Bermuda grass is one of those grass varieties that have extensive growth and so is popularly found on lawns, parks, sports fields (especially golf courses) and pastures. Though it becomes dormant in winter, it has the ability of ‘coming back from the dead’ once the temperature rises. The methods and tips outlined here will help you know methods for growing Bermuda grass.
Cynodon dactylon, or the well-known Bermuda grass, is a perennial, warm season grass. It was first brought by the Spaniards to America in the 16th century from South East Africa. It is characterized by gray-green blades, flattened stems that are slightly purple and deep roots. The reason Bermuda grass is widely used is that it is not very expensive, grows fast and is not very affected by constant foot traffic. Growing Bermuda grass is easy in sunny places, while its growth is hindered by cold or too much moisture. Well-drained areas with tropical and subtropical climate are ideal for growing Bermuda grass. However, many “cold resistant varieties” (like Rivera, Yukon and Mohawk) have been introduced in the recent times.
Methods of Growing Bermuda Grass
Bermuda grass can be grown using grass or lawn sprigs, plugs, sod or seeds. The hybrid varieties of this grass cannot be seeded. There are three things that must be done before establishing new grass.
● First, soil test the area in which you wish to grow the Bermuda grass.
● Second, loosen the soil to about 4 to 6 inches deep.
● Third, fertilize the soil according to the reports of the soil test.
To successfully establish Bermuda grass using sod, plugs or sprigs, the soil temperature must be above 55ºF for many weeks continuously.
Method 1: When establishing Bermuda grass sod, water the soil before laying sod on the surface. Then place the sod rectangles on top of the loosened and moist soil. Make sure that the ends of the sod rectangles are not in a straight line or in proper rows and columns. Walk on the sod or use a yard roller to lightly press down the sod to make adequate soil contact.
Method 2: Plugs are smaller versions (mostly cut pieces) of sod and can establish them in the same way as sod rectangles. For fast-growing Bermuda grass, place the plugs closer to each other and for long-term (and large area) grass cover, spread the Bermuda grass plugs evenly over the entire area.
Method 3: Bermuda grass sprigs include plant crown, stolons and underground rhizomes. They should be planted 2 inches deep in rows of 35 inches.
Growing Bermuda Grass From Seed
The most inexpensive way of growing grass is by seeds. But special attention must be paid to certain factors while growing Bermuda grass from seeds. Some of the most important ones are discussed below.
Temperature: Soil temperature of around 70ºF or more is ideal for planting Bermuda grass seeds. This temperature is found after 80-90 days of constant high temperature during the day. The growth activity of Bermuda grass halts when the temperature is below 60ºF at night.
Time: It is generally recommended to establish Bermuda grass seeds in the beginning of summer (before August ends). Bermuda grass seeds are usually planted two and a half months before the first frost in most of the Northern states and two months before the first freeze in the Southern states.
(Dormant seeding can be done in the middle of the winter, when the temperature is a steady 60-65ºF. Plant the seeds and leave them to be dormant until the temperature rises above 65ºF in spring. This method is not followed commonly because, there is a high risk of the Bermuda grass seeds rotting, if the low temperature persists for a long time and the soil becomes saturated with moisture.)
Quantity: For every 1000 square feet, use 2-3 pounds of Bermuda grass seeds, 9-10 pounds of raw seeds for every acre in a new establishment and 14-17 pounds of coated Bermuda seeds for each acre in a new pasture establishment.
Depth: Bermuda seeds must be sown at a depth of 1/8″ or less for optimized growth. (Bermuda grass seeds should never be planted more than 1/4″ deep in the soil.) To keep the birds away and promote moisture retention, cover the surface with a mixture of manure compost.
Moisture: In the initial stages of germination, provide (and maintain) adequate surface moisture (not too much or too little) and maintain the soil moisture for the entire germination stage. Regulate deep, but frequent, water supply after the Bermuda grass has been established.
Germination starts within a week of planting and takes almost 20 days from the first sprouting to be complete. Normally, the time required to get full coverage of Bermuda grass is 10 weeks, but it might differ because of other factors (planting season, temperature and moisture).
Tips to Grow Bermuda Grass
● Bermuda grass grows best at soil pH of 5.5 or above.
● After loosening the soil, take a gap of two to three weeks, before establishing the grass, so that the area is free of any dormant weeds or sprouts of earlier plantings.
● Level the surface with pulverized soil for about 5 inches before planting seeds.
● It is best to fertilize the soil in the morning or evening and water the area well after that.
● Plan the irrigation system (including the sprinkler layout) and lawn borders, before establishing the Bermuda grass.
● Use a drop spreader to sow the grass seeds when planting common Bermuda.
● Be sure to maintain enough soil contact between the Bermuda grass sod, plugs, sprigs or seeds and the soil.
● Many Bermuda sod varieties do not mix well with the seed varieties (especially the common Bermuda varieties).
● Completely avoid overseeding Bermuda grass with Rye grass in the first winter season.
● When you are overseeding Bermuda grass with others, make sure that there is adequate soil contact, and use growth regulators if needed.
One of the main disadvantages of establishing Bermuda grass in an area is that it has tendency of ‘killing’ other plants in the surrounding. To avoid this, keep edging it constantly and apply herbicides from time to time. Like any other grass variety, Bermuda grass maintenance has to be done regularly. The other disadvantage of this grass is that it is difficult to get rid of it once it has been planted. When you decide to uproot the grass, dig out the extensive root system completely and use glyphosate repeatedly for some time. On the bright side, Bermuda lawns are established within a year’s time, sometimes in 60-90 days. Besides, once the grass has grown, it becomes resilient to drought and heat, and covers the area extensively.