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Nitrogen Fertilizer for Bermuda Grass

Image by, courtesy of Dan Perry

Bermuda grass, popular for lawns, golf courses and playing fields, can grow in both acid and alkaline soils ranging from deep sand to heavy clay, and it tolerates salt and flooding. But Bermuda turf needs soil that is well drained, and it needs a lot of nitrogen, especially if it is used heavily and mowed frequently.

Fast-release Fertilizer

Ammonium sulfate, urea and other water-soluble, fast-release nitrogen fertilizers can result in a darker green turf. But they also can burn Burmuda grass if you apply too much or apply it when the turf is wet.

Do not apply more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of grass. To calculate how much fertilizer is need to supply 1 pound of nitrogen, divide 100 by the percentage of nitrogen in the fertilizer. The numbers on a bag of fertilizer refer to the percentages by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, respectively.

For example, ammonium nitrate is 34-0-0. One hundred divided by 34 equals 2.94, so you should apply approximately 3 pounds of ammonium nitrate for each 1,000 square feet of Bermuda grass.

Slow-release Fertilizer

Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers, which are usually more expensive than fast-release fertilizers, do not dissolve easily in water. Since the nitrogen is released slowly into the grass, these fertilizers are less apt to burn the turf. The Bermuda will stay green for a longer period of time if you use a slow-release fertilizer.

Horticulturalists at the University of Florida recommend the application of a 16-4-8 fertilizer two weeks after the Bermuda starts growing in the spring. Apply half a pound of water-soluble, fast-release fertilizer and 1 pound of slow-release fertilizer for each 1,000 square feet of turf. After that, use slow-release fertilizer in monthly applications during the growing season.

Special Use Requirements

Golf greens, bowling greens and tennis courts need the most nitrogen. Golf course fairways and sports playing fields need less nitrogen.

The lowest rate of application needed to maintain Bermuda grass on golf fairways and sports fields is 1/2 pound nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, applied each month. For high-quality, frequently mowed turf such as golf greens and tennis courts, apply 1 to 1 1/2 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each month of the growing season.

Soil Type

Frequent, light applications of nitrogen are best for sandy soils because they don’t hold nitrogen well. Bermuda grass, spread by stems above and below the ground, grows best in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Test the soil every one to two years to determine its nutritional requirements, including nitrogen.

Common Bermuda vs. Hybrids

Common Bermuda grass needs less nitrogen than hybrid cultivars. Apply more nitrogen to Tifgreen Bermuda to keep it a rich green and less seedy. Tifway, a dark green cultivar, needs less nitrogen than Tifgreen.

If you apply nitrogen to Bermuda beyond that needed to keep it green and growing, you will have to mow and irrigate it more often, and you’ll have more problems with pests and controlling thatch.

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