Written by 2:30 am Pillars, Staff's Picks

Bermuda Grass – Pros and Cons

Bermuda Lawn

If you have ever admired the lush, green grass on a golf course in the southern United States, it is most likely bermuda grass. The grass comes in numerous varieties and hybrid versions. This resilient and hearty grass makes it ideal for lawns, pastures, and golf courses. Bermuda grass is an easy to establish and does well starting from seed, sod, or plugs.

Pros & Cons of Bermuda Grass

Sun Tolerance👍 Prefers full sun
Heat Tolerance👍 Handles high temps
Traffic Tolerance👍 Handles a lot of foot traffic & bounces back quickly after being damaged
Mow Height Tolerance👍 Can be mowed very short
Drought Tolerance👍 Good at tolerating drought👎 Goes dormant (browns) after extended periods without water
Growth Rate👍 Grows & spreads quickly👎 Can aggressively spread into flower beds or areas it isn't desired
Color in Winter👎 Browns in winter
Shade Tolerance👎 Requires plenty of sun
Cold Tolerance👎 Can suffer damage from very low temps

It does not take a large staff of professionals or a hefty budget to keep your bermuda grass lawn looking like a golf course. Follow our proven maintenance strategy below to get the most out of your lawn. 

It's hard to beat the beauty of a properly fertilized, watered, and manicured bermudagrass lawn.

Bermuda Maintenance Schedule & Strategy

February – April (Before Green Up)

Depending on where you are located, your bermuda lawn may still be dormant in February and March. As nightly temperatures consistently stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the grass will begin to come out of dormancy. However, before this occurs is the best time to apply your pre-emergent herbicide.

Apply a Weed Killer Before Green Up

While your lawn is still brown, use a weed killer like the professionals use. Prodiamine 65 WDG is our recommendation for killing weeds before they can develop. Keep in mind though, most pre-emergent herbicides will only block weeds for 45-60 days.

Depending on how early in the year your initial treatment occurs, and if your lawn is still in dormancy, you may be able to apply two treatments for longer lasting control.

During these early spring months, while the grass is still dormant, mow your lawn in preparation for summer. Cutting your lawn short, around 1” in height, and bagging the blade clippings will help break up any thatch.

In extremely thick areas, you might need to use a light rake. Breaking up the thatch is important to allow new turf to establish quickly and have ample room to establish.

Depending on your location and severity of winter, your bermuda lawn, it will begin to turn green in April and May. Bermuda will become active when air temperatures remain above 50ᐤF.

If you are unable to get a second pre-emergent treatment or begin to have weeds pop in the middle of the summer, we recommend using Ferti-lome Weed Free Zone.

If you are unsure about the nutritional needs of your soil, you may wish to conduct soil tests for a few different spots around your lawn. We recommend conducting these soil tests before the growing season. That way, you'll have the information back before you actually need it.

scooping soil with a trowel

It's ideal to collect samples for a soil test before the growing seasons begins. This way, you'll have the data when you need them.

May – August

Even though bermuda grass is heat and drought tolerant, during the summer months it needs at least 1” of water per week. Early morning watering is best. Drought stress will cause the blades to appear dry-crispy and not quickly rebound when walked on. Blades might also begin to fold or curl.

By this time you should already have your soil test results back. Ideal pH for optimal growth is between 6.0 and 6.5. Add lime to bring up the pH and sulfur to reduce. Along with the appropriate amount of lime or sulfur needed, the soil test will also highlight needed nutrients. Typically, bermuda will need between 2 (sandy soils) to 4 (clay soils) pounds of nitrogen (N) in the summer. For best results, divide this rate by three to spread over the summer. Your type of soils can also effect your nitrogen rates. Potassium (K), or potash, will not be needed until late summer to build up its resiliency to winter and disease stress.

Add potassium in august for winter hardiness and disease resistance. Check out our Know Before You Grow article. It explains how to calculate the right amount of fertilizer. With this knowledge, you'll avoid using too little or too much fertilizer.

By the summer months, your lawn should be fully green and ready to begin mowing regularly. Bermuda can handle being cut very short, but on average we recommend maintaining at 1 to 2”. Early in the season, start longer and steadily work your way down to your goal. In shady areas of your lawn or during stressful times (Ex. Disease and Drought), maintain longer than 2” in length.

If you want to get that golf course look, ditch your conventional lawn mower and invest in a good reel mower. The Fiskar 17” Staysharp is our top pick. Regardless of the type of mower you use, make sure that you alway keep a sharp blade to reduce damage and undue stress.

By mid summer that pre-emergent herbicide, or weed killer, will likely begin to wear off. Warm weather weeds might pop up in thin or damaged areas of the lawn. For these summer annual and perennial weeds, use a post-emergent herbicide. Just like we recommended earlier for weeds after spring green up of your lawn, Ferti-lome Weed Free Zone will be your best option. If you are having problems with sedges, smash them with SedgeHammer.

Lastly, damaged, diseased or bare spots not are only unsightly, but also open your yard up for weeds to grow. Bermuda grass is very tolerant of traffic and can resist damage, but it is not immune.  Small areas can be filled in with sand to encourage faster recovery and regrowth.  Large areas of bare ground can be filled in with sod or plugs.

Manicured Bermuda Grass

Like almost every lawn turf species, the summer growing months is when bermuda grass can shine.

September – January

As fall and winter begins, continue to water your bermuda grass lawn, at a rate of 1” per week, until lawn until it goes into dormancy. This typically will occur as evenings begin to reach below 50 degrees. In many parts of the country, September and October are the driest months, therefore sufficient irrigation is more important than ever. Large shifts between warm days and cool evenings can also increase the grass’s need for water.
In addition to watering as needed, continue to mow the lawn until it begins to go into dormancy. A good rule of thumb to follow is begin to mow the lawn at a longer length when evening temperatures begin to dip below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help build resiliency during the winter months.

If you were unable to add potassium (potash) during the late summer months, early fall is still a good time do do it.

After your bermuda grass lawn has gone into dormancy, apply a pre-emergent like, Prodiamine 65 WDG to control winter annual and perennial weeds. If you favor a granular pre-emergent weed killer, we recommend using Andersons 0.48 Barricade Herbicide – 18 Ib.

Following our yearly plan for bermuda grass is the best avenue to make, or keep, your bermuda grass lawn looking great! Bermuda grass is a great choice for dry, sunny lawns with a lot of foot traffic. However, even though it is tolerant and forgiving of many stressors, taking good care of your lawn will ensure it makes you proud for many years to come.

Bermuda Grass FAQ's

1. What causes bermuda grass to turn yellow?

There are numerous factors that play into yellowing of bermuda grass. The two most common causes of bermuda grass turning yellow is due to an iron or nitrogen deficiency. These common issues will likely show up in the entire yard or in large sections. Iron is an essential element in chlorophyll production. Not only does chlorophyll help the plant absorb sunlight, but it also causes its green color. Iron deficiencies typically occur in the spring and are identified by green streaking on a yellow blade. Iron deficiencies can easily be corrected with an application of Ferti-Lome Chelated Liquid Iron.

If the blades of grass are solid yellow, it is suffering from a nitrogen deficiency. To correct this problem, apply a fertilizer with higher nitrogen, or first number (N-P-K). In many situations, iron and nitrogen can be applied together.

Bermuda Grass
Bermuda is not a shade-tolerant species of grass. It needs plenty of son to thrive.

2. Which bermuda grass is best for shade?

Bermuda grass does not grow well in shady areas. Needing at least 6 hours of direct sun, shady spots of a bermuda grass lawns will result in thin spots.

3. When should I plant bermuda grass?

Bermuda grass is easy to establish and does well starting from seed, sod or plugs. Between 70 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit is optimal growing temperatures for bermuda grass. Therefore, plan to plant bermuda grass during the spring and early summer. During the first week of new sod, water every day. The second week, every other day and the third week on every third day. Once bermuda grass sod has established, water at least 1” per week.

4. When should I fertilize bermuda grass?

Typically, bermuda lawns will need between 2 (sandy soils) to 4 (clay soils) pounds of nitrogen (N) in the summer. For best results, divide this rate by three to spread over the summer. Your type of soils can also affect your nitrogen rates. Potassium (K), or potash, will not be needed until late summer to build up its resiliency to winter and disease stress.
Add potassium in august for winter hardiness and disease resistance. Target Specialty Pro 30-0-5 is our recommendation for a bermuda grass fertilizer.

Also, check out our article: “Know Before You Grow: How to Calculate the Right Amount of Fertilizer” to make sure you don’t mess up with too little or too much fertilizer.

5. When does bermuda grass go dormant?

Soil temperature determines if bermuda stays green or goes dormant in cooler weather. When soil temperature falls, and remains, below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the grass will go dormant. If in an area where soil temperature is always above this, the grass remains active.

6. When does bermuda grass come out of dormancy?

As nightly temperatures consistently stay above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, bermuda grass will begin to come out of dormancy.

7. Where does bermuda grass grow?

Bermuda can be found from Virginia to California, and as far north as Missouri and Kentucky. However, it is most common in the warmer, southern states.

8. Where is bermuda grass from?

Native to southeast Africa, bermuda grass was introduced into the U.S. in the 1800s as a southern turf grass and livestock forage.

9. How to get bermuda grass to grow back?

Proper maintenance of bermuda will encourage it to grow back. Follow our fertilizer recommendations of nitrogen (N) in the summer and potassium (K), or potash, in the late summer. Also, ensure that the lawn is getting at least 1“ of water per week.

10. How to fix bare spots in bermuda grass?

The first step is to rake away any dead grass, or thatch. If the grass is only thin, or the bare spots are relatively small, we recommend filling in with sand. Bermuda grass stolons will grow over sand faster than bare soil. If looking to repair large bare spots, remove the dead thatch an and fill in in spots with pieces of sod or plugs.

11. Is bermuda grass okay for dogs?

Dog urine can burn, or cause bermuda to turn brown. Encourage dogs to go away from the grass, or water areas after a dog has gone.

12. Is bermuda grass shade tolerant?

Bermuda is not considered very shade tolerant and prefers open, to full sun. It should get at least 6 hours of full sun.

13. Is bermuda grass drought tolerant?

This grass species is one of the more drought tolerant warm season grasses, however for optimal growth needs 1” of water throughout the week. Drought stress in bermuda grass lawns will cause the blades to appear dry-crispy and not quickly rebound when walked on

14. Why does bermuda grass turn brown?

Bermuda will turn brown as it goes dormant during colder months. Dog urine can also cause the grass to turn brown. Lastly, dead bermuda will turn brown and crispy as it dries out in hot temperatures.

15. Will bermuda grass choke out weeds?

A properly maintained bermuda grass yard forms a dense layer of turf that is extremely effective in preventing and choking out weeds. Follow our guide to maximize your bermuda grass lawn’s potential.

16. Will bermuda grass grow in sand?

Bermuda grass will grow in sandy soils, however will not grow in pure sand.

17. Will bermuda grass spread?

When properly maintained, bermuda grass can be very aggressive and spread quickly. This is mainly due to runners, or stolons, that spread the grass above the soil. Follow our guide to maximize your bermuda grass lawn’s potential.

18. What kind of bermuda grass do I have?

Bermuda grass varieties can be difficult to identify between each other. If looking to match varieties when filling in large spots with sod, we recommend talking with local dealers or nurseries on the types they sell. More than likely the original grass in your lawn came from a local grower.

19. Can bermuda grass be overwatered?

Established bermuda grass lawns need around 1” of water spread out over a week. Overwatering your bermuda grass lawn can be problematic and open it up for fungus, disease or insect outbreaks.

20. Can bermuda grass grow in full sun?

Bermuda grass grows very well in at least 6 hours of full sun. Full sun, combined with adequate irrigation, will maximize your lawns potential.

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