Bermudagrass is a medium- to fine-textured warm-season turfgrass that spreads by rhizomes and stolons. It has excellent heat, drought, and salt tolerance but does not do well in shade. Bermudagrass is the most widely used species on athletic fields and golf course fairways/tee boxes due to its high wear tolerance and rapid recovery. It can also be a very invasive and hard to control weed in some turf settings. Bermudagrass can be confused with nimblewill. However, nimblewill has a membranous ligule, which can be distinguished from the hairy ligule of bermudagrass. Bermudagrass is also often confused with zoysiagrass, but zoysiagrass has hairs standing upright on the leaf blade, whereas bermudagrass does not. Zoysiagrass is also stiff to the touch and offers more resistance to your hand than bermudagrass. Zoysiagrass leaf vernation is rolled whereas bermudagrass leaf vernation is folded. There are many different hybrids of bermudagrass that range from fine to coarse in leaf texture. As a weed, bermudagrass is sometimes referred to as wiregrass.
Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet several weeks after the grass turns green. Submit a soil sample to determine nutrient and lime requirements. In the absence of a soil test, use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio(for example, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8). (Contact your county Cooperative Extension Center for details.) Apply lime if suggested. To determine the amount of product needed to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number in the fertilizer ratio. For example, for a 16-4-8 fertilizer, divide 100 by 16. The result is 6.25 pounds of product per thousand square feet: 100/16 = 6.25.
Check for white grubs and control them if necessary.
Water to a soil depth of 4 to 6 inches. Probe with a screwdriver to determine moisture depth. Bermudagrass needs a weekly application of about 1 to 1¼ inches of water. On sandy soils it often requires more frequent watering, for example, ½ inch of water every third day. It is often necessary to irrigate an area for 3 to 5 hours to apply 1 inch of water. (It requires 640 gallons of water to deliver 1 inch of water per thousand square feet.) Because clay soils accept water slowly, irrigate just until runoff occurs, wait ½ hour until the water has been absorbed, and then continue irrigating until the desired depth or amount is obtained. A dark bluish gray color, footprinting, and wilted, folded, or curled leaves indicate that it is time to water. Proper irrigation may prevent or reduce pest problems and environmental stress later in the summer.
Mow the lawn when it first turns green in the spring with a reel mower set at ¾ to 1 inch or a rotary mower set as low as possible without scalping. Mow before the grass gets taller than 1½ to 2 inches. Then practice grasscycling. Grasscycling is simply leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Grass clippings decompose quickly and can provide up to 25 percent of the lawn's fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent frequent mowing and clippings are too plentiful to leave on the lawn, they can be collected and used as mulch. Whatever you do, don't bag them! Grass clippings do not belong in landfills.
Replant large bare areas using sod or sprigs (3 to 5 bushels per thousand square feet). Common bermudagrass can be seeded using hulled bermudagrass at 1 to 2 pounds per thousand square feet.
Vertically mow in May to remove the thatch (layer of undecayed grass) after the lawn becomes green if the thatch is more than ½ inch thick.
Apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail by the time the dogwoods are in full bloom. Apply postemergence herbicides in May as needed to control summer annual and perennial broadleaf weeds such as knotweed, spurge, and lespedeza. Products containing two or three broadleaf herbicides usually control several different broadleaf weeds in a lawn more effectively. Be sure the product is labeled for use on bermudagrass. Apply postemergence herbicides only when weeds are present, and wait until three weeks after the lawn becomes green.
Apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet two or three weeks after the grass turns green. A complete (3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio) fertilizer may be necessary only once or twice annually with remaining applications composed of nitrogen sources such as urea (45-0-0) and ammonium nitrate (33.5-0-0). (See Table 1. below) If growth appears to be slow and the grass is yellowish green, apply a nitrogen source every four to six weeks at 1 pound per thousand square feet as needed.
Test the soil to determine phosphorus, potassium, and lime requirements. Obtain test kits at your Cooperative Extension Service office or from the Agronomic Division Soil, Plant and Nematode Testing, North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Raleigh, NC 27611.
Apply lime as needed, but no more than 50 pounds per thousand square feet per application. Apply in split applications four or more weeks apart if the suggested amount exceeds 50 pounds per thousand square feet. If possible, apply lime just before coring the soil.
Water in the early morning to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Bermudagrass usually requires a weekly application of about 1 ¼ inches of water. In sandy soils, apply ½ to ¾ inch of water every three to four days. It takes 620 gallons of water to apply 1 inch per thousand square feet. Do not irrigate again until symptoms of wilt appear (folded or curled leaves, footprinting, or bluish green color). Probe the soil to detect dryness. Avoid light, frequent irrigations because they promote shallow rooting and encourage algae and moss growth.
To reduce compaction and wear, do not irrigate for two days before heavy use. Minimize field use when wet. Postpone play or use alternate sites for band practice and practice sessions. Game fields should be used only for team play and not for team practice, physical education, or band practice.
Set mower to 1-inch cutting height and remove debris before the grass turns green in the spring. The best mowing height during the growing season is 1 inch for common bermudagrass and ¾ to 1 inch for hybrid bermudagrass. Do not allow bermudagrass to grow above 1 ½ inches between mowings. Two or three weekly mowings may be necessary. Remove only those clippings that windrow.
If the grass gets excessively high during a wet period, raise the mower and cut off one-fourth to one-half of the present growth; then lower the mower to its proper height in a day or two. Reel mowers are preferred for a clean cut. Rotary mowers are a second choice provided the blades are sharp and can be lowered to the appropriate height; however, scalping frequently occurs at lower cutting heights.
April and May are preferred for renovating bermudagrass fields.
Vertically mowing to remove thatch (dead plant residue) is essential for bermudagrass, especially for aggressive cultivars such as Vamont and Tifway. Verticut the field with a power rake about two to three weeks after the grass turns green to remove thatch. Run the verticutter over the field twice, with the second pass at right angles to the first, and sweep and haul off the debris.
Aerification (coring) relieves compaction on heavily trafficked athletic fields. Aerate monthly beginning two weeks after the grass turns green during the growing season using ¾- to 1-inch diameter tines that remove soil cores. Aerate the field lengthwise twice and crosswise once to penetrate heavy clay soils. These soils must be moist. (Water the field several days in advance.) Allow the plugs to dry, then pulverize them with a mower or power rake and redistribute with a dragmat. More frequent coring may be necessary along heavily trafficked and compacted areas such as player benches, between hash marks, along sidelines, and in front of goals. Football fields may be aerified right after the last game of the season to avoid disruption of team play.
Rent, borrow, or contract for these services if you do not have equipment on hand. Soil cultivation practices are necessary for an acceptable field; however, do not perform these practices if the turf is under stress. It may take three weeks of good growing conditions for the turf to recover after aerification.
Postemergence* - Grasses and Sedges: Metribuzin (Sencor DF) applied at 0.25 to 0.5 pounds of active ingredient per acre (lb ai/A) will control small crabgrass and goosegrass plants. Do not apply to bermudagrass turf under stress or to turf
MSMA (various brands) applied at 2 to 3 lb ai/A will control crabgrass species, goosegrass, bahiagrass, dallisgrass, sandbur, annual sedge and nutsedge species. Begin treatments when grasses (before tillering) and sedges (3 to 5 leaves) are young. Repeat applications may be needed at 7 to 10 day intervals. Nutsedge species and sandbur may require 3 to 4 applications. Read the MSMA label to determine if a surfactant should be included.
Bentazon (Basagran T/O or Lescogran) will control annual sedge and yellow nutsedge. Apply 1 to 2 lb ai/A and repeat in 10 to 14 days. Do not mow 3 to 5 days before or after treatment.
Imazaquin (Image LC) 0.25 to 0.5 lb ai/A and halosulfuron (Manage) 0.5 to 1 oz ai/A will control green kyllinga, purple nutsedge and yellow nutsedge. Do not apply until after spring greenup. A nonionic surfactant is required for each product. For improved nutsedge species control, MSMA applied at 1.5 lb ai/A can be tank-mixed with Image LC. Manage only suppresses green kyllinga. A second application is usually required 6 to 10 weeks after the initial treatment.
Postemergence* - Broadleaves: Broadleaf weeds such as knotweed, spotted spurge, common lespedeza, dandelion, plantain species, white clover, etc. can be controlled with mixtures containing 2,4-D amine, mecoprop, dicamba, dichlorporp, triclopyr and clopyralid (various brands). Read the label for suggested use rates. For some hard-to-control weeds (common lespedeza, Virginia buttonweed, etc.), applying these products at half the label rate and repeating the application in 7 to 10 days has proven effective.
*Do not mow or water bermudagrass turf for at least 24 hours after application. Treat when air temperature is between 80 F and 90 F. Do not apply to turf under stress.
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raceme; 3-5 spikes that join at the top of a main stem.
leaves folded in the bud
fringe of hairs 0.04 - 0.12 inches (1 - 3 mm) long
warm season turf or perennial weed
sharp-pointed; sparsely hairy, edges rough, leaf blade soft
0.06 - 0.1 inches (1.5 - 3 mm) wide
continuous; not hairy, may be hairy on edges
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