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Bermudagrass athletic Maintenance Guide

January - March

Fertilization

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.

Irrigation

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.

Mowing

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.

Soil Cultivation

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.

Weed Control

Winter weeds and perennials - Postemergence Control

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.

Summer annual grasses - Preemergence Control

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.

April - June

Fertilization

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.

Fertilizer Conversion Table
Fertilizer AnalysisPounds of Product
per 1,000 sq. ft.per acre
12-4-88.3360
16-4-86.3272
8-8-812.5540
10-10-1010.0435
46-0-02.295
34-0-02.9125
  1. Amount of product needed to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet.
  2. Amount of product needed to apply 43.5 pounds of nitrogen per acre. To determine the amount of product needed to deliver 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 fetilizer, divide 100 by 16. The result is 6.25 pounds of product per thousand square feet.
Typical Field Sizes in Acres
FieldSize (acres)
Baseball*Little League, Bronco1.2
Pony2
Colt3
Babe Ruth, Senior League, Official3.0 to 3.85
Infield1.2
Field Hockey*1.2
FootballPlaying surface 360' x 160'1.3
Playing surface & bench area 360' X 200'1.6
Hash mark are 300' X 54'0.37
440 Oval2.3
Lacrosse1.4
Rugby*1.4 to 1.7
Soccer*2.2 to 2.7
Softball, Adult*Slow pitch (12"), fast pitch1.5 to 2.0
Modified slow pitch (16")1.2 to 1.7
Softball, Youth*1.5 to 2.0
* varies depending on the following:
  1. size and number of fields
  2. orientation and layout of fields
  3. quality and type of support facilities
  4. internal and external buffer zones

Irrigation

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.

Mowing

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.

Renovation

April and May are preferred for renovating bermudagrass fields.

Soil Cultivation

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.

Weed Control

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.

July - August

Fertilization

Follow the April-June fertilization guidelines.

Irrigation

Follow the April-June irrigation guidelines.

Mowing

Follow the April-June mowing guidelines.

Renovation

Make arrangements now to begin renovation and establishment early next spring. Ensure that the necessary labor, equipment, and supplies are available. Bermudagrass can be planted any time soil temperatures reach 50 F, usually in April but sometimes as early as March. The other option is to sod the field. Although this option is very expensive, the fields can be ready for play within six weeks.

Early June is the latest preferred date for renovating a bermudagrass field by sprigging. It takes about two to three months of good growing weather before a sprigged field is ready to withstand light traffic (less than 10 football games per year). Looks can be deceiving. Good coverage can be achieved within nine weeks with aggressive cultivars like Vamont; however, the plants will not be mature enough to withstand much traffic.

Soil Cultivation

Follow the April-June soil cultivation guidelines.

Weed Control

Follow the April-June weed control guidelines for control of grasses, sedges and broadleaf weeds.

Generally, do not apply postemergence herbicide treatments during July and August when the bermudagrass turf is drought or heat stressed and air temperatures exceed 90 F. Temporary bermudagrass discoloration can be expected in hot weather and dry soils. Rainfall or irrigation will revive the turf.

September - December

Fertilization

Do not apply more than ½ pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet (22 pounds per acre) after September 15. Use a low-nitrogen, high-potassium fertilizer such as 200 pounds of 5-10-30 per acre or supplement straight nitrogen sources with potash (K2O) using 70 pounds of muriate of potash (0-0-60), 86 pounds of potassium sulfate (0-0-50), or 220 pounds of sul-po-mag (0-0-22) per acre. Repeat in three weeks. Bermudagrass must be green and growing actively (not dormant) to benefit from this application. Irrigate immediately after application to prevent turf discoloration. Potassium lessens the chance of bermudagrass winterkill. Avoid the use of nitrogen unless fields are to be overseeded with annual or perennial ryegrass.

To determine the amount of product required to apply 1 pound of potash per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the third number in the fertilizer ratio. For example, for 6-6-12 fertilizer, divide 100 by 12. The result is 8.3 pounds of product per thousand square feet.

Irrigation

Follow the April-June irrigation procedures.

Reduce compaction and wear by avoiding irrigation before heavy use. Minimize field use under wet conditions. Postpone play or use alternate sites for band and athletic practice sessions. Game fields should be used only for team play and not for team practice, physical education, or band practice.

Mowing

Follow the April-June mowing guidelines until several weeks before the first expected frost. Raise the mowing height ½ inch as winter approaches if fields are not scheduled to be winter overseeded. Mowing height is usually raised in mid- to late September in the piedmont. Mowing height of athletic fields in the western and northwestern areas of the piedmont may be raised to one to two weeks earlier, whereas in the south central and southwestern regions it may be raised one to two weeks later. Do not exceed a 2-inch cutting height.

Soil Cultivation

Do not vertical mow, dethatch (power rake), or aerate (core) bermudagrass fields unless you plan to overseed in the fall. This can result in bermudagrass injury because plants are not able to successfully recover before winter.

Bermudagrass fields should not be renovated at this time of year.

Weed Control

Annual bluegrass and many winter annual broadleaf weeds can be effectively controlled in bermudagrass turf from autumn to early winter. These weeds, if left nontreated and at high densities, will outcompete bermudagrass the following spring for sunlight, thus delaying bermudagrass greenup. For nonoverseeded bermudagrass, atrazine (Purge, AAtrex) applied at 1 to 2 pounds of active ingredient per acre (lb ai/A) should be applied from November 15 to December 31 to dormant turf. Usually, 1 lb ai/A is sufficient when applied in November - early December. Simazine (Princep DF) should be applied from November 15 to December 15 at rates similar to atrazine. Along with annual bluegrass, these herbicides provide preemergence and/or postemergence control of chickweed, speedwell and clover species, lawn burweed, henbit, Carolina geranium, etc.

Winter Overseeding

Fields used late in the fall, in winter, or in early spring may be overseeded with cool-season grasses to provide color and protection. Baseball fields are frequently overseeded. However, spring recovery and growth of bermudagrass will be delayed by the overseeded grass.