How do I develop a healthy Bermuda grass lawn in central Oklahoma?
Let me guess – you were never happy with your aesthetic accomplishments outside last year? Not being able to achieve a lush, weed-free lawn can be frustrating and disappointing. Thousands of people fight year after year toward “lawn bliss” but can’t seem to achieve it. Let me just tell you – most central Oklahomans have hope! Unlock the power of your Bermuda grass lawn.
Can I even get what I want in the first place?
Most-likely, yes. Common U3 Bermuda grass makes up most of the turf-covered areas in Central Oklahoma. Bermuda grass goes dormant in October and comes out of dormancy in April in Oklahoma City and our surrounding areas. It is typically a medium to light-medium green when not fertilized. It has “runners” that are sent out and cause the grass to spread. If you grab a handful and pull it up, you will be pulling up a web of grass rather than a clump. It is a warm-season grass and only thrives in direct sun. Sound familiar? If you have at least some amount of grass, even if it is thin, it is most likely Bermuda grass. This is great news for you. Bermuda grass is extremely resilient and with some basic knowledge you will be on your way to the aforementioned lawn bliss.
Now, I want to provide you with a quick list of variables that can change the ease and expense of achieving a beautiful lawn. If you have any of these, feel free to reach out to us for advice on your situation:
- Extremely sandy soil
- Primarily shady properties
- Zoysia or fescue grass,
- Tifway Bermuda
- Absence of a sprinkler system
There are many cultivars (developed) types of Bermuda grass. The two most common in central Oklahoma are Tifway and U3, with the latter making up the majority. U3 is what most builders and general contractors specify for new construction. Tifway is common on golf greens and in some older neighborhoods. Tifway looks best when kept shorter than one-half inch and cut with a reel mower on an extremely level lawn. Today we are focusing on U3, though the maintenance is very similar on both cultivars.
Ok – so what do I do?
Water, fertilize, treat for weeds and mow.
Yep – that’s it. You’re thinking – OK, I already knew that. Bermuda grass is awesome. It’s easy. But if you’re not properly executing these maintenance items, then you’re always going to struggle. Let’s dig in to the details.
The right amount of water. Many publications will advise you to water two to three times per week. This works OK during our wet seasons here in Oklahoma, but you typically need to be watering daily or at least every other day during July, August and the beginning of September if you want to avoid inconsistent turf. If your soil is cracking or your grass is turning gray and crunchy, then you’re not watering enough. If your lawnmower is always causing ruts or mud tracks when you mow you’re watering too much.
Bermuda grass doesn’t often suffer in obvious ways when it’s overwatered, but pay close attention to the soil and dig your fingers into the surface of the grass. If it still feels wet 12 hours after the sprinklers run (which should be as close to sun-up as possible) then you’re wasting water and ultimately flushing out of the soil and prohibiting organics from effectively breaking down.
A really good way to make sure you’re watering the right amount is to have a soil moisture sensor installed on your sprinkler system. Unlike internet-based systems and rain sensors, a soil moisture sensor will take readings of the saturation level of the soil at the root zone of your lawn and will block the system from watering unless the saturation level is below the programmed threshold. We would be happy to tell you more about soil moisture sensors or install one on your pre-existing sprinkler system. Contact us for more information.
Fertilize and treat for weeds
You need to be on a properly-timed weed control and fertilization program. It is crucial to treat for weeds at certain times of the year. Fertilizer is very important in your quest to achieve lawn-bliss. Properly applied, proportional amounts of fertilizer are non-negotiable if you’re wanting a beautiful lawn. Your local feed and seed store or nursery will likely be able to assist you in developing a good program for weed control and fertilization for your lawn along with product names and equipment. Don’t forget to calibrate your tools! Or – if you want it done for you – give us a call at 405-229-8460 and we would be happy to serve you. Our program consists of three weed control applications and four fertilization applications for Bermuda grass lawns.
Bermuda grass that is properly fertilized and irrigated is going to need weekly mowing to look crisp and clean. Every 10 days or two weeks typically just won’t work. Bermuda grass is NOT meant to be kept tall. The green section of a U3 Bermuda grass leaf is typically about one-half to one-inch long. Tifway is even shorter at a quarter to one-half inch long. Now – mowing at one-half inch or even one inch is tough to achieve for a typical home lawn. But if you’re able to mow at one-half to two inches, you will have a denser and consistently greener lawn than the expert neighbor who mows his/her lawn at the four-inch mark. My rule of thumb for mowing Bermuda grass is mow as short as you can without scalping.
Do I need to seed or over-seed?
Not usually. If you have at least a thin coverage of Bermuda grass, just follow the guidelines above. If it’s not thick enough for you, you’re not giving it what it needs – the right amount of water, weed control, fertilizer or proper mowing height. Even if you have areas that die, or you level your lawn and have some areas that are bare soil now – you don’t need to seed for Bermuda. Bermuda grass has what are called stolons and rhizomes. Stolons are “vines” that creep across the ground on the surface and carry the turf into new areas or into areas that have died out in the past. Rhizomes are similar but they are roots that perform the same function. The U3 Bermuda grass plant needs its basic necessities met (described above) and it will do a thorough job at giving you lush, dense coverage.
If you are executing this short list of requirements correctly, you will have a dense, green lawn. If you’re still having problems, try to isolate the problem through the process of elimination.
For example; The lawn is not thick everywhere. OK– are the thin spots typically crunchy or gray before you water? Your sprinkler system may not be calibrated well or may need an increased run-time for that zone. Is it dry, but just not as green and thick as the rest of the lawn? This would likely be inconsistently applied fertilizer.
If you need free advice or would like some professional help, give us a call at 405-241-4874 and we would be happy to help you!