To help you provide the best Bermuda grass care for your lawn, let’s learn a little more about this resilient warm season grass. Bermuda grass grows best during hot and somewhat dry conditions. It comes in both common and hybrid varieties; if you’re not sure what kind you have, you can ask your builder or developer, but a good rule of thumb is that sod is typically hybrid and seeded is usually common. This will play a role in a couple areas of Bermuda grass care.
Nutritional Needs – Start at the Bottom
Bermuda grass is like any plant; its needs are determined by what’s available in the soil it’s in. Factors such as soil particles size, organic matter, soil depth and a range of other factors come into play affecting soil nutrient availability. As a general rule, you should apply But how do we determine exactly what is needed? You have two options available.
Home tests for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) are commonly available in most garden centers. They are relatively inexpensive and provide a general look at what your soil has available. Home tests do not provide a great deal of information on whether that nutrient is in a form available to plants, how much of a nutrient you would need to add or how much is required for a particular plant. As an example used in agriculture, plantings of corn are often followed by soybean plantings. The corn uses nitrogen in the soil and the soybeans provide nitrogen to the soil.
Of much more practical use is a professional soil test done by your county extension office, funded by your state’s land grand university (University of Florida, University of Ohio and University of Pennsylvania, to name a few). These tests are relatively inexpensive ($15-30). The results of this test includes not only how much NPK are in the soil, but also what the soil’s ability to hold nutrients is, the amount of organic matter in the sample, and how much of which nutrients should be added for which purpose (i.e., a vegetable garden, a corn crop or a Bermuda grass lawn).
Once you have the information you need, it’s time to select a fertilizer. Your county extension agent may be able to suggest a particular fertilizer based on your soil test. Fertilizers are commonly available at most garden and home centers, hardware stores or farm stores.
Watering – Not too Little, Not too Much
I don’t know about you, but I hate the instructions that say “water as needed.” How much is needed? How often?
Bermuda grass is more drought tolerant than other turf grasses, but may still need watering during times of drought. For Bermuda grass care, you’ll want to water when the lawn shows signs of wilting or takes on a blue-grey tone. When you see these signs, you should water 1″ of water. An easy way to measure this is by placing a can or container with straight sides (not tapered) in the lawn as you are watering; once it has an inch of water in it, you will have watered the right amount.
Keep it Short
Bermuda grass loves to be kept short. For hybrid varieties, the recommended height is 0.5-1.25″; common varieties should be from 1-2.5″ in height. As with most plants, never remove over 1/3 of leaf height to prevent plant stress. Leaving clippings on the lawn allows nutrients and organic matter to return to the soil.
Pests – Animal, Vegetable and Microbial
There are three main pest categories for any plant; animal or insect pests, plant weeds or microbial diseases.
Weeds are the most apparent, as they become obvious as they grow and compete with the grass. Weeds can be controlled using mechanical techniques, like mowing or hand pulling, or using chemical techniques including spraying with herbicides or using vinegar or salt in a very limited capacity, as they can sterilize the soil if used in excess.
There are a variety of insect pests that can be present in Bermuda grass, but do not cause harm to the plant itself. If they become problematic, your extension agent can recommend an appropriate pesticide.
Most fungi and plant diseases do not affect Bermuda grass, but pearl scale can be problematic in hybrid species, with the best control being to overseed with naturally resistant seeded varieties.
Why would you need another grass seeded into your lawn? In the winter, Bermuda grass turns brown when temperatures get too low for the plant to support itself. Overseeding with a cool season grass will keep your lawn green and beautiful all year.