Bad weeds - overseed or kill everything?

Kevin13March 29, 2014

I purchased a house that sat on the market for a while and the yard is overrun by weeds. I'd say its 90% weeds and 10% Bermuda. I live in San Antonio, Texas in the Stone Oak area. I basically live on a big rock and there is very little natural dirt here. The dirt in all the yards was hauled in during construction, so it's not very deep. You can only dig about 6 inches before you start hitting rock. That makes it hard for most grass to develop a root system. Also, we're usually on water restrictions because we don't get much rain here. During the summer, we're usually only able to water once a week. That's a challenge for a couple reasons. First, our yard is sloped and not flat, so the water runs off if you water too long. Also, since the dirt isn't very deep, it's also not advantageous to water for very long since it gets saturated fast. Ideally, I'd rather water for a short time every other day or so. I also have bad erosion for what it's worth.

My question is, considering how bad the weeds are, should I kill everything and start over? My other option is to haul in some dirt and seed some new Bermuda. I tried seeding last year without hauling in new dirt and the seed didn't germinate. I think the dirt is too hard and I didn't plant it deep enough. I know you just need to rake it in, but for whatever reason it didn't work. I didn't put down a pre-emergent this year so that wouldn't cause it not to germinate. I know it would be a lot of work to kill everything and haul it off to start over, so I'd rather try seeding first. But, if you guys recommend starting over from scratch, what do you recommend planting? Should I plant Bermuda again? If so, what strand for my area? I had St. Augustine in Dallas and it did really well, but got lots of rain there. I don't want anything that will require too much water here because of the restrictions. It would be nice to have something that would grow in the shade too. I've spent a lot of time, effort, and energy in my yard and nothing has worked. If it weren't so expensive, I'd kill it all and put in artificial turf! If anyone is able to offer any insight it would be greatly appreciated.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I have several thoughts.

Once per week watering is enough, especially for seeded bermuda. I don't have an automatic system so I got this programmable hose timer by Orbit on Amazon. From that I ran two hoses with oscillator sprinklers. If you're getting runoff and erosion there could be several issues. What kind of sprinkler are you using? If it is applying water too fast, then change the heads to low flow heads. A friend in Phoenix ended up with heads that shoot a single stream of water with almost no mist to finally get his water output down. The other issue could be your soil is not accepting the water (hydrophobic). You can fix this with (believe it or not) baby shampoo. Apply at a rate of 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet. Follow that up with 1 full inch of water as measured by empty cat food or tuna cans placed around the yard. Then a week later repeat the water only. A week after that repeat the shampoo and water. That should set your soil up to accept all the moisture you give it.

When you say you hit rock, does that mean solid rock or does that mean rocks which could be separated with a breaker bar and cleared out with a shovel? If you are on top of a giant rock, that's one thing. If you are on top of anything else, then the water will at least flow between the rocks.

If you are on a slope, could you bring in enough soil to make the slope less steep and build a retaining wall at the bottom to keep it from washing away? It still needs to slope away from the house but only at a rate of 6 inches down per 10 feet away.

You're in San Antonio. Our topsoil is mostly white, crushed, limestone, but it works well for St Augustine and bermuda.

Is there a reason you're going with seed versus sod? Bermuda sod is almost always TIF 419. It is a much nicer variety of bermuda than any seeded variety. How many square feet are you talking about? If it is 5,000 square feet or less, I would seriously consider renovating with sod. Bigger than that and sod gets very expensive.

You're not doing your bermuda seed right. First of all, wait until at least mid May for best results. Bermuda seed wants to be on TOP OF hot soil. DO NOT BURY IT. Scatter it on top of the bare soil and either roll it down or walk on every square inch of it. That presses the seed onto the soil so the soil will help keep the seed moist for germination. Then water very lightly 3x per day for a couple weeks until you have 80% germination. Then cut the watering to once per day for a week. Then cut the watering to every other day but go up on the time. You want the roots to start going deeper into the soil to get the water. After a week of that cut the watering to every 4 days and water a little longer. By this time you should know how long your sprinklers have to run to get a full inch. There is never any reason to exceed that amount. Eventually for the summer you will be watering one inch once per week.

Seed with a mixture of Yukon, Riviera, and Princess 77 at a rate of 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Best place to get seed happens to be in San Antonio. Douglass King Seed is not close to you. It is inside Loop 410 where I-10 EAST meets it going toward Houston. They are closed on weekends but their website is open at

Here are the general guidelines for bermuda as reinterpreted from The Bermuda Bible

Every month during the growing season
Fertilize with a high N fertilizer

Every week during the growing season
Water a full inch, all at one time
Mulch mow 2x at about 2 inches high

For your shady areas, the only grasses which will grow are St Augustine and Shadow Turf (a variety of fine bladed zoysia). Shadow Turf comes in plugs and can seem expensive. It spreads relatively fast and look nice, but it's still zoysia. If it gets any problems during the growing season, it will not recover until the following April. St Augustine has the issue of needing opposite care from bermuda. St Aug needs to be mowed at the highest setting and not fertilized nearly as much as bermuda. It also will spread out into the bermuda and thin it out. Would you consider mulch or flower beds in the shade? This is where landscapers can be a big help to you. A good one near you is Milbergers on Loop 1604 east of 281 at Bulverde Rd just inside the loop. They're not big on organics there but they have plants and sod - and they're close to you.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 6:24PM
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