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For The Garden

Bermuda Grass Basics

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: June, 2009, Page 102

Bermuda grass basics


Keeping your Bermuda lawn in tiptop shape doesn’t have to be a chore. By following correct watering, fertilizing and mowing practices, you can avoid such problems as yellowing, weeds, diseases and thatch buildup. Below are some basic maintenance techniques for growing a healthy, water-wise Bermuda lawn.

WATERING

A common mistake with lawn irrigation is running sprinklers too frequently but not long enough for water to soak through the root zone. For warm-season Bermuda grass, water should penetrate 8 to 10 inches deep with each application. This promotes a healthy root system that ultimately requires less water. Use a soil probe or long screwdriver to determine how deep water soaks. The probe will move easily through moist soil but stop at hard, dry soil. It is not necessary to run lawn sprinklers daily. Even in the heat of summer, you shouldn’t have to water more than two to three times per week. Follow Phoenix-area lawn-watering recommendations, based on existing weather conditions, at ag.arizona.edu/azmet/data/00plawn.htm.


FERTILIZING

Numerous products and recommendations are available for feeding lawns. Sharon Dewey from TURF-riffic Turf Consulting has 30 years of experience troubleshooting desert lawns. She suggests that homeowners follow an easy-to-remember regimen that requires applying just one product on a regular schedule.

“Use a fertilizer with a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium ratio such as 21-7-14, 16-6-8 or similar,” advises Dewey. “You’ll only need to buy one type of fertilizer that you can use all year long.”

Dewey fertilizes once per month during Bermuda’s active growing season, from April through October. If your lawn will be overseeded with winter ryegrass, discontinue feeding in September and October to prepare for that transition. Dormant (non-overseeded) Bermuda grass does not require fertilizer during winter months (November through March).

MOWING

“Mowing height” refers to the height of grass just after mowing. Grass varieties have a range of mowing heights (see below). Maintaining grass at its highest-recommended height is beneficial for a variety of reasons, says Dewey: It encourages a deep root system, which creates a vigorous, water-efficient lawn. Also, taller grass blades shade the soil to reduce moisture loss, protect the grass “crown” (growing points), and ensure blades will not wilt as easily when mowed. Finally, lawns maintained at their highest mowing heights grow more slowly, which in turn reduces water use and the need to mow.

MOWING DOS AND DON’TS

• Do mow with sharp blades. Dull blades shred leaf tips, causing browning and entry wounds for diseases.
• Do change directions every time you mow, which reduces compaction, distributes “wear,” and alternates the orientation of grass stems.
• Don’t remove more than the top one-third of grass with each mowing. Removing more stresses the grass, reduces photosynthesis, and places the crowns in danger of being “scalped.”
• Don’t mow wet lawns, which mats and suffocates the grass, creates messy clumps of clippings, compacts the soil, and promotes the spread of disease.


BERMUDA GRASS MOWING HEIGHTS (inches)

Common Bermuda:
1.5 - 2
Improved Bermuda: .5 - 2
Bull’s-eye (BOBSod®): .5 - 1.5
Midiron: .75 - 1.5
Pee Dee 102: .33 - .75
Santa Ana: .75 - 1
Tifgreen 328: .33 - .75
Tifway 419: .5 - 1.5

 


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