Orchard grass, while having many good uses, makes for a rapidly spreading and stubborn weed. Once orchard grass starts growing, it doesn’t take long for it to shoot up and out, quickly becoming an unwelcome, and rather demanding, guest in your garden.
If you’ve got a patch of orchard grass that has outstayed its welcome, rest assured that it is quick and easy to kill orchard grass and that it won’t cause any damage to the rest of your grass or plants. The best part? It’s so easy you might not have to leave your house!
What Is Orchard Grass?
Orchard grass is a cool-season, perennial grass native to North Africa and Eurasia. It was introduced to North America in the 1700s and is widely cultivated throughout much of the world.
Not inherently an evil plant, orchard grass is often used in the production of pasture and hay forage for the purposes of feeding livestock because of its natural ability to produce nitrogen, which enhances the soil. Farmers also like orchard grass because of its compatibility with alfalfa and other legumes, which increase the nutrient content in orchard grass when grown alongside it.
Orchard grass is also a great form of erosion control in areas of woodland that have been logged or burned, because of its thick root systems. It’s extra helpful because it establishes early and is eventually replaced by native species.
Why Is Orchard Grass A Problem?
However, if you are not in the business of feeding livestock or controlling soil erosion, the positives of orchard grass probably aren’t of much use to you (unless you read these posts for fun). For homeowners, orchard grass is more noteworthy for being a giant and stubborn nuisance.
If established outside of its native area, its hardiness and rapid growth are the perfect combination for displacing local vegetation. At that point, it is considered a weed and is an invasive species.
But – wait a minute – you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the right culprit before you go around killing random bunches of grass.
What Does Orchard Grass Look Like and Where Does It Grow?
Orchard grass grows in bunches up to forty-seven inches tall. Its flat leaf blades can reach up to twenty centimeters in length. Said leaves are tapered with a V-shaped base. Some orchard grass leaves also have a wheat-like stem at the top of the blade.
It is common in the northeastern and north-central United States and grows naturally in the following areas:
savannas, woodland borders, wasted areas, thickets, fence rows, old pastures, and orchards.
Orchard grass can also grow in the western United States, in states with high rainfall. In the west, orchard grass can be found in areas that used to support sagebrush, grass, pinyon-juniper, ponderosa pine, aspen, and Douglas fir plants.
It is one of the grasses that pops up earliest in the year, achieving the bulk of its growth in the cooler seasons, and it grows in many weather conditions, with the ability to tolerate extremely cold weather (as low as negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit).
How to Kill Orchard Grass
Once you are certain you have correctly identified the orchard grass, through whatever means necessary (probably google images), it is time to get rid of it, once and for all. Every great rivalry has to end sometime.
Unfortunately, just pulling it out of the ground isn’t going to work. The roots run too deep and the orchard grass will more than likely grow back with a vengeance. (If you’ve ever tried to get rid of a weed, you probably know that already).
What about herbicides? Shouldn’t those keep the orchard grass away for good?
Herbicides definitely seem like the most obvious option and are probably the first thing that comes to mind for homeowners on a weed-killing mission. But herbicides should only be considered if you’ve got a massive infestation of orchard grass because they might work a little too well and end up other killing areas in the rest of your lawn or garden, as well as the orchard grass.
This is obviously not ideal and, if it ends up being the route you take, you will have to be selective of the herbicides you purchase and careful with their application, so as to avoid any collateral, garden-related damage.
Fortunately, there is another fruitful, non-toxic, (and very, very cheap) solution. If you’re lucky, you might be able to get started straight away, without visiting the grocery store!
The first step to killing orchard grass is to take a spray bottle and fill it with undiluted, white vinegar.
The second step is to completely cover the orchard grass with the vinegar spray. Don’t be stingy: for every square foot of orchard grass, you should plan on using two cups of vinegar. This is why it’s important to use a spray bottle because you want to target the orchard grass directly. While a minor amount of vinegar is not going to kill the rest of your lawn or garden, it is best to be careful and spray only the orchard grass.
Lastly, once you have fully saturated the orchard grass, you must not rinse it. It will dry within half an hour and within two days it should be dead. If two days have passed and some of the orchard grass has survived the vinegar spray, repeat the process until all of it is dead.
Orchard grass is a tall, perennial grass that grows all over the world and is extremely cold tolerant. Though it has useful applications, like erosion control, producing nitrogen, and feeding livestock, orchard grass is a nuisance to most homeowners because of its penchant for kicking out other vegetation when it moves in.
Good thing the vinegar solution used to kill orchard grass is easy to apply, non-toxic, and super effective. Repeat applications should get rid of any stubborn bunches of orchard grass, and there should be no need to resort to using herbicides, which might do as much harm as good.