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Bermuda Grass – A Southern Favorite


Bermuda grass is a Southern favorite, and one of the most sun loving turf, lawn and pasture grasses available. It’s easy to grow from seed, and provides good coverage as a lawn grass in most of the southern half of the US. It’s an easy-care grass that’s resistant to most pests and needs only a moderate amount of care.

Origins

Originally from Africa, Bermuda grass came to the Americas by way of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. First used as just a forage and pasture grass, Bermuda grass has become so popular that it’s now used on golf greens worldwide. It forms a solid, perennial sod, is pest- and drought-resistant, loves full sun, tolerates some salt, and will stand up to close mowing. Although it goes dormant and turns brown as soon as nighttime temperatures drop below 60 degrees, it’s the first grass to turn green when temperatures start to rise.

Growth Habits


Even though it’s easy to grow from seed, that’s not the only way to establish a Bermuda grass lawn. Long before seed was commercially available, Bermuda grass lawns were established from sod or sprigs, and it’s still planted that way sometimes today. It spreads quickly by stolons and rhizomes, so it’s easy to get started no matter how you do it.

Bermuda grass is grown extensively in the South, an area to which it’s well adapted. It’s a perennial grass, so once you have it established it will come back year after year. For this reason many parks and other public facilities use it for putting greens, golf courses, sports fields, and other areas that need good grass coverage and receive full sun.

Although Bermuda grass began its tenure in the US as a southern grass, cold tolerant varieties mean that it now can be planted throughout most of the southern half of the United States. Some of the newer cold tolerant varieties include Yukon Bermuda Grass, Mohawk, and Rivera.

Sowing Bermuda Grass

If you’re going to plant Bermuda grass seed, sow it as a spring crop after the soil temperature has climbed above 65 degrees and you’re sure you won’t have any more frost or freezing temperatures. Generally speaking, this means that daytime temperatures are consistently 80 degrees or above.

One important ingredient in establishing Bermuda grass from seed is sufficient moisture. Cover it with 1/8 to ¼ inch of mulch or soil; if Bermuda grass seed is right on the surface of the soil where it’s exposed to hot sun and dry air, you can’t keep is moist enough to germinate well and develop a good stand no matter what you do. Yes, you can water it, but even so you won’t be able to keep it moist enough for it to germinate evenly or become established well during its first season. That said, however, don’t cover it with more than ¼ inch of soil or it won’t germinate.

You can buy Bermuda Grass from Amazon.

When To Mow

If you’re growing Bermuda grass from seed and it germinates well for you, you may be able to mow it as soon as three weeks after it germinates. The first couple of times you mow it, don’t cut it close, but only take about 1/3 of the height of the blades. A good general rule of thumb is to set the mower height at about 1 inch until your lawn is well established or until the second season.

As fast as Bermuda grass grows, however, if you plant it early in the spring you probably will be mowing it regularly by late summer. It’s just simply one of the best lawn grasses around.

Growing A Shady Lawn

grass for shady lawnThe earliest grasses grew on the plains—open areas of full sunlight. If you look around in nature you will see grasses in open sunny fields but not in dense forests.

While some grasses adapt better to shade than others, none will grow in deep shade. By choosing a grass that tolerates shade and that is adapted to your growing area you can establish a lawn in a lightly shaded area that gets several hours of full sun per day.

Shade Tolerant Grasses

Among the grasses that grow in cool areas of the country, called cool season grasses, creeping or red fescue and velvet bentgrass are the most shade tolerant. Used by itself or as a mixture red fescue is good in all types of turf areas, including lawns, parks, ball fields, cemeteries, and airfields. With its fine texture, thickness, and low growing habit, velvet bentgrass is a popular choice for golf greens in the far north.

Rough bluegrass, creeping bentgrass, and hard fescue have good shade tolerance in northern areas, but not as good as red fescue or velvet bentgrass.

St. Augustine grass and manila grass have excellent shade tolerance in warm season areas from the Texas gulf to the Carolinas. St. Augustine grass produces a thick dark green lawn in full sun or moderate shade. Manila grass is a fine-textured, dense type of zoysiagrass.

Maintenance for a Shady Lawn


Mow grass in shady areas one-third higher than in sunny locations. The increased blade surface absorbs more sunlight. Remove leaves and grass clippings from the lawn because they reduce the sunlight that reaches the grass. Trim surrounding trees, especially lower branches, to increase sunlight.

Water deeply and infrequently. Deep watering penetrates the roots of the grass, where shallow watering encourages tree roots to come to the surface and compete with the grass for water and nutrients. Too much water, however, leads to disease problems. Watering a shady lawn is not the same as watering a sunny lawn; it may take time to achieve the correct balance between too much and too little water. A walking sprinkler can be set to put the correct amount of water on.

Shady lawns do not need as much nitrogen fertilizer as lawns that get more sunlight. Use deep root feeding to feed trees in lawns in order to prevent high levels of nitrogen from reaching the grass.

Avoid walking on shady lawns. Foot traffic is more damaging to shady lawns, which are in general more fragile.

Alternatives to Grass for Shady Areas

In high shade areas where sunlight cannot be increased by trimming branches of trees, plants other than grass may be more successful as groundcovers. As with the grasses, suitable plants depend on climate and growing conditions. Possibilities include pachysandra, ivy, moss, periwinkle, sweet woodruff, and many others.

Where no plants will grow straw, woodchips, or mulch can provide effective and attractive cover for the ground. Paving stones, bricks, or gravel are other options that can be incorporated into the landscape in places where plants do not thrive.

Dogs And Lawns

dog catching frisbee on lawnIf you have a lawn and a dog, you understand the problem.

The dog brings you and your family so much joy – chasing balls and Frisbees on the lawn, playing with the children, and squirming around with legs kicking in the air.

Yet, there are problems: dogs dig in lawns and leave things you’d rather not have around. You know what I mean!

Before you give up your dog or your lawn or abandon hopes of a peaceful coexistence, check out the information below.

Toileting

Dog feces don’t really damage the lawn if you pick them up promptly. If you leave them on the lawn they will shade out and smother the grass underneath. Not to mention that both you and the kids walk in them.

The answer, of course, is a pooper scooper. You can go with the one handed jaw type scoop which most people like because they’re so easy to use one handed. However, a few folk find they have problems with the screws etc so you might prefer the more basic mini rake and shovel type.

And additional problem with not picking the feces up straight away is that your dog can develop the unsavory habit of eating his own doggie does! Nothing worse than having your hand licked by a pooch that you suspect has been eating his own waste.

If you’re wondering just what you do with the dog feces AFTER you’ve picked them up, then take a look at the Doggie Dooley 3000 Septic-Tank-Style Pet-Waste Disposal System.

It is a little work putting it in but is a great solution once you have. It works just like a proper septic tank and is big enough for 2 large dogs or 4 small dogs.

Whatever you do, don’t toss it over the fence! The dogs are yours and so is their poop! Nothing more guaranteed to start a neighborhood war.

Urine is a bigger problem. Urine is high in nitrogen and, while grass needs nitrogen, urine is so concentrated it burns the grass. That’s what causes the brown spots where your dog urinates. Male dogs are less of a problem than females because when a male lifts its leg the urine is sprayed, but when a female sits the urine goes all in one place.

Here’s what you can do to keep dog urine from damaging your lawn:


• Saturate the spot with water within nine hours. The water will dilute the nitrogen.
• Try putting fresh sawdust on the urine spots. The sawdust may absorb some of the nitrogen if you get it on there quickly.
• Replace the brown areas with fresh plugs or sprigs. Dig up the turf, including the roots. Then add some good loam or topsoil if you need to raise the soil level. If you edge your garden beds you may have some pieces of sod you can pop right into the open spaces. You can also seed the damaged area.
• If you are planting a new lawn or replacing a damaged spot use a more urine resistant grass. Perennial ryegrass and fescues are among the most urinate resistant turf grasses, while Kentucky bluegrass and bermudagrass are the least resistant to urine.
• Wait for the lawn to repair itself. Because they spread vigorously by rhizomes and/or stolons, warm season grasses will repair themselves over time.

Like with most problems, the best solution to the toileting problem is prevention. Ideally your dog will “do its business” during daily walks. Of course you still have to pick it up unless you walk them in a truly wild place. If that’s not a possibility or doesn’t work all the time, the next best solution is to set up a bathroom area dedicated to that one purpose. You’ll need to be consistent in showing your pets where you want them to go until they understand. Most dogs are fairly accommodating; they just need to know what you want and get rewards for doing it.

Digging

Lots of puppies dig holes in the lawn and many adult dogs do the same. If they are digging to reach a special spot you can put down stones or a barrier to keep them out. But if they are digging here and there around the lawn, it’s a training issue. Some folks say to give them a dedicated area where they are allowed to dig. But it’s best to consult your favorite dog trainer for advice.

If you don’t mind a lawn that shows the wear and tear of family life, you may simply want to accept what your dog does. Of course, for your own sake you still need to pick up the piles your dog leaves behind!

How To Control Lawn Pests

The best way to keep insects, diseases, and weeds out of your lawn is to grow a vigorous, healthy lawn. You will never get rid of all the pest organisms, but you can keep them to an acceptable level without using dangerous chemicals. The truth is, even if you do use chemicals you can’t get rid of all the pests forever.

Your first step is to grow a grass that is suited for your climate and for your specific conditions. Grow a warm season grass if you live in a warm climate.

Plant a lawn that tolerates shade if your spot is shady. When you grow the right grass in the right spot it will be more pest resistant naturally.

Following is information about two of the most common insects that damage turf grass—just in case!

Japanese Beetles

japanese beetle damage

Japanese beetles have a wide-ranging diet that includes turf grass (and 300 other species of plants). By some counts Japanese beetles cause more damage to U.S. lawns than any other insect. Adult Japanese beetles feed on leaves, flowers, and fruit. It is the larval (or white grub) stage of this beetle that feeds on the roots of grass, causing major damage to lawns.

By chewing on the grass roots the Japanese beetle grubs make it harder for the grass to take up water, making the turf more vulnerable to drought and heat. The consequence is large dead patches of lawn.

Methods to control Japanese beetles include the following:

• Water deeply and infrequently. Roots will get the water they need but the top inches of soil will be too dry for beetles and grubs.
• Pick off adults and drop them in a bucket of soapy water.
• Apply milky spore, a pathogen that kills adults and grubs. It takes 2-4 years for the milky spore to become effective, but control lasts for 15 years.
• Apply parasitic nematodes when grubs are small, watering before and after the application.
• Use diatomaceous earth, which is ground up fossilized algae with very sharp edges that destroy the shells of crawling insects. Diatomaceous earth does not hurt earthworms and larger animals.
• Apply pesticides. Pesticides will be effective only if the proper pesticide is applied correctly at the right time. Pesticides differ for adults and for white grubs.
• Dethatch lawns to eliminate hiding places for grubs and make it easier for pesticides and other treatments to reach them.

There are a number of other grubs that damage Japanese beetles and can be controlled with these methods.

Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are tiny insects that feed on lawns, leaving irregular dry, brown patches. They show up as small red dots. Chinch bugs favor dry conditions.
The standard control methods for chinch bugs are to:

• Overseed with clover to make the turf grass less vulnerable to chinch bugs.
• Remove thatch in the fall to eliminate overwintering and breeding habitat.
• Vacuum chinch bugs off lawn.
• Replant with plants that are not susceptible to chinch bugs.
• Keep soil moist.

Other Lawn Pests

Moles, ground hogs, weeds, and a number of other insects also damage turf grass. For all these pests prevention is the best cure: Grow the healthiest, strongest lawn you can and you will have fewer serious pest problems.

How To Overseed Your Cool Season Lawn

Your cool season lawn may not look its best after a hot summer. Heat, weeds, insects, drought, neglect, and diseases take a heavy toll on cool season lawns.

You can make your lawn healthier and more attractive by overseeding, which for a cool season lawn involves sowing seeds over existing lawn to cover spots where the grass is patchy. If at least half of your lawn is fairly healthy and strong, overseeding is a good way to revitalize it. In fact, you may want to overseed your cool season lawn every year to keep it looking great. However, if more than half your lawn looks worn out and weak it’s best to start over with a new lawn.

Preparing Your Lawn for Overseeding

If you haven’t had your lawn soil tested in few years do that before you overseed. The test results will give you recommendations for fertilizer or amendments for growing a healthy lawn. Cooperative extension services all over the country provide inexpensive and convenient soil testing.

Grass seed needs sunlight and good contact with soil to germinate and grow. When you sow grass seeds over a lawn the blades of the existing grass shade them, plus thatch and clippings create a barrier between the seeds and the soil. You can help the new seeds by mowing lower than usual before overseeding to reduce shading. Even if you don’t usually remove grass clippings, bag or rake the clippings before overseeding so they don’t interfere with the seeds.

Work the soil lightly with a verticutter or power rake to loosen 1/4 inch of soil. Or use a core aerator to remove plugs of turf and give seeds places to germinate.

If you have protruding roots or rocks you may need to add a layer of topsoil before overseeding. By raking in a 1/4-inch layer of screened loam or topsoil you can increase the depth of the topsoil.

Overseeding cool season lawns in September gives the new seeds time to grow before winter sets in. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are good turf grass seed choices, either on their own or in mixes. Sow 6-8 pounds of tall fescue or 2-3 pounds of Kentucky blue grass per 1,000 square feet of lawn using a rotary seeder or drop seeder. The tall fescue will germinate in 2-3 weeks, with the bluegrass following a week later.

Apply a slow release nitrogen fertilizer when you overseed. Six-eight weeks later apply a quick release nitrogen fertilizer. Water at least daily to keep the seeds moist until they sprout, then reduce watering after about three weeks.

When the grass is three inches high mow it to two inches and keep mowing it to this height for the rest of the season.

Long after the blades of grass stop growing the root systems of the turf grass will continue to get stronger, in preparation for a lush, green lawn in the spring.

Choosing the Right Warm Season Grass

If you live where summer temperatures regularly reach 80-95 degrees and want to have a lawn, you need to choose a warm season grass. Warm season grasses share several characteristics in addition to thriving in warm or hot climates. Because they grow very actively in the summer they have fewer problems with weeds, diseases, and insect pests. But during the winter they brown up at the first killing frost, going dormant for four or five months until they start to grow in mid-April or early May. Warm season grasses do not have heavy irrigation needs; in fact, they need 30 percent less water than cool season grasses.

Major types of warm season grasses are bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, centipedegrass, and St. Augustine grass. Let’s take a look at the positive and negative qualities of these four.

Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass is a good choice for athletic fields, golf course fairways, lawns, and parks because it withstands heavy traffic extremely well. It also holds up under extreme heat and drought and has low water needs. The highest quality bermudagrass is only available in sod, although some types can be seeded.

Bermudagrass grows laterally both above and below the ground, making it a very aggressive creeper—hard to keep out of flower beds. It does not tolerant shade at all and needs frequent mowing in summer.

The recommended fertilizer application rate is 1-4 pounds of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet per year. As with other grasses, how much you use depends on your needs and expectations for your lawn. Mowing height is 1 ½-2 inches.

Read more on Bermuda Grass.

Zoysiagrass

Zoysiagrass grows more slowly than bermudagrass and is more tolerant of shade. This dense turf grass stands up well to traffic, but its stiff blades make it very hard to mow. You need a powerful mower with sharp cutting edges to keep it ½ to 2 inches high.

An all-round, well-adapted turf grass, zoysiagrass has outstanding cold and drought tolerance and few weed and pest problems. Recommend nitrogen application is 1-2 pounds per year.

Centipedegrass

Centipedegrass grows very slowly, which means it does not invade flowerbeds but is slow to establish from seed. Compared to zoysia, this warm season grass is not as hardy but equally shade tolerant. Because centipedegrass has poor traffic tolerance it’s a popular choice for cemeteries, utility turf, and golf course roughs. It can work in lawns and parks that are more for show than walking on.

Centipedegrass tolerates drought and low fertility. Of all the warm season grasses it needs the least mowing (1 ½ to 2 ½ inches mowing height). Its nitrogen needs are also low (1 to 2 pounds per year). Overall, centipedegrass is a high quality and low maintenance warm season grass.

St. Augustine Grass

Wide-bladed St. Augustine grass is an aggressive grower that invades plant beds, but it’s not as aggressive as bermudagrass. While no grass grows well in dense shade, St. Augustine grass is the most shade tolerant warm season grass on the market. It does not, however, have good cold tolerance and has more pest and disease problems than other warm season grasses.

Like centipedegrass, St. Augustine grass does not tolerate heavy traffic. Homeowners value St. Augustine grass for the thick, lush turf it creates with relatively low maintenance. This turf grass needs 1-3 ½ pounds of nitrogen per year and a mowing height of 3-4 inches.

Choose the Right Grass

These four turf grasses provide a range of options for warm season growing. The right choice for you depends on your growing conditions, usage, and expectations for your lawn.