Caring for Your Bermuda Grass Lawn

Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass was brought to North America over a century and a half ago from Africa and India. But the very fine turf-type varieties found on most properties today are very different from the original species. It has been cultivated to produce the fine, dense grass we have today, capable of withstanding very low mowing heights. New customers with thin or bare spots will often ask us if they should seed their Bermuda lawn.

The answer is no! The Bermuda grass grown from seed simply will not match the cultivated variety in your yard. Bermuda grass spreads aggressively. Given the right amounts of sunlight, water, nutrients and care, those spots should fill in on their own.

Sunlight

Sunlight is one of the most important factor in achieving a healthy Bermuda lawn. Bermuda is considered a warm-season grass. As such, it requires plenty of sunlight. At least 7 hours a day of full sunlight is recommended. Even shaded areas behind trees or between houses that would otherwise be considered full sun can contribute to thinning of Bermuda grass. Recent varieties of Bermuda grass have been developed that require less sunlight. Unfortunately, some have interpreted this as “shade tolerant” Bermuda grass. Beware. These varieties still require at least 4-5 hours of direct sunlight. When it comes to Bermuda grass, there is no such thing as too much sun.

Watering

When out of dormancy (when green and actively growing), Bermuda typically requires 1 inch of water per week. During very hot weather, Bermuda may require as much as 2 inches per week. During times of extreme drought, Bermuda grass will go dormant. Think of dormancy as a type of hibernation. This is a survival mechanism. People often think their grass has died. When ample rainfall or water returns, the Bermuda will green-up and resume growth, provided it is in the warmer months. The soil should be well-drained. Standing water is harmful to your Bermuda grass. Address drainage issues to alleviate standing water. Core aeration can help compacted soil.

Remember, infrequent, deep watering is better than shallow, frequent watering. A good way to determine an inch of water is the tuna-can trick. Place an empty tuna can in an irrigation or sprinkler zone. Turn the water on and take note of how long it takes for the can to fill up. You now know how long you need to run the irrigation to get an inch of water. The time of day you water or irrigate your lawn is important! Irrigation should be done early in the morning rather than in the evening. Evening irrigation increases the chances for fungal diseases.

Mowing

Your Bermuda lawn should be maintained at a height between .75” and 1.5”. You must cut the grass frequently enough that no more that 1/3 of the grass blade is removed in one cutting. Always use a sharp blade. A dull blade tears the grass blade rather than making a clean cut. This not only makes the tips appear brown, but provides an entrance way for pathogens.

In the spring time, typically in late March in North Georgia, you should set your mower on its lowest setting. This is called “scalping” the lawn. This will make it easier to maintain the proper height throughout the growing season and help your lawn “green up” faster. Unless the lawn has been neglected and the Bermuda grass is tall, bagging should be avoided. Following the above instructions and allowing the clippings to return to the lawn returns nitrogen to your lawn.

Weed Control

The Southeast United States is blessed to have two seasons of weeds: Summer weeds and Winters weeds. Most of us our more familiar with summer weeds such as crabgrass and dandelions, but winter weeds such as Annual blue grass and Henbit can be just as bothersome. Crabgrass and Annual bluegrass (Poa annual) are particularly troublesome because they can displace the Bermuda grass, stealing valuable nutrients from your lawn. Once established, these weeds can be difficult to eradicate. That’s why Turf Masters provides four pre-emergent (weed prevention) application rounds per year. Two in the Spring and two in the Fall. These pre-emergents act by preventing weed seeds from rooting in the soil and are effective on a broad variety of weeds. Newly sodded lawns require a special type of pre-emergent that prevents weed seed from sending up new shoots. While this type of pre-emergent does not prevent as many types of weeds, it is very good at preventing grassy weeds and will not harm new sod. This product is not available without a special license. Should you decide to try to do your own weed prevention, always read and follow the label instructions.

We can’t prevent all weeds. So when one of our Route Managers treats your lawn he or she will spot treat any existing weeds.

Fertilization

A Bermuda grass lawn is a high user of nitrogen. That’s why we provide plenty of high-quality nitrogen as well as other nutrients throughout the year that your lawn needs. But be careful. Fertilizers containing high percentages of nitrogen can “Burn” or “Streak” your lawn when misapplied.

We use commercial-grade spreaders calibrated for the products they are using. These fertilizers contain a large percentage of sulfur-coated urea (SCU) which is a slow release form of nitrogen to prevent damaging your lawn and to constantly release nutrients between applications. Additionally, our Route Managers receive ongoing continuing education on the best way to apply these products.

Should you choose to do it yourself, we recommend you choose a slow release fertilizer as well. Always read and follow the product label.

Core Aeration

Core aeration is an important and often overlooked cultural practice in achieving the best from your Bermuda lawn. Core aeration is the process of removing thousands of “plugs” (about the size of a wine cork) from your lawn. This process does many things:

  • It loosens the soil providing better oxygenation.
  • It drives root depth helping your lawn better tolerate drought.
  • It allows granular fertilizers to better incorporate into the soil.
  • It helps with drainage and helps prevent Dollar Spot.

But because Bermuda grass spreads by special surface roots called stolons, these stolons are often cut during the process of core aeration. When they are cut, they multiply, helping your lawn grow thicker, faster.

Nutrients

The soil throughout much of the Southeast is considered acidic or low on the “pH” scale. For optimal results, Bermuda grass requires a more neutral pH of at least 6.5. For this reason, it is recommended that granular lime (a calcium-containing material) be spread across the turf to raise the soil pH toward a more neutral or alkaline level. Turf Masters typically does this on warm-season grasses like Bermuda and Zoysia grass in the early Fall.

Disease, Insects & Fungi

Disease/Insects
Compared to other turf grasses used in the Southeast, Bermuda grass is relatively trouble-free. Below are a couple of the most common problems encountered.

Dollar Spot
Dollar Spot is caused by fungi. Symptoms begin as small white or beige circular spots 1 to 2 inches in diameter. Eventually, these spots will grow together and form large, unsightly patches several feet across. The disease is more severe on Bermuda grass lacking nitrogen. Heavy thatch and improper irrigation also promote Dollar Spot. Fortunately, fungicides are rarely needed. Proper nitrogen levels, irrigating in the morning hours, mowing at the right height and controlling thatch will generally correct the problem.

Still have questions about your Bermuda Grass lawn or want to learn more about how we can help?

Contact Us

770-659-7362