Growing turf grass is a challenge for many homeowners. Constant attention to watering, mowing and fertilizing do not always produce the lush, green lawns we want. Making the job more challenging, many properties don't have the rich, loamy soil required by most grasses. Bahia grass is a low-maintenance alternative, tolerating poor soil and minimal attention. Introduced to the southeastern United States from Brazil in 1914, Bahia grass is versatile and easy to grow.
Bahia grass is a coarse warm-season grass that grows from runners. It is quickly established by seed, sprigs, plugs or sod. Not usually dense, bahia grass is appreciated for its low-maintenance qualities. It forms tall, unattractive seed heads. Argentine and Pensacola form a more dense turf and are the varieties most often planted as lawns.
Bahia grass grows well in poor, sandy soils. It has good shade and drought tolerance. Irrigate deeply when the blades begin to fold or when it holds a footprint after being trod upon. Mow every seven to 14 days to 3 or 4 inches in height.
Bahia grass has been used in the southeastern United States as forage for livestock since its introduction. It is often used as a ground cover in orchards because of its tolerance for shade. Because it is low-maintenance, bahia grass is often used along highways where its unattractive qualities are not considered bothersome.
Established bahia grass has low nutritional requirements and should not be over-fertilized. Use a soil test to determine the specific N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) needs of your soil. The need for phosphorus is low because it is often present in the poor, sandy soils bahia grass grows best in. Potassium aids in root development. Typical N-P-K ratios for bahia grass will be about 16-4-8.
Fertilization should begin two weeks after spring growth begins. You can apply up to 1 lb. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, but only if 1/2 is in a slow-release form. Use according to label directions, which include guidance on frequency of application. Always water thoroughly after fertilizing.