Bestlawn Bermuda Guide
Maintaining a Bermuda lawn is a very simple process that doesn’t require a lot of work to have a nice thick lawn. Bermuda grows very fast and aggressively during hot weather and will fill in a lot of bare spots if maintained correctly. The most labor-intensive part of caring for Bermuda is mowing in the heat of Summer. Bermuda also needs a regular supply of food to look its best.
When the weather starts to warm up and it is getting in the 70’s and 80’s during the day, you will start to see little specs of green grass in your lawn. This is the time you will want to start to mow. You will want to scalp the lawn as low as your mower can go without the blade(s) hitting the soil and bag all the clippings. This may require you to make several passes over the same area and gradually lower the height as you go to make it manageable. If you happen to hit the soil in a spot or two, you will be fine, as the Bermuda will fill back in. All the dormant top growth is dead material and needs to be removed as the new growth comes from the rhizomes that are under the ground. Scalping helps the Bermuda green up faster due to the fact that the soil is darker and absorbs more sunlight, which heats the ground better since there is less leaf material shading it. Hybrid (sodded) Bermuda will grow best at 1 inch and below. Anything above 2 inches and the grass will get leggy and thin. Seeded Bermuda can be maintained anywhere between .5 and 2 inches depending on the variety.
Fertilizing should be done after you have scalped and bagged all your clippings. It is recommended that you have a soil test done before you apply fertilizer. You can go to www.loganlabs.com and get one done for $25. Directions for taking a soil sample can be found in Posting Soil Interpretations. Once you get the results, post them in the Soil Management forum at www.aroundtheyard.com to get your recommendations. If you choose not to get a soil test done you are at your own discretion to use whatever you think is best. You will want to use a good slow release fertilizer (25-75% slow release) with a high Nitrogen number. Apply .5 to 1.0 pound of nitrogen for every 1K square feet of lawn every 4-6 weeks. To figure how much Nitrogen to apply see the Notes at the bottom of the article. The condition of your lawn will determine how much nitrogen you should apply. If you are maintaining a mature lawn, in good condition, you will want to go with the lower end of the Nitrogen recommendation. If your lawn is thin, and needs to fill in, go with the higher end recommendation.
Watering should begin after the scalping and fertilizing has been completed. Start off by watering around 1 inch a week. In the early Spring you will not have to water as often until the temperatures start to rise and then adjust your watering from there. If you have to break your watering up into 2 applications of .5 inch each time that is fine depending on your soil and irrigation system. You will also want to avoid any runoff you might get from your soil on a steep hill, so you may need to cycle your irrigation to give time for the water to sink in. If you don’t know how much water your sprinklers are putting out you can test them with several straight-sided containers like tuna cans. Run your sprinklers for 10 minutes and then measure how much water is in the cans and multiply by 6 to get your output per hour. 1 inch a week is just a guideline. You may have to use more or less depending on your soil type and the weather in your area.
After you have scalped your lawn is a great time to put down a pre-emergent herbicide like prodiamine or dimension. You need to apply the pre-emergent before soil temperatures reach 55°F. You can use a cheap instant read digital meat thermometer or when the forsythia/dogwoods/Bradford pear trees start to flower. Just follow the instructions on the label to get the desired results. For any post emergent weeds you can use most weed killers you find at the home improvement stores. There are generally two kinds of weeds, broadleaf and grassy, which will require two separate weed killers. Be sure to read the label to ensure they are safe to use on Bermuda grass. One word of warning is that almost all the weed killers you can buy at the big box stores are NOT safe to use above 85°F. Celsius herbicide is the only weed killer currently safe to use above 85°F and will kill BOTH broadleaf and grassy weeds, plus it works better the hotter it gets. It can be found at John Deere Landscapes and online for around $85-100 for a 10 oz. bottle. Don’t let the high price fool you as that 10 oz. will last you forever and will actually cost you less in the long run over the “name brand” stuff in the big box store.
Maintain your fertilizer applications of .5 -1.0 lb. of nitrogen per 1K square feet every 4-6 weeks during the Summer months.
This time of year will require you to mow a minimum of at least twice a week depending on the height of cut you are maintaining your lawn. You should only be removing 1/3 of the leaf blade at each mowing. So if you are mowing at 1 inch you would want to mow once the lawn is at 1.5 inches. If you are mowing at less than 1 inch, it may require every other day mowing, as Bermuda tends to grow really fast once the temperatures are in the 80’s and 90’s. If you are mowing with a rotary mower you may start to get “crop circles” which are brown circular areas after you mow. If this happens you will need to raise your mower a notch or two to prevent this from happening again. The Bermuda WILL recover in a week or two from any damage.
During the Summer months it may require you to water more than 1 inch a week due to the heat and soil conditions. If your lawn starts getting dark green/gray spots, it is signaling that it needs water. Bermuda will go dormant if it doesn’t receive enough water during the heat of Summer but will return to green once sufficient irrigation has been applied. See the notes section below for pictures of drought stressed Bermuda.
You may apply another application of pre-emergent to prevent further weeds from growing. Follow the label instructions. For post emergent control of weeds your only 2 options are to use Celsius or hand pull the weeds since most of the name brand weed killer from the big box stores can only be used at 85°F and below. A healthy and thick Bermuda lawn will do most of the work for you by choking out the weeds since there will be nowhere for them to grow.
FALL (September- November)
As the temperatures start to fall you will want to make your last fertilizer application approximately 1 month before your first frost date. First frost timing information can be found on the Internet or possibly by forum members living in your area. You want to make sure the lawn has enough food reserves to help protect it during the winter months. Usually after the first or second frost of the year your lawn will start to loose some color. It may also get a tiger stripe look, but will eventually turn brown, which means it has gone to sleep for the year. No need to apply any Nitrogen after this happens since the Bermuda can no longer use it.
Keep maintaining your lawn at your current height until it goes into dormancy for the year. The thicker your lawn is, the more protection it will have from any extreme cold temperatures come Winter.
You may be able to cut back on the watering once the temperatures start to cool down, as your lawn will hold water longer due to the cooler temperatures. Still try to maintain 1 inch of water per week or water when your lawn tells you if it needs it.
Now is a good time to put down a good application of pre-emergent to keep winter weeds at bay. Be sure to follow the label instructions so you are not applying more than the yearly-recommended amount. Spring and Fall are the two main times of year for weeds to grow vigorously. For post emergent control you can use any of the available weed killer products that are safe for Bermuda as long as the temperatures are below 85°F during the day.
No Nitrogen fertilization should be done while the lawn is dormant since the Bermuda will not use any Nitrogen at this time. If you have a soil test that recommends adding Phosphorus or Potassium you can add those at this time as long as your soil is not frozen. Any Nitrogen in the fertilizer will be wasted.
You should not need to mow while the lawn is dormant, but you can still mulch leaves and debris with your mower. Just be sure not to set your mower too low, as you don’t want to remove any leaf tissue at this time.
You may need to water occasionally over the Winter if you have not received any precipitation and the weather is warm and dry/windy. You still want to maintain adequate soil moisture during the Winter to keep the roots moist and also help protect it from freezing temperatures. Moist soil takes longer to freeze than dry soil does. Under normal conditions, dormant Bermuda rarely requires irrigation.
If you have not applied a pre-emergent weed control, it is still not too late to do so as long as your soil is not frozen. Follow label instructions. For post emergent weed control you can still use the name brand products from the big box stores since your temperatures most likely will be below 85°F. You CAN use Round Up on dormant Bermuda, but you need to make sure it is COMPLETELY dormant before spraying or you will have dead spots come Spring time. It is not generally recommended here due to the fact that you may still damage your lawn. Use at your own risk!!!
- To have a healthy and beautiful stand of Bermuda it is HIGHLY recommended to get a soil test done at www.loganlabs.com for $25 and post the results in the Soil Management forum at www.aroundtheyard.com/soil/. It will be a well spent $25 since you will not be applying anything to your lawn that you do not need and can end up saving you money in the long run. Refer to Posting a Soil Test for instruction on how to collect the soil sample.
- By using a straight Nitrogen fertilizer all season or using one with a little P and K for ONE of your apps during the season, you will just be maintaining what you have.
- After the soil test has been interpreted, you may be instructed to perform a “Remediation Regimen” for your soil. This generally is a program that takes 1-3 years to correct deficiencies in the soil, and may modify the fertilization programs listed above. Once the deficiencies have been addressed, you will move to the standard “Maintenance Regimen” specified above.
- Adding lime to your lawn should only be done after getting a soil test to determine if your pH needs to be adjusted. There are different lime types, and your test interpretation will specify which is best for you, if lime is required.
- For any insect or disease issues you think your lawn might have it is best to start a thread in the Warm Season forum www.aroundtheyard.com/southern/. Since there are too many variables when it comes to these situations it wouldn’t be feasible to put general guidance in this article.
- To apply 1 pound of Nitrogen over 1K square feet of lawn, you need to take the first number of the fertilizer's nutrient analysis and divide it into 100. This will give you how many pounds of fertilizer is needed to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1K square feet. Example: 34-0-0, 100/34=2.94, so it would take almost 3 pounds of fertilizer to apply 1 pound of Nitrogen per 1K square feet of lawn.
- To help prevent fertilizer burn, it is best to apply to a dry lawn and either water in immediately or run your irrigation in the early morning before temperatures start to rise.
- Using a slow release Nitrogen will reduce the chance of burning your lawn to almost nothing unless you spill some on the lawn. If local fertilizer selections or budget make your only fertilizer option a 100% fast release Nitrogen, like 46-0-0 Urea, you can apply it at .5 pound per 1K square feet every week or 1 pound per 1K square feet every two weeks.
* This guide was written by Mightyquinn through personal experiences over the years that have been attained through my own trial and error, fellow forum members and information from various sites across the internet.