Home Improvement Expert Danny Lipford

How to Control Wire Grass in Your Lawn

Wire grass overtaking a stepping stone

Wire grass overtaking a stepping stone.

Our farm in North Carolina is infested with wire grass – and I do mean, infested! It’s growing in the fields; it’s growing in the paths; it’s tangling in the grapevines; it’s everywhere! Next to the poison ivy, it’s probably the single most insidious weed we’ve got here.

Sometime back, I gave a cursory mention of wire grass in my article on How to Control Bermuda Grass, because, yes – botanically speaking – wire grass is an uncultivated form of Bermuda grass. But as someone who’s dealt with it in numerous yards in my life, I’m here to tell you that – metaphorically speaking – this stuff is the devil!

It grows right under garden edging. It grows right over landscape paper, mulch, gravel, sidewalks, and forgotten rakes. It even twines up into shrubs, where it reaches out to wave and laugh at you as you walk by. The roots are so deep that when you try to pull it, they break. And just when you think you’ve got wire grass under control, it releases seeds that fly into all the areas you just weeded. Remember my Weed-Proof Vegetable Garden? Well, it was – except for the wire grass.

Mowed wire grass lawn

When mowed, wire grass isn’t a bad looking lawn grass.

How to Deal With Wire Grass

Back in the heyday of tobacco farming around here, farmers didn’t mess around with wire grass – they would patrol their hundred-acre fields and hand dig every tiny sprout. They wouldn’t dare allow even one patch to take hold.

It’s one of those weeds that doesn’t respond very well to “cultural practices,” meaning that if you want to be rid of it, you’re going to need an approach just one step shy of nuclear annihilation. Wire grass has to be tracked down and either completely killed or completely removed, and that’s likely to need doing more than once.

Like other forms of Bermuda grass, wire grass turns brown during the winter, so you can easily spot the telltale patches in a fescue or bluegrass lawn. If you’re planning to dig wire grass up, it’s best to do it while it’s brown and dormant. If you’re going to spray wire grass, take note of the patches in your lawn, then wait until it’s green and growing.

Here are some tips on controlling wire grass in your yard:

  • Weed Killers: Routine weed killers are no match for wire grass. Believe me, I’ve tried, and it merely plays dead for a few days to gather its resources. If you’re going the spray route, I suggest mixing it double-strength and planning on 2-3 sprayings about 10 days apart. It will also need to be resprayed any time it comes back. If you’re planning to overseed with a cool-season grass, do your spraying in midsummer, so you can plant by fall.
  • Wire grass that hasn't been mowed

    Wire grass gone to seed.

  • Digging: To pull or dig wire grass, you’ll need to go several inches deep, to make sure you get ALL of the rhizomes. I’ve even heard of wire grass growing up to a foot deep, so be sure you get it all, especially if you’re coming back with expensive sod on top!
  • Solarization: For new gardens and flower beds, solarization can help give you a blank slate. Solarization involves covering the bed with clear plastic during the heat of summer, and leaving it covered for about six weeks to allow the sun to fry everything that’s growing underneath.
  • Raised Beds: If wire grass is a big problem where you live, I’d recommend not messing around. Plant in raised beds with edges at least 6″ to 8″ above ground level, and line the bed with two crisscrossed layers of landscape fabric before adding dirt. Dig up every blade of wire grass that sprouts inside the bed, as soon as you spot it.
  • Lawn Edging: To keep wire grass out of flower beds, edgings should be several inches above ground and buried several inches deep to help stop underground roots. Even with edging, you’ll need to keep an eye out for stray sprouts growing over or under the edging, as well as seedlings.
  • Grass Clippings: Don’t mulch wire grass clippings – you don’t want to spread the seeds around.
Holding a piece of wire grass

A long runner of wire grass.

Once upon a time, I made peace with wire grass. At that time, I had a large fenced in backyard with four dogs running around in it, and the wire grass was the only thing that stood up to their energetic paws. As they trampled the regular lawn grass, the wire grass crept out into its place, so I fed it, watered it, mowed it, and everybody was happy. It’s not a bad looking grass if you can keep it out of your flower beds.

And I must confess that I didn’t pull it out of my vegetable garden this year. With the garden completely surrounded by wire grass, it seemed like a losing battle. And for all my preaching, I’m really not much of a weeder either. The veggie plants did just fine, though by summer’s end the garden was a bit of a tangle!

Wire grass is one of those plants that you can either live with or fight with. But if you’re willing to take an aggressive approach and stick with it, it’s possible to keep wire grass at bay.

Further Information

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3 Comments on “How to Control Wire Grass in Your Lawn”

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  1. deborah Says:
    July 7th, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    My decision to let the wire grass grow was when I noticed that dove weed is not happy growing with wire grass and the latter won out. Thank God for that, for the dove weed is worse. Our horses will eat the wire grass also. However, I also have Argentine Bahia growing. That is, 80% Argentine Bahia and 20% wire grass are growing in 15 acres of pasture. My question is: Am I fooling myself thinking they can grow together (Bahia and wire grass) without wire grass over taking (hampering its growth) the Bahia. So far, for several years (at least 5), the Argentine has been content with growing with the wire grass. Actually ,the wire grass fills in nicely the gaps that mature Argentine Bahia leaves. Please advise. My goal is to keep the horses in edible pasture land and have a good grass crop each year. “It isn’t broke” yet. However, I still might still have to “fix it”.

  2. Michael Adler Says:
    December 27th, 2014 at 11:10 pm

    Please stop calling Bermuda wiregrass. Wiregrass is a completely different native bunch grass that occupies less than 1% of its former range.

  3. Therese Says:
    February 3rd, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for this article. You describe the behaviour of this grass perfectly. It is also the only article I could find about this grass, which is very difficult to eliminate (even in Australia). I just wonder where this grass originated from and what is its botanical name?

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