is a non-toxic alternative to chemical herbicides, and Dawn dish soap is generally considered safe for the environment.

However, it’s important to use appropriate concentrations and follow proper application techniques to ensure optimal results and minimize any potential harm to desirable plants or the environment. 2 tablespoons of dish soap per gallon of vinegar should be sufficient.

A Helpful Video on Horticultural Vinegar

Bermuda Grass & Fescue: Is it time to Apply Chemicals?

Have you tried the above methods and are still at war with bermuda grass? Did you read everything above and want an easier solution?

If natural methods fail to control Bermuda grass in your fescue lawn, you may consider using selective herbicides specifically designed to target Bermuda grass while sparing fescue.

Herbicides that Target Bermuda Grass, Not Fescue

Several herbicides are available that selectively target Bermuda grass while being safe for fescue lawns. Below are some of the easily attainable herbicides available to you,

It is important to carefully read and follow the instructions on the herbicide label for best results. In most cases you’ll want to apply these herbicides in the heat of summer when the bermuda grass is actively growing and the fescue is entering dormancy.

It’s also often recommended to add a small amount of surfactant to the herbicides to help them adhere to the weeds and cause more damage. Here are a few examples:

  • Fusilade: Fusillade and it’s variations (II, DX, etc) is a family of post-emergent herbicides that effectively kills Bermuda grass without harming fescue. Follow the instructions for application rates and timing to achieve the best results.
  • Ornamec: Ornamec is another selective herbicide that targets Bermuda grass. Ornamec is the brand, the active ingredient is fluazifop. It can be applied as a spot treatment to control Bermuda grass while minimizing damage to fescue lawns.
  • Triyclopyr Ester: Triyclopyr Ester is a broadleaf herbicide that can be effective against Bermuda grass when applied as a spot treatment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application rates and timing.
  • Tenacity: Tenacity is another widely available herbicide that targets a wide range of weeds. It was designed to target broad leaf weeds so probably not the best herbicide for bermuda, but it is what a lot of people have around. I wrote a whole article on the effectiveness of Tenacity on bermuda grass if you’d like to check it out.
  • RoundUp: RoundUp is a non-selective herbicide that can be used as a last resort for severe Bermuda grass infestations. However, it should be used with caution as it can also harm or kill desirable plants or grass. Spot treat the Bermuda grass carefully and avoid overspray onto fescue or other desired vegetation.

There are others. I’ve read of success in bermuda grass eradication mixing fenoxaprop with triclopyr. Some swear by a mixture of triclopyr and the expensive herbicide, Pylex.


Now I’ll cover some general questions I’ve received from people trying to get rid of bermuda grass.

Is Baking Soda Good for Bermuda Grass?

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is often touted as a natural weed killer. While it can be effective against some broadleaf weeds, it is not particularly effective in killing Bermuda grass. I would not recommended as a primary method for eliminating bermuda grass from a fescue lawn.

Does Bermuda Grass Grow in Flower Beds?

Bermuda grass has a tendency to invade flower beds and other landscaped areas if not properly contained. Its aggressive growth and spreading habits make it a persistent weed in these areas. Therefore, it is important to implement measures to prevent Bermuda grass from encroaching on flower beds, such as creating physical barriers or regular maintenance.

How to Stop Bermuda Grass from Spreading?

Many homeowners have a bermuda grass lawn and just don’t want it to spread any further. Say, to a neighbors yard or flower bed. To prevent Bermuda grass from spreading into unwanted areas, you can take several precautions:

  1. Install physical barriers: Use landscape edging or barriers made of plastic, metal, or concrete to create a physical barrier between the Bermuda grass and other areas of your yard.
  2. Regular maintenance: Regularly inspect your lawn and garden areas for any signs of Bermuda grass invasion. Promptly remove any Bermuda grass runners or new growth that you spot.
  3. Mulching: Apply a thick layer of organic mulch around flower beds and garden areas. This helps to smother Bermuda grass and prevent it from establishing a foothold.

How to Get Rid of Bermuda Grass Runners?

Bermuda grass spreads through above-ground runners called stolons. They are annoying. But the good news is that they are easy to detect and therefor easy to eradicate. To eliminate Bermuda grass runners:

  1. Regular monitoring: Keep an eye out for any Bermuda grass runners or new growth in your lawn. Detecting them early allows for easier removal.
  2. Hand-pulling: Use your hands or a garden tool to carefully pull out the Bermuda grass runners, making sure to remove as much of the roots as possible.
  3. Spot treatment: Apply a natural herbicide or vinegar directly to the Bermuda grass runners to kill them. Be careful not to apply the herbicide to desirable plants or grass.

By following these natural methods and, if necessary, using targeted herbicides, you can effectively control and eliminate Bermuda grass from your fescue lawn. Remember to be patient and consistent in your efforts, as it may take time to achieve the desired results. With proper care and maintenance, you can enjoy a beautiful, weed-free fescue lawn that thrives and enhances the overall appeal of your home and garden.


Killing Bermuda grass in a fescue lawn can be a challenging task. They are both similar plants, afterall, so hurting one can often hurt the other. By opting for natural methods and practices, and atticking the bermuda grass at the right time of year, you can maintain the health and integrity of your fescue lawn while suppressing Bermuda grass growth.

I discussed various methods to control and eliminate Bermuda grass naturally, such as solarization, cultivation, choking out with landscaping fabric or cardboard, aeration, overseeding, manual removal with a shovel, and adjusting mowing techniques. These methods target Bermuda grass specifically while allowing fescue grass to thrive.

Additionally, I explored the use of natural herbicides like vinegar for spot treatments. Vinegar can be effective in killing Bermuda grass, although multiple applications may be necessary. We also addressed the use of baking soda, which is not particularly effective against Bermuda grass.

If natural methods prove insufficient, I discussed selective herbicides that specifically target Bermuda grass while sparing fescue lawns. Products like Fusillade, Ornamec, Triyclopyr Ester, Tenacity, and RoundUp (with caution) can be used as a last resort for severe Bermuda grass infestations.

Ultimately, the choice of method depends on the extent of the Bermuda grass invasion and personal preferences around use or non-use of chemicals. It’s important to carefully read and follow the instructions on herbicide labels and take necessary precautions to protect desirable plants and grass.

Remember, maintaining a healthy and beautiful fescue lawn requires ongoing care, including proper watering, fertilization, and regular maintenance. Incorporating these practices and following the strategies outlined in this guide will help you successfully combat bermuda grass and enjoy a lush and thriving fescue lawn that enhances the beauty of your home and garden.

Now it’s time to take action and reclaim your fescue lawn from Bermuda grass. With patience, perseverance, and the knowledge gained from this guide, you can create a lawn that you can be proud of. Happy gardening!