Seeding & Tilling for Bermuda Grass

Overview

If you live in a climate with warm summers and mild winters (U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 8 and warmer), Bermuda grasses (Cynodon spp.) make good drought-tolerant lawns and cover for athletic fields and golf courses. Only common Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) can be started from seed, as other hybrid Bermuda grass varieties are sterile and must be grown from sprigs, plugs or rolls of cut sod. Once established, the fibrous and vigorous root system penetrates deeply into the soil, quickly forming an attractive green turf mat to walk on.

Time Frame

According to Texas A&M University, undertake Bermuda grass seeding when soil temperatures are above 65 degrees Fahrenheit and air temps are between 75 and 90 F. Spring or fall sowing is better than summer planting, but varies by a site's latitude and elevation. When air temperatures hover near 80 F and soils temps are between 68 to 75 F, root and leaf growth on newly sprouting grass is fastest.

Application

Seeds of Bermuda grass are tiny. Texas A&M University comments that in a 1-lb. mass, there are about 2,000,000 seeds. These seed should be planted at a rate of 1 to 2 lbs. of hulled seed per 1000 square feet, according to the University of Florida. Seedland adds that if the seeds are not hulled (coated), apply 2 to 3 lbs. over this same area.

Tilling Benefits

Tilling the soil prior to sowing grass seed has advantages. First, any present weeds are killed and removed. Rocks and other debris also are taken away and raking the freshly tilled soil corrects uneven areas. A soft soil also facilitates the raking in of Bermuda grass seeds to the optimum depth of no more than 1/4 inch; do not allow seeds to sit exposed on the soil surface. Roll the lawn to gently compact the soil particles onto seeds and to establish a level surface.

Considerations

Bermuda grass seed will sprout on moist, well-drained soils that are of any pH or type (sand, loam, clay). Newly sown seeds need constant moisture (but don't create a soggy soil profile, especially in clay). If sowing in autumn or on a slope prone to erosion, a beneficial companion cover crop can be intermixed with the Bermuda grass. Seedland recommends ryegrass and Texas A&M University recommends small grain wheat or rye. The heat of the following summer will kill these cool-season grass/grains but promote rapid growth of the Bermuda grass.

Expert Insight

Richard Duble, Turf Specialist with Texas A&M, states a soil test is worthwhile. Bermuda grass responds well to fertile soils, especially with adequate nitrogen. If a soil test reveals a nitrogen-lacking environment for sprouting grass, fertilizer can be scattered atop the soil immediately after seeding. Apply 1 lb. per 1,000 square feet (40 to 50 lbs. per acre). Re-apply nitrogen every three to four weeks when temps remain above 65 degrees Fahrenheit to increase the growth and coverage of Bermuda grass roots, blades and spreading surface stolons.

Keywords: sowing Bermuda grass, preparing new lawn, starting Bermuda grass

About this Author

James Burghardt became a full-time writer in 2008 with articles appearing on Web sites like eHow and GardenGuides. He's gardened and worked professionally at gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He holds a graduate diploma in environmental horticulture from the University of Melbourne, Australia and a Master of Science in public horticulture from the University of Delaware.