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.
Do not fertilize athletic fields that have not been overseeded. Apply no more than ½ pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet to winter overseeded fields every three to four weeks.
Dormant turf may need to be irrigated when warm, windy weather prevails. Winter overseeded fields lose greater amounts of water than fields that have not been overseeded. Probe the soil to determine dryness.
Mow baseball infields overseeded with ryegrass at ½ to ¾ inch and outfields, sidelines, football fields, and soccer fields at ¾ to 1 ½ inches. Reduce mowing height two weeks before the grass is expected to turn green in the spring to weaken ryegrass and allow bermudagrass to respond with minimum competition.
Do not power rake or aerify dormant fields until the soil temperature approaches 50 F at a depth of 4 inches. Initiate verticutting of winter overseeded bermudagrass two weeks before it is expected to turn green in the spring to weaken ryegrass and enhance bermudagrass recovery. Coring the soil at this time helps warm the soil.
If atrazine or simazine were not applied in autumn, glyphosate (various brands) may be used for postemergence annual bluegrass, winter annual and perennial broadleaf weed control. This treatment should be applied to dormant bermudagrass turf at a rate of 0.5 pound of active ingredient per acre (lb ai/A). Read the label for surfactant recommendations.
Crabgrass species and goosegrass should be controlled preemergence in February and March. A general guideline is to apply preemergence herbicides when forsythias are in full bloom. In Wake county, this occurs in mid to late February. Many preemergence crabgrass herbicides are not suggested for use in bermudagrass athletic fields. These include the dinitroaniline family herbicides and prodiamine (Barricade) which are root inhibitors. These products provide good to excellent crabgrass species control and fair to good goosegrass control. However, they can adversely affect bermudagrass rooting at the nodes of the stolons. Heavy play or traffic on the turf while affected could result in significant stand loss. Bermudagrass is least affected by oxadiazon (Ronstar G, 50WP) applications. Ronstar 50WP should be applied to dormant, established bermudagrass 2 to 3 weeks before greenup. Ronstar formulations should be applied at 2 to 3 lb ai/A.
View this presentation
View this publication
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
Whether you're a professional botanist or a casual nature enthusiast, the NC State University (NCSU) Aquatic Weeds app has detailed information on a wide variety of aquatic weeds to assist in identification.
Please read these instructions before downloading the software:
Click below to download the software: