A Homeowner's Guide To Caring For Bermudagrass

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Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) is a warm-season grass variety cherished for its durability, heat tolerance, and rapid growth. Bermudagrass is a popular choice for homeowners seeking a resilient and attractive turf, widely used in lawns, golf courses, and sports fields.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore what Bermudagrass is, how to mow, sod, and seed it, as well as tips for dethatching, aerating, fertilizing, and watering. Additionally, we'll discuss common diseases, pests, weeds, and problems associated with Bermudagrass and how to prevent those issues.

What Is Bermudagrass?

Bermudagrass is a warm-season perennial grass species native to Africa but widely naturalized in various regions worldwide. Known for its fine texture, dense growth, and ability to withstand hot, dry conditions, Bermudagrass is a popular choice for lawns and recreational areas in warm climates. Bermudagrass is a warm-season grass favored for its resilience and ability to thrive in hot, sunny conditions. If you live in a warm environment and crave a lush, green lawn, Bermudagrass might be the perfect choice. 

Identifying Bermudagrass

Due to its popularity in homes and recreational areas, bermudagrass is easily recognizable. Here are some key features to help you identify Bermudagrass:

  • Leaf Appearance: Bermudagrass has narrow, wiry blades with a pointed tip. The leaves are typically a medium to deep green.
  • Growth Pattern: Look for a low-growing, dense turf that spreads outwards through stolons visible above the ground.
  • Seedheads: Bermudagrass produces small, inconspicuous seedheads in late summer or early fall. They may appear as clusters of tiny spikes at the tips of stolons.
  • Dormancy: If your lawn turns brown but bounces back quickly in spring, it's a strong indicator of Bermudagrass.

Life Cycle Of Bermudagrass

Being a warm-season grass, Bermudagrass’s life cycle depends on that of a warmer climate. 

Bermudagrass boasts a distinct life cycle that thrives in warm weather:

  • Germination: Bermudagrass seeds germinate in spring when soil temperatures reach around 65°F (18°C). However, due to slow germination rates, establishment from seed is less common.
  • Growth Spurt: Once established, Bermudagrass experiences rapid growth during the warm summer months. It spreads aggressively through stolons (aboveground runners) and rhizomes (underground stems), creating a dense turf.
  • Dormancy: As temperatures dip in fall, Bermudagrass growth slows and eventually enters dormancy. The leaves turn brown, and aboveground growth ceases. However, the root system remains active underground, waiting for spring's return.
  • Recovery: With the return of warm spring weather, Bermudagrass breaks dormancy and resumes its rapid growth, quickly greening up the lawn.

Caring For Bermudagrass

While Bermudagrass is renowned for being resilient and hardy, proper care is essential to maintain it as a healthy and thriving turfgrass. Below is a detailed list of the best ways to care for your Bermudagrass lawn.

Mowing Bermudagrass:

  • Set your lawnmower to a height of 0.5 to 1.5 inches for Bermudagrass lawns.
  • Mow regularly, removing no more than one-third of the grass blade length.
  • Adjust mowing height based on the desired appearance and level of maintenance.

Sodding & Seeding Bermudagrass:

  • Prepare the soil by removing debris and loosening the top layer.
  • Lay sod or spread Bermudagrass seed evenly over the soil surface.
  • Water thoroughly immediately after sodding or seeding, and keep the soil consistently moist until grass establishes.

Dethatching Bermudagrass:

  • Use a dethatching rake or power dethatcher to remove built-up thatch.
  • Dethatch in the spring or early summer when the grass is actively growing.
  • Avoid dethatching when the soil is wet to prevent soil compaction.

Aerating Bermudagrass:

  • Aerating helps improve soil drainage and reduce compaction.
  • Use a core aerator to remove small plugs of soil from the lawn.
  • Aerate in the spring or fall for best results.

Fertilizing Bermudagrass:

  • Apply a balanced fertilizer in the spring and early summer to promote healthy growth.
  • Use a fertilizer specifically formulated for Bermudagrass and follow recommended application rates.
  • Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization, which can lead to thatch buildup and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases.

Watering Bermudagrass:

  • Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth.
  • Bermudagrass is drought-tolerant but benefits from regular watering during dry periods.
  • Aim for 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, including rainfall.

Common Diseases, Pests, Weeds, & Problems With Bermudagrass

Even with its reputation as a resilient and low-maintenance grass, Bermudagrass is still prone to the common problems of many turfgrasses. Familiarizing yourself with the problems will put you in a better position to tackle them on sight.

  • Diseases: Common diseases affecting Bermudagrass include dollar spot, brown patch, and Pythium blight. Preventative measures include proper watering, avoiding over-fertilization, and maintaining good airflow.
  • Pests: Bermudagrass is susceptible to pests such as armyworms, white grubs, and mole crickets. Control measures include regular monitoring, insecticidal treatments, and cultural practices.
  • Weeds: Common weeds that invade Bermudagrass lawns include crabgrass, goosegrass, and nutsedge. Prevent weeds by maintaining a dense, healthy turf through proper mowing, watering, and fertilization.
  • Problems: Bermudagrass may face issues such as thatch buildup, scalping from improper mowing, and soil compaction. Address these problems through dethatching, aerating, and adjusting mowing practices.

Preventing Diseases, Pests, Weeds, & Problems

While the potential problems with Bermudagrass may seem daunting, they can easily be avoided with proper care and vigilance. 

  • Proper Maintenance: Maintain good lawn health through regular mowing, watering, fertilizing, and aerating.
  • Integrated Pest Management: Implement an integrated approach to pest management, combining cultural, mechanical, and chemical control methods.
  • Early Detection: Monitor the lawn regularly for signs of diseases, pests, and weeds, and take prompt action if problems arise.
  • Resistant Varieties: Choose Bermudagrass cultivars known for disease and pest resistance to minimize the risk of problems.

Caring for Bermudagrass requires attention to detail and proactive management to maintain a healthy, vibrant lawn. By following proper mowing, sodding, seeding, dethatching, aerating, fertilizing, and watering practices, homeowners can enjoy a lush and resilient Bermudagrass turf. Additionally, by identifying and addressing common diseases, pests, weeds, and problems early on, homeowners can prevent issues and maintain a beautiful Bermudagrass lawn for years.