How do you get grass out of your garden? Please tell us your tips!

grass growing among perennial plants
Grass is growing not just around this plant, but in between the stems, too. I may sacrifice some of the plant to get rid of the grass. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

A gardener recently asked me how he could get grass out of his garden beds.

It’s so difficult, he said, because when you pull up on the grass, you may think you’ve got it all, but the root just keeps going and going.

All I could do was commiserate.

I have stones lining my garden beds in an attempt to keep the lawn on one side and the garden beds on the other, but it doesn’t work. The roots sneak under the stones. And if a single grass seed blows in there, it can take over.

The hardest part for me is when the grass grows in between the stems of my perennials. It’s nearly impossible to remove the grass without destroying your perennial.

Many times I dig up a small part of the plant and remove all the grass, then replant it. I do that for other pieces of the plant until I run out of patience. Then I just get rid of the rest of the plant.

Is there a better way?

What have you tried? How do you keep grass out of your garden, remove it once it gets in there or deal with grass growing in the middle of perennials?

Please share your tip by leaving a comment below.

How to get your questions answered

Readers often contact me with questions that I can’t answer. I’m not a gardening expert– I’m a writer by profession. I interview knowledgeable people in order to provide you with great articles on Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com.

So when someone asks a question I can’t answer, sometimes I post the question and rely on my readers to share their expertise.

Sending a question to me to post can be helpful if you’re looking for a wide range of opinions and don’t mind waiting for the answer. If you want to try this route, email the question to me at connie@buffaloniagaragardening.com and I’ll pose it to my readers in an upcoming issue.

However, don’t send me questions:

  • To find out what is wrong with your plant
  • To identify a particular plant or insect
  • If you need an answer quickly

To find out specific information like that, ask the Master Gardeners with Cornell Cooperative Extension or turn to your local garden center. They can give you the information you need.

If you’re looking to buy a particular plant, it’s best to contact garden centers directly. Every garden center carries different items, and what it has in stock changes throughout the year.

To find contact information for garden centers, you can:

  • Click on any of the ads on the emailed version of the magazine or click on the ads here on the Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com website.  
  • The most complete list of gardening businesses is on our Gardening Directory.

And when you contact the garden centers, please let them know that you found them through Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com!

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28 Comments on “How do you get grass out of your garden? Please tell us your tips!

  1. I had a bed of pachysandra (SIC), and the problem was my neighbor’s dandelions and then grass embedded in it. I ended up cutting it down with a hedger, spraying it with grass killer and then letting the groundcover grow back. It worked for a while, but the problem is once a weed or grass seeds itself, it’s impossible. I ended up having the groundcover removed, and have replanted the beds with small shrubs and plants, laying down plastic and then mulch.

    If you’re not fussy, use a grass trimmer and cut it down every other week to the level of the groundcover, and at least it will be green 🙂 I couldn’t stand it and it wasted my time to try to bring it back. Good luck!

  2. I have found that applying Preen to the ground cover, in my case myrtle during the growing season cuts down the germination of those nasty grass seeds quite a bit. The remainder I must pull out in the Spring. Not fun, I know.

  3. Deeply edging your gardens can help. Also, keep the grassy area saturated with water for a day or so then pull it out. Better than trying to weed dry ground, but nothing will stop grass entirely since the wind carries the seed. I hand pull grass close to garden paths & stepping stones being sure to remove all seed heads before they self-seed.

  4. I purchased a young, but blooming deep purple lilac shrub at the Buffalo Botanical Gardens plant sale 2 years ago. Still no blooms and healthy leaves: anyone know why or have a guess as to how to get it to flower again? It is surrounded by Lily of the Valley…might that have any affect on this plant?

  5. Lilac needs a lot of sun to bloom well. Be sure it gets at least 8 hours of full sun where you planted it. If not, move it!!

  6. Wet a small cloth with Round-Up or other weed killer and “wipe” it on the grass blades wetting both sides. It sounds ridiculous, not to mention time consuming, but I tried it in a patch of low growing Sedum and it did a pretty good job of cleaning up the grass for a season. I wore rubber gloves and saturated the grass trying not to touch the good plants. Apply on a day with no wind and no rain predicted for at least 8 hours. The weed killer has to dry on the grass and eventually it kills the root. Now, I think Round-up makes a spray formula with a localized applicator that would work as well. I don’t use this routinely because I’m not crazy about using weed killer, but pulling grass out of sedum is a thankless task and this is the only thing I found that works at least for a while.

  7. My husband edges our beds with a flat blade shovel and that ditch-like border plus 3” of mulch on the islands and beds keeps weeds and grass from encroaching.

  8. No! No! No to those suggesting toxic (and cancer causing) weed killer/Roundup. It is easy to kill a large area of grass if it is in the sun. Cover it with a large black plastic (I use a shovel to press the edges into the ground around all the edges) and let the sun bake it for a couple weeks or more (depending on how much sun it gets…best to do this in July/August. When done, cut a around about 2′ from the edge and again seal that (now interior) edge into the ground all the way around and cover with mulch to make it look good. The next season, grass will eventually start crawling up onto the mulch, but it is easy to pull in the loose mulch. Of course, you will need to add fresh mulch after that. You could probably save that work by edging deeply between the grass and mulch each season, but I haven’t tried that yet. Preen on the mulch helps. Use the thickest, best quality black plastic you can find and it will lsat for years. If you can,t find good quality black plastic, after killing the grass with the cheap stuff, use a different thick plastic of any color for the edging. If you leave the black plastic on long enough in the dead of summer, all the weed seeds will die too. Works great. You just need sun.

  9. Persistence and patience. I try to stay on top of it like an earlier comment mentioned. When it gets out of hand I gather all of the determination I can find and just sit down and start digging. One small area at a time but eventually it’s done and is worth the effort. I will often use a long ‘dandelion’ weed puller to loosen the soil around the roots.

    I edge most of my gardens with 6″x 12″ pavers. Usually they do a good job of deterring the grass from getting through. If it does I just lift the pavers and the roots pull up easily. Also mulch, mulch, mulch. It keeps the soil moist and makes for easier weeding of all types of invaders.

  10. Carol, thanks for that info. Maybe in my toughest spots I should plant something different. I appreciate the suggestion!

  11. Lori, I know, I know! I’m usually better at keeping up with it, but this year we had so few nice days in April that I really let it go. Good reminder.

  12. Margaret, I agree. It’s important to get the grass out before it goes to seed. And yes, we can’t control the wind!

  13. There is a commercial product called GrassBGon that is selective and very effective, It only kills grass. It does require 2-3 applications.

  14. I’ve used it many times for grass invading a garden bed, and also on ornamental grass miscanthus, which can become enormous and impossible to dig out.

  15. I use newspaper 3 or 4 sheets thick. Wet down good. I spread ir all among the stems of goid plants to save and over spaces where weeds grow

  16. practice some preventive tactics by making sure when you mow the grass alongside your garden beds, the grass shoots out of the side of the mower farthest from the flower bed.

  17. I use a 4 to 5 inch deep edging buried around my perennial flower beds, That would help keep most of the roots from growing under the rocks or edging.
    I use at least 3 inches of mulch. We use a coarse mulch. When the roots grow in that they usually can just be lifted up because most of the roots grow in the mulch not in the dirt.
    We make our own mulch from the sticks we have around the property. That’s great if you have a shredder. We sometimes can get mulch from our town from the spring or fall pick ups they do. Check with your town to see if they offer free mulch. This has cut down the time I spend tidying up the flower beds. Hope this helps.

  18. Donna, I should try the edging. The mulching does help around the plants. I use chopped leaves. Thanks for the suggestions!

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