Bermuda Grass Facts, Maintenance & Comparison

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Bermuda grass, also known as Cynodon dactylon, and commonly called scutch grass, wiregrass, dog’s tooth grass, and couch grass, originated in Africa. While it is an invasive species there, in the United States is it commonly used for lawns, thanks to how durable it is and how well it can stand up to drought and heavy use without showing a lot of signs of wear.

Interested in other types of lawn grass? Find them here.

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Bermuda Grass Facts

Bermuda Grass Types

There are a few different types of Bermuda grass to choose from when you are looking to seed your lawn. One type is known as “Arizona Common”. While it seeds quickly and reestablishes faster than other types, it is not as dense and doesn’t have the same desirable color.

Other, more popular, types include “Yuma”, “Blackjack”, “Jackpot,” and “Sahara”. All of these were developed from “Arizona Common”, but have improved density, color, and overall quality, making them a more popular choice.

Additionally, there are some types of hybrid Bermuda grass that are going to have a softer texture, better weed resistance, and greater density. While they don’t produce viable seeds, they are great for sports fields and have better cold hardiness. If you are interested in this type of Bermuda grass then look for “Tifway”, “Tifton 419”, or “TifSport”.

Bermuda grass types

Characteristics

Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass, which means that it is going to be sensitive to and damaged by colder temperatures. However, it is the fastest growing of all warm-season grasses, making it a great option for people who are in a hurry to seed and fill in their yard.

This grass can be difficult to contain due to how aggressively it grows, but it does a great job standing up to a lot of use and won’t appear damaged nearly as quickly as other types of grasses will.

Since Bermuda grass can be started from seed, it’s easy to patch a lawn that has spots without the commitment of sod.

Bermuda grass closeup

Even though some homeowners opt for Bermuda grass in their lawns due to how durable and fast growing it is, this isn’t the only application or use for this type of grass. Because it is so durable, Bermuda grass is often used for farming, as it can stand up to the animals walking on it and will grow back quickly.

This type of grass is also a great option for use on golf courses, parks, and sports fields. Due to its ability to withstand heavy traffic without browning or getting thin, public areas that are planted with Bermuda grass look great even when used regularly.

Climate

Generally speaking, Bermuda grass grows really well in transition, subtropical, and tropical zones. While commonly grown in the southern US, it also grows incredibly well in Australia, South America, India, and Africa.

bermuda grass drought tolerance

Shade and Sun Tolerance

The best location for growing Bermuda grass will be in the full sun. Unlike other types of grasses that can still grow in the shade and won’t struggle, Bermuda grass does best when it is in full and direct sun for most of the day. It does a great job standing up to heat without being damaged. Source.

Temperature Tolerance

Bermuda grass tends to look great during the hot summer months, and has fairly decent cold tolerance during the winter when it is properly managed and cared for. It’s important for homeowners to know that Bermuda grass will go dormant in cool temperatures, causing the yard to brown.

Luckily, because Bermuda grass grows so quickly, it will begin to quickly green again in the spring, which means that homeowners won’t have to wait a long time for their yard to look better. While Bermuda grass doesn’t have the highest heat tolerance, it is still one of the best grasses to use in warm locations.

Drought Tolerance

While a lack of rain can greatly and negatively affect most types of grasses, Bermuda grass is very tolerant of droughts, making it a great choice for when the owner doesn’t want to have to worry about watering their lawn on a regular basis. In fact, Bermuda grass has the best drought tolerance out of all common grass types.

After deep watering following a drought, Bermuda grass will resume its normal fast growing and will continue to look its best without browning or becoming very damaged. Thanks to the extensive root system, which can reach more than six feet in depth, Bermuda grass can survive on water in the earth during dry periods.

Wear Resistance

Not all types of grass are as resistant to wear and damage as Bermuda grass is. It’s Bermuda grass’s durability and tolerance for use that make it a great option for homeowners to use in their yard as well as for use on sporting fields.

Thanks to the rapid growth rate, deep root system, and durability of this grass, it can be mowed to a shorter height, which makes it great as a general utility turf. Not only will families be able to play on Bermuda grass without worrying about tearing it up, but it can withstand football, soccer, baseball, and other sports that would easily ruin other grass.

Bermuda Grass Maintenance

To ensure that your Bermuda grass looks amazing you will need to cater your maintenance to fit its needs. Many people think that this grass doesn’t need a lot of maintenance due to how durable and tough it is, but you still have to work hard to take care of your Bermuda grass to keep it looking its best.

Bermuda grass has the unpleasant habit of producing seedheads and of getting into flower beds and choking out the plants that are growing there, which is why homeowners need to make sure that they are on top of taking care of their grass and that they keep it under control.

bermuda grass maintenance

Mowing and Thatching

All types of Bermuda grass, especially hybrids, prefer to be mowed to lower heights than alternative grasses. In fact, hybrid Bermuda grasses have an ideal height of just 1”, while other varieties can grow a little higher, to around 1.5”. Because of how quickly Bermuda grass grows, regular mowing is important to be able to control it.

It’s a good idea to raise the mowing height if you have Bermuda grass growing in shady areas of your lawn, which will help to compensate for any weaker growth in the area, and to raise the overall height at the end of your grass’s growing season to help the grass survive the winter.

Never use a tine dethatcher, instead opt for a dethatcher that will cut through any thatch on the surface of your lawn once there is more than .5” of thatch. Additionally, it’s a good idea to power rake the entire yard in either the spring or in the fall.

It’s also a good idea to aerate the lawn once a year. Using a core aerator will help the grass grow better. While Bermuda grass can be aerated at anytime when growing, it’s best to do this in the spring when growth is very rapid, but compact soils should then be aerated again later.

bermuda grass mowing height

Soil and Fertilizer Needs

One of the great things about Bermuda grass is that it can easily grow in soil that has a wide range of pH levels. This means that you don’t normally have to worry about treating your soil to change the pH to ensure the best growth from your grass. Additionally, Bermuda grass can grow in shallow soil, thanks to its network of shallow roots.

Even harder soil isn’t a big problem for Bermuda grass, although you do want to make sure that the ground has adequate drainage so that the grass is not always in wet dirt.

Best Fertilizer for Bermuda Grass

There are a few different types of organic fertilizers that are commonly used on Bermuda grass, including Phosphorus fertilizers, Potassium fertilizers, and Nitrogen fertilizers. These are the three key nutrients that Bermuda grass needs to grow its best and are an important part of your lawn care.

In addition, some homeowners choose to apply urea and corn meal to their lawns, as well. Using urea will provide your lawn with a slow releasing fertilizer, as well as a little fast release nitrogen, which can help to improve growth of new Bermuda grass.

It’s also optional to use inorganic fertilizers on Bermuda grass, including sulfur or lime that will help to neutralize the pH.

Bermuda Grass Fertilizer Schedule

Understanding how to properly fertilize Bermuda grass is important to keep your lawn looking its best. You first need to fertilize your grass two weeks after it has turned green in the spring, which is generally in April. Grass should be fertilized again around six to eight weeks later in June, as well as again in August.

To ensure the best results, make sure to apply fertilizer four to five times during the hotter summer months, but not past mid September, which can damage the grass.

Before using any fertilizer, it is important to learn how much you need on your lawn, and you can do this by having your soil tested. Doing so will allow you to use the right type of fertilizer and also the right amount so that you don’t under or over fertilize your lawn and cause problems.

bermuda grass vs

Disease, Weed, and Insect Control

A wide variety of pests will happily live in a thick and healthy Bermuda lawn, some eating the grass, some eating roots, and others eating each other. While insects and pests can easily destroy a lawn, they are easy to treat in Bermuda grass and the grass will generally grow back quickly. In fact, some insect feeding will encourage faster or additional grass growth. Source.

Insect damage is usually brown grass that is in an irregularly shaped area that will expand. Common pests include white grubs that feed on the grass roots. Armyworms are another issue that will eat the blades of grass, while mole crickets and pillbugs can also be found.

The best way to treat pests is with the help of turf care professionals who can spray for the insects. However, homeowners who want to take care of the problem themselves can do so with commercially available sprays and products.

Leaf spot, spring dead spot, brown patch, dollar spot, and Pythium are all common diseases that will affect Bermuda grass. Using fungicides and fertilizers will help treat the problem, but first homeowners need to determine what disease they are dealing with.

Bermuda Grass Compared

Comparing Bermuda grass with other types of grass is the best way to determine which one is right for you.

Bermuda Grass vs St. Augustine Grass

While both of these grasses are warm-season grasses that grow well in hotter areas of the world, they have a number of different features and benefits.

Bermuda grass is very dark green and incredibly easy to grow. It’s easily identifiable by the medium or fine textured blades and the fact that it can be mowed very close to the soil to create a packed turf. St. Augustine grass, on the other hand, is blue green and has larger leaves. St. Augustine grass shouldn’t be mowed shorter than one to three inches.

While Bermuda grass prefers full sun, St. Augustine grass can grow in partial shade. They are both drought resistant, but St. Augustine grass is not nearly as durable as Bermuda grass is and can’t stand up to heavy traffic.

Bermuda Grass vs Zoysia Grass

Both of these grasses are warm-season grasses, but Zoysia is a better choice for homeowners who live in areas that get a little cooler. They both are resistant to disease and tend to be mowed to similar heights.

Zoysia grass grows much better in partial shade than Bermuda grass does. This is often the best way for homeowners to determine between the two and to decide which is the best option for their home and yard. While both types of grass can withstand drought, Bermuda grass does better in longer droughts and will go dormant. Source.

Once Zoysia is well established and has grown in an area for a few years, it can withstand foot traffic, but it is not as durable as Bermuda grass and takes longer to recover.

Bermuda Grass vs Buffalo Grass

Even though Buffalo grass will become drought resistant after a few years of growing, it will go brown quickly if the lawn goes completely dry and then will take longer to green back out. This is in sharp contrast to the fast-growing Bermuda grass that can bounce back from droughts quickly.

Unlike Bermuda grass, which is mowed to shorter heights, Buffalo grass does better when allowed to get taller and when it is not mowed as often. This means that homeowners don’t have to spend as much time caring for their lawn, which some people appreciate. Because Buffalo grass doesn’t make as tight a sod as Bermuda grass does, it can tend to have weeds growing through it, which means that it’s important for homeowners to spray on a regular basis. It’s a good option when used with pre-emergent herbicides and likes to grow in full sun, much like Bermuda grass.

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