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Bermuda Grass Care in Texas

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Bermuda Grass Care in Texas

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Overview

Drought tolerant and rather difficult to eradicate once established in a landscape, Bermuda grass makes a viable option for lawns in all areas of Texas. It turns tan in winter but greens in warmth and quickly spreads by either runner stems called stolons or by producing lots of seeds. It is a lower water-need turf grass, but needs short mowing, thatching and fertilizing to look its finest. Be prepared to pull out this grass from flower beds.

Site Selection

Bermuda grass needs high levels of light to prosper. An area destined to become carpeted with this turf grass needs to receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Clay, loam or sandy soils support good growth as long as their pH falls in the range of 6.5 to 8.0. Avoid areas that drain poorly, easily flooding or pooling water after a rainfall. Soil type, light intensity, and wind and water availability all combine to determine the local level of maintenance needed for Bermuda grass lawns across the state of Texas.

Watering

As stated by the Texas Cooperative Extension Service, Bermuda grass survives in dry soil conditions longer than most turf grasses but it truly fails to provide a desirable turf under prolonged, constant drought conditions. The grass responds well to rainfall and irrigation. Clay soils retain moisture longer than sandy soils. While 80 percent of the roots remain in the top 6 inches of top soil, thorough but infrequent irrigation promotes the most drought-tolerant Bermuda grass lawns. Generally speaking, this grass needs 1/2 to 3/4 inch of water weekly in the heat of summer to look good. Do not overwater; and aerate clay soils and dethatch lawns to ensure good water penetration to the roots.

Mowing Considerations

Common Bermuda grass develops into dense, foot traffic-tolerant lawns when mowed at 1/2 to 1 inch. A mowing height above 1 inch makes a nice lawn but it does not handle foot traffic well. Fine-textured varieties of Bermuda grass need lower mowing heights, closer to 1/2 to 3/4 inch. Time your mowings according to the growth of the grass, not on a strict time schedule. Shorter lawns maintained at 1/2 inch may need mowing every three days in summer while those maintained at 1 inch every five to seven days according to the Texas Extension Service. Never cut more than 40 percent of the entire height of Bermuda grass at each mowing as scalping and denuding of plants occurs.

Fertilization

If used frequently, lawn areas comprised of Bermuda grass need frequent fertilization to look their best, such as on a golf putting green or other sporting field. Average home lawns need less fertilizing. Conduct a soil test to determine its nutritional value and composition. Clay soils retain fertilizer nutrients much longer than sandy soils. In high-quality, frequently mowed Bermuda grass lawns, 1 to 1.5 lbs of nitrogen turf fertilizer is needed per 1,000 square feet monthly during the growing season. For average, low-maintenance lawns, about one-half pound suffices monthly. Make sure the fertilizer used contains phosphorus and potassium, too. The latter in particular improves root health. Also be aware that different varieties of Bermuda grass possess different fertilizer needs: Tifway needs less fertilizer than Tifgreen to look good, for example.

Pest Issues

High nitrogen fertilization, low mowing heights and frequent irrigation increases the susceptibility of Bermuda grass to insects and diseases. Overall, when insect pests are expected at different times of year, fertilization should be avoided so abundant foliage doesn't allow pests to prosper. The most serious insect pests include armyworms, cutworms, sod webworms, Bermuda grass mites and Rhodegrass scale. Fungal diseases encouraged by overwatering and lack of light include dollar spot, spring dead spot, leaf spot, brown patch and pythium. Nematodes may wreak havoc in sandier soils. Weeds occur when the grass is stressed and not vigorous; a healthy lawn should "choke out" most weeds.

Seasonal Insight

Some people may not like the Bermuda grass lawn in winter when dormant and tan to brown in color. In the cooler winter months across Texas, consider sowing annual bluegrass on the Bermuda grass lawn to provide green color. The bluegrass wanes once heat returns in spring and the Bermuda grass awakens.

Keywords: Bermuda grass care, Texas lawn care, Bermuda grass concerns, choosing turfgrass

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.