Bermuda Grass Tips

I live in a hot humid climate in the south.  Bermuda is not my grass preference, but about the only grass that grows where I live.  Where I grew up Bermuda grass was considered a weed.

Bermuda grass has more problems than I ever would have imagined.  Unfortunately, my grass does not look like a nice manicured golf course, but that’s the goal.

This year, the county in which I live has commented on how fungus has become quite an issue this summer.  Oh really!?! You should see all the variety of mushrooms growing in my yard.  Thankfully it isn’t just me that has this issue.  That just means it wasn’t something I did or did not do.

Bermuda Fungus Growth

Bermuda Fungus Growth

I searched to come up with some natural ways to correct the issue of fungus.  However, I also have very poor soil in the front yard.  (Builder scraped off all the top soil and didn’t replace it like he said he did, but laid the sod down anyways.)  So my grass out front dries out extremely fast.

Dry Grass

Dry Grass

Bermuda grass can be picky about watering.  Doesn’t usually need a lot, and is very forgiving.  Even after I thought I killed my newly laid sod last summer, in 2 weeks it was as green as ever.

To determine if your grass needs watering or not, walk on it.  If it leaves a footprint behind, you need to water.

Footprints in the Bermuda

Footprints in the Bermuda

For the fungus issue, I first dug up all mushrooms and deposited them away from my lawn.  Then I took my pitch fork and aerated the grass in these areas as well as where the lawn was extremely dry.

Aerating with Pitch Fork

Aerating with Pitch Fork

Next I sprinkled ground cornmeal (the kind I would use for corn bread or cereal) and sprinkled it all over the lawn where I had seen mushrooms.  You really should use  horticulture cornmeal that can be picked up at a feed store.

Cornmeal has antifungal properties.   For fungal control, 10 to 20 pounds per thousand square feet is sufficient. Generally, 10 pounds per thousand square feet is used to prevent fungal infections, while 20 pounds per thousand will control an infection you already have.  Note:  I did not use that much.  At first I didn’t think it worked because more mushrooms grew within 2 days.  However, after that, I haven’t seen any new fungal growth where I spread the cornmeal.

Bermuda after cornmeal application

Bermuda after cornmeal application

The last step I did was to spread garden soil that contained soil moisture retention particles in it right on top of my grass.

Soil Moisturizer on Grass

Soil Moisturizer on Grass

It has been two weeks, and the grass is definitely greener than before, the mushrooms are gone, and my Bermuda grass is starting to look good.

Greener Grass

Greener Grass

For those who have Bermuda grass, you may be interested in reading the Bermuda Bible written by Texas Weed.

Bermuda Bible

Written by Texas Weed

What follows is a generic calendar of recommended lawn care practices for Bermuda grass lawns. Understand this is generic and the time tables may have to be adjusted for your geographical location.

February through May

Pre-Emergence Weed Control

Depending on your location apply pre-emergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goose grass, foxtail, warm season annuals, etc when you see Bradford Pear, Dogwood, or Forsythia blooming. Repeat 8 weeks later in between fertilizer applications as to extend protection through summer months. First application is done before first mowing if timed properly because the Bermuda will still be dormant. Weed-n-Feed products are not recommended because the fertilizer contained in these products will only stimulate what weeds exist, and the Bermuda cannot use it at this time.

Mowing

For the first mowing in the spring when you first see green spring, mow very short, some may use the term scalp. Bag the debris and clippings. The idea here is to mow as short as possible to remove all the dormant (brown) material without cutting all the waydown to dirt. Don’t worry it will look terrible at first, but this sets up every thing for a thick healthy carpet like lawn.

For subsequent mowings practice mulch mowing for heights greater than ½ inch, aka grass cycling, which means simply leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Lower cutting heights required for dwarf and some hybrids varieties will require bagging as the clippings are unsightly, will lay on top, and can smoother the grass.

Grass clippings decompose rather quickly and can provide up to 25 percent of the entire lawn’s fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent frequent mowing and clippings are too plentiful to leave on the lawn, they can be collected and used as mulch. Whatever you do, don’t bag them and throw it away unless you have no other means! Grass clippings do not belong in landfills.

Mowing height and frequency greatly depends on the variety of Bermuda grass you have and climate conditions. General rule is the same for any grass as you never want to remove more than 1/3 of the blade height.

Dwarf varieties such as those used for golf greens like Tifdwarf, Tifgreen, and Tifeagle should be mowed with a high quality reel mower between 3/16 to 7/16 of an inch on a daily or every other day basis. This variety is not normally used for home lawns, but more for informational purposes.

Hybrid varieties like Tifway I (aka 419), Tifway II, Celebration, Tifsport, are the most commonly found varieties used in upper end lawns, new construction, and are laid as sod and sprigs only. These hybrids should be maintained between ½ to 1-1/4 inch depending on your level of commitment. Mowing frequency depends on height of every other day for ½-inch to every 3-to-5 days at 1-1/4 inches. Remember the 1/3 rule as it will dictate mowing frequency. Reel type mowers have to be used at the lower heights because rotary types cannot go below 1-inch to 1-1/4 inches. Otherwise rotary is OK.

Common types or seeded varieties are best maintained between 1 to 2-1/2 inches, and some of the pasture types can go up to 3 inches. Note some of the seeded varieties like Princess, Rivera, and Yukon are treated like hybrids and mowed shorter. At these higher cutting heights mowing frequency is less frequent of every 4-to-8 days or so. 1/3 rule still applies.

Lastly depending on you grass type the mowing height is maintained through out the rest of the year up until fall. If you live in a colder climate where you experience cold freezing winters you may need to raise the height to add insulation and freeze protection.

Fertilization

For the first application in spring, or last application in fall but not both, apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000/ft2 when the grass is about 50 to 75% greened up. If possible and motivated submit a soil sample to determine nutrient and lime requirements for exact requirements. Otherwise in lieu of soil test use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-l-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (for example, 15-5-10 or 20-5-10). Consult your County Cooperative Extension center for details.) Apply lime if suggested.

To determine the amount of product needed to apply 1 pound of’ nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number in the fertilizer ratio. For example, for a 20-5-10 product, divide 100 by 20. The result is 5.0 pounds of product per thousand square feet.

For subsequent applications during the active growing season, apply a nitrogen only product like 39-0-0 every 30 to 45 days through out the growing season at a rate of every 1-pound of nitrogen per 1000/ft2. If you see the color start to fade and you know water is not a problem likely indicates your grass needs a nitrogen application.

Finally do some shopping and research on fertilizer in your area. Best results are obtained by using a slow release urea based fertilizer. They come in many ratios of slow release like 50, 75, and 100% slow release urea. I would recommend 75% as that will contain 25% fast release for immediate needs, and the 75% should keep it fed for 30 to 45 days depending on water frequency and rain.

Irrigation

Is a widely misunderstood concept, and is one of the most important aspects to a healthy happy lawn. Improper irrigation is the heart of most problems like weed infestation, disease, insect, and fungal problems. I cannot emphasize this point enough but remember this: WATER ONLY WHEN THE GRASS NEEDS WATER.  This may sound foreign to you but is very easy to recognize all you have to do is pay attention and learn the signs.

There are two easy methods to determine when it is time to water. One is the WALK test, and the other is by observing a slight color change.

Walk Test: Bermuda is a very soft subtle grass, and when it has adequate moisture will spring right back after you walk on it. But when it dries out and you walk on it your foot prints will remain. So all you have to do is walk on the grass and look back. If it springs back quickly it has plenty of water, if not it is time to water. If it is crunch and brown, you waited too long, however it can quickly recover with water.

Color Change: Mother Nature gives Bermuda grass, all plants for that matter, a defense mechanism to defend itself against drought and dry conditions. If you ever look closely at Bermuda grass blades you will notice the grass blades on the top visible surface area is dark green and shinny, and the under side of the blade is dull  (matte or flat) and more bluish-gray in color. When Bermuda grass roots dry out, the leaves will curl up in the heat of the day to minimize surface area and conserve water. When this happens the underside of the grass blade becomes visible and there is a noticeable color shift from shinny dark emerald green to a duller bluish-gray. When you see that happen it is time to water. Pay attention and the first spots will be on high spots or hills where the water drains faster and is more exposed to the elements.

When it is time to water, water very early in the morning to minimize evaporation and give the grass time to dry during the day so fungal problems do not occur. Water to a soil depth of 4 to 6 inches which should take about an inch of water depending on soil type and conditions. You can probe with a screwdriver to determine moisture depth. Watering frequency will depend largely on climate and soil type. As a general rule of thumb you water about once a week, let the grass tell you when it needs water.

Post Emergence Weed Control

If pre-emergence weed control was applied properly at the right time along with mowing feeding and watering this step should not be necessary. Nothing more than hand pulling of occasional weeds that pop up are needed.

Otherwise apply post-emergence herbicides in May as needed to control summer annual and perennial broadleaf weeds such as crabgrass, knotweed, spurge, and lespedeza. Products containing two or three broadleaf herbicides usually control several different broadleaf weeds in a lawn more effectively. Be sure the product is labeled for use on Bermuda grass. Use only spot treatment on infected area rather than a whole lawn shotgun approach.

Insect Control

Bermuda grass can have insect infestations which tend to increase with higher input levels of management. Higher nitrogen fertilization rates, close mowing, and frequent irrigation tend to increase insect problems with Bermuda grass.

Problematic insects that feed on the Bermuda grass are armyworms, cutworms, sod webworms, Bermuda grass mites and Rhodegrass scale (mealybug). White grubs can severely damage Bermuda grass by feeding on grass roots. Nuisance type insects found on Bermuda grass include chiggers, ants and ticks.

Control of insects on Bermuda grass should include cultural, biological, and chemical methods if warranted. Bermuda grass can tolerate low population levels of most of these insects. When insect populations are high enough to cause significant damage, biological or chemical methods may be required. Most species of white grubs can be controlled with milky spore disease, a biological control that effectively controls white grub populations.

Baccilus thuringensis or BT is a biological control for armyworms, cutworms and sod webworms. When biological controls are not effective, chemicals can be used together with cultural and biological controls to reduce insect populations to an acceptable level.

Disease Control

Several serious disease organisms and nematodes can also attack Bermuda grass. Dollar spot, spring dead spot, leaf spot, brownpatch and pythium are all fungus diseases that attack Bermuda grass. Several species of nematodes also cause damage to Bermuda grass.

Cultural and chemical methods may be required to control disease and nematode problems. High nitrogen fertilization rates should be avoided during peak periods of disease attacks with the exception of dollar spot. Specific treatment depends on the disease and is not within scope of this document.
Where cultural practices do not adequately control turf diseases, fungicides are available for control. In some intensive maintenance situations, preventive applications of fungicides provide the best means of disease control.

Thatch Removal

When cultural practices (proper water, mowing, and fertilizing techniques) are followed thatch should not normally be a problem. If needed vertically mow or use a hand thatch rake in May or June after the Bermuda grass is actively growing to remove the thatch (layer of ½-inch or more of un-decayed grass)

June through August

Mowing

Follow the same as above after initial mowing in the spring.

Fertilization

Apply 1 pound of a nitrogen only product per 1000/ft2 every 4 to 6 weeks using a slow release urea product. Something like either 34-0-0 or 39-0-0.

Irrigation

Follow the March through May irrigation guidelines.

Weed Control

Apply post-emergence herbicides as needed to control summer annual and perennial weeds like crabgrass, goose grass, dallisgrass, sedges, and sandbur. Two or three applications 7 to 10 days apart are required for effective control. Apply herbicides only when weeds are present and the weeds are actively growing, and when the lawn is not suffering from drought stress. Follow label directions and watch for the temperatures.

Insect Control

Follow the March through May insect control guidelines. August is the best time to control white grubs because they are small and close to the soil surface.
September through November.

In colder climates where the ground freezes or extended cold spells below freezing are common, 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected frost, raise the mowing height 1 inch above normal… This will add some insulation value and some freeze protection in transitional areas.

Fertilization

Apply the last application for the season four to six weeks before the first expected frost or when you raise the cutting height in colder climates. You can use a balanced fertilizer for the last application of the year as indicated in the spring application, but not both spring and fall. In lieu of a soil test just like spring use either a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratios.

In addition you can apply lime or sulfur if earlier soil test indicated a deficiency and it was not practical to add the required amounts in spring.

Irrigation

Follow the March through May irrigation guidelines. Dormant Bermuda grass may need to be watered periodically when warm, or windy weather prevails.

Weed Control

Optionally you can apply pre-emergence in September or October, and again around the Holidays or post-emergence herbicides as needed to control winter weeds such as chickweed, blue grass and henbit. Pre-emergence herbicides do not control existing perennial weeds. Apply post-emergence herbicides only when weeds are present. Hand pulling is always preferred and less expensive.

September through November

Mowing

In colder climates where the ground freezes or extended cold spells below freezing are common, 4 to 6 weeks before the first expected frost, raise the mowing height 1 inch above normal… This will add some insulation value and some freeze protection in transitional areas.

Fertilization

Apply the last application for the season four to six weeks before the first expected frost or when you raise the cutting height in colder climates. You can use a balanced fertilizer for the last application of the year as indicated in the spring application, but not both spring and fall. In lieu of a soil test just like spring use either a 3-12 or 4-12 ratios.

In addition you can apply lime or sulfur if earlier soil test indicated a deficiency and it was not practical to add the required amounts in spring.

Irrigation

Follow the March through May irrigation guidelines. Dormant Bermuda grass may need to be watered periodically when warm, or windy weather prevails.

Weed Control

Optionally you can apply pre-emergence in September or October, and again around the Holidays or post-emergence herbicides as needed to control winter weeds such as chickweed, blue grass and henbit. Pre-emergence herbicides do not control existing perennial weeds. Apply post-emergence herbicides only when weeds are present. Hand pulling is always preferred and less expensive.

December through February

Irrigation

Dormant Bermuda grass may have to be watered periodically to prevent desiccation, especially when warm, windy weather prevails.

Weed Control

Apply post mergence broadleaf herbicides as needed to control weeds such as chickweed, henbit, and hop clover, or hand pulled. If your Bermuda grass goes completely dormant in the winter, you can use non-selective herbicide like Round Up on anything green.

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Amdro PowerFlex Pest and Weed Control System

I’ve always had a hankering for pulling weeds. Love to do it. Very therapeutic, my “play time”. However, lately, I’ve been so bogged down with many things all at once, my weeds have gotten the best of me. It was really perfect timing when the Amdro PowerFlex Pest and Weed System was on my doorstep, thanks to bzzagent.

I didn’t waste anytime, and set this baby up. I first started with the Fire ants. Very allergic, needed to zap those critters fast. Ya know…in less than 24 hours and even a week later, no fire ants. That’s a first.

Then I about used up all of my weed killer in one day. There’s just so many right now. The Amdro system comes with all of these nifty little cartridges so you don’t have to mix up a gallon or so of weed or bug killer, you use what you need. You can easily swap out cartridges and go from killing weeds to killing bugs all within 30 seconds of each other.

Well, 3 days after spraying the weeds, they were turning yellow. A week later, most are wilting. I think I was expecting the weeds to die off as fast as the fire ants did, but still it is working. Now I can concentrate on the other things that are a little more important than pulling weeds by hand.

Before Weed Killer

Before Weed Killer

After Weed Killer

After Weed Killer

The AMDRO® PowerFlex® Pest & Weed System battery-powered sprayer automatically combines concentrate from the cartridge with water from the tank, so you get perfectly combined solution every time, with no wasted water or concentrate. One four-ounce cartridge makes one full gallon of spray. There’s a cartridge for any weed or pest job:
* Lawn Weed Killer Concentrate
* Weed & Grass Killer Concentrate
* Home Pest Control Indoor Insect Killer Concentrate
* Yard & Perimeter Outdoor Insect Killer Concentrate
It takes only seconds to go from killing weeds outdoors to killing pests indoors — Simply take out the cartridge, press and hold the trigger for 10 seconds to flush the sprayer with water from the tank and twist in a new cartridge.

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Disclaimer: I received this product free from bzzagent to test try and provide a review. In any case, my opinions are my own, and yours may differ from mine.

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