Thicken Your Bermuda Grass with These Tips
With the right care, Bermuda grass grows into a lush, thick lawn that spreads to fill bare spots on its own. If you don’t think your lawn is growing to its full potential, you can carry out a few techniques to make your Bermuda grass thicker.
You can make Bermuda grass thicker by keeping up with a proper lawn care schedule for this grass type. This involves watering, mowing, fertilizing, and aerating the lawn as necessary. It’s also important to control weeds by treating the grass with pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides.
Does Bermuda Grass Spread to Fill Bare Spots?
Bermuda grass has an aggressive growth habit, meaning that it will easily spread to fill bare spots on the lawn. This grass grows using both underground rhizomes and overground stolons; these are roots and shoots that allow the grass to spread to bare spots of soil and sprout new growth.
If you take care of your Bermuda grass, it will spread to fill smaller-scale bare spots that arise from patches of grass death or digging out weeds. With that said, larger patches of bare soil may take longer to fill in. Bermuda grass will fill large bare spots from the outer edges inward, but this may take a bit longer than smaller patches.
It’s also important to note that large patches of bare soil leave your lawn more vulnerable to invasive weeds that develop more quickly than your Bermuda grass. For larger patches of bare soil, it’s best to overseed the lawn with new Bermuda grass seed. Overseeding beats weeds by strengthening your lawn against weed growth; on top of this, it will keep your Bermuda grass looking full and thick.
How to Make Bermuda Grass Thicker
There are several methods you can utilize to maintain your Bermuda grass at optimal health. You can make Bermuda grass thicker through proper watering, mowing, fertilization, and aeration. It’s also important to control weeds and maintain the growing conditions of the soil to encourage your Bermuda grass to grow thick.
Although Bermuda grass has excellent drought tolerance, its growth will slow drastically if it doesn’t receive enough water. Watering properly for this grass species will make Bermuda grass thicker. Bermuda grass typically requires 1 to 2 inches of water per week to stay healthy.
You should add this amount of water to your lawn in 1 to 2 deeper watering sessions rather than multiple sessions throughout the week. Watering less frequently and more deeply will encourage deeper root growth; not only will this make your Bermuda grass thicker, it will also be more resistant to stress from pests, disease, and weeds. Sprinkler systems typically deliver roughly 1 inch of water per hour. You should therefore run your sprinklers for about 30 to 40 minutes twice per week.
As an additional tip, the best time to water grass is in the early morning, between 4am and 10am. This reduces the amount of moisture lost to evaporation when the sun is highest during the middle of the day.
Mow at Best Height for Bermuda Grass
Proper mowing is also necessary to keep Bermuda grass thick and healthy. The best height to cut grass varies between species; for Bermuda grass, the optimal cutting height is 1 to 1.5 inches.
Cutting Bermuda grass to this height will encourage the lateral growth of its aboveground stolons while discouraging its vertical growth. This will help the grass to fill in bare spots on top of the soil, making your Bermuda grass thicker and fuller. It’s crucial to mow Bermuda grass regularly to maintain it at this height; due to its aggressive growth habit, this grass can grow to 4 to 12 inches tall if you neglect to mow it. Mow your lawn every 5 to 7 days, doing so less often when the lawn is stressed from drought.
You should mow Bermuda grass with a reel mower to achieve the most even cut. Regardless of the mower you use, it’s also crucial to mow with sharp mower blades. Mowing with dull mower blades will result in an uneven cut, and also leaves the grass more susceptible to the development of disease. Remember to sharpen your mower blades every 20 to 25 hours of usage for this reason.
Fertilize with Slow-Release Fertilizer
Fertilization is a key part of lawn maintenance for any grass type, including Bermuda grass. Grass requires a range of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to grow. If your Bermuda grass looks thin or isn’t growing to its full potential, it’s likely that your soil is lacking in one or more of these nutrients. You’ll need to add an appropriate fertilizer to replenish these nutrients to make your Bermuda grass thicker.
For general fertilization, the best lawn fertilizer ratio for Bermuda grass is one with a 16-4-8 NPK ratio. You should add this fertilizer in the spring when the grass is growing most actively. If your Bermuda grass is particularly thin, add 1 to 1.5 lbs. of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per month to thicken it up. Avoid overapplying your fertilizer, particularly if you use a high-nitrogen formula; too much nitrogen in the soil can result in fertilizer burn, a condition that causes the grass to turn yellow or brown.
The best type of fertilizer to use on your Bermuda grass is a slow-release organic fertilizer. These fertilizers decompose gradually in the soil, supplying your grass with a steady supply of nutrients over a longer period. Chemical fertilizers work more quickly; however, chemical amendments are worse for the environment and provide little long-term benefits for your grass.
Before adding any sort of amendment to your grass, it’s best practice to test your soil. A soil test will reveal the current nutrient and pH levels of your lawn. You can use this information to choose the ideal fertilizer to suit your lawn’s individual requirements.
Maintain Soil pH at Optimal Level for Bermuda Grass
pH is another aspect of your soil’s health that will affect the growth of your Bermuda grass. If your Bermuda grass is struggling, even with proper fertilization, watering, and mowing, it’s likely that the soil pH is incorrect. Bermuda grass grows best in soils with a pH of 5.8 to 7.0.
Bermuda grass will tolerate slightly more alkaline conditions, i.e., a pH higher than this range. However, it will suffer if the pH is too acidic, as this limits the availability of nutrients in the soil. Although all of the nutrients may be present in the soil, your grass plants will be unable to take them up if the soil is too acidic.
Again, the best way to determine whether your pH is incorrect is to carry out a soil test. If your soil test indicates your pH is too low, you’ll need to add an amendment to raise it. The most common material used to raise soil pH is agricultural lime; you can add this to your soil to neutralize the acidity and make your Bermuda grass grow thicker.
Take Note of Your Soil Type
Soil type is another factor that can have an impact on how your Bermuda grass grows. There are different types of soil, including loamy, sandy, clay-heavy, and silty soil; these soil types differ in their particle make-up, and therefore possess different growing properties from one another. The best type of soil for grass growing is loamy soil.
Loamy soil offers the best growing properties of all soil types as it contains a balance of sand, clay, and silt particles. It is naturally well-aerated, drains well, and is rich in organic matter. If you don’t have this soil type, you can amend your soil by topdressing your lawn with a layer of topsoil or compost; this is best practice before planting new Bermuda grass seed as it creates a rich medium for the grass’ roots to grow into.
The most challenging type of soil to grow grass in is clay-heavy soil. You can also improve clay soil by adding a topdressing of organic matter or topsoil. To further improve its growing conditions, you should also add a layer of mulch. You can make mulch from a range of materials, like grass clippings, leaves, or compost; these organic materials act as slow-release fertilizers, gradually improving the soil over time as they decompose. They also provide instant benefits by providing the soil with shade from the sun, thus improving its water retention.
Aerate Lawn When Necessary
Over time, the soil in your lawn can become compact and hard. This causes your Bermuda grass to suffer, as it prevents them from growing deep roots into the turf. It also limits the movement of air, water, and nutrients around the grass’ roots. To make your Bermuda grass grow thicker, aerate your lawn once per season in the spring.
Methods of aeration include using aerating shoes, a pitchfork, or a core aerator. The best method of aeration is core aeration; core aerators remove plugs of soil from your lawn, leaving behind holes that allow water and fertilizer to reach deeper into the soil. This is also an ideal practice to carry out before overseeding your lawn; it improves seed-to-soil contact and protects the seed from being blown away or eaten by birds.
The best time to aerate your lawn is during the grass’ period of most active growth. As Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass type, the best time to aerate is during the late spring to early summer. By aerating at this time of year, your Bermuda grass will recover quickly from the process. This will leave you with a thicker lawn when the grass spreads to fill in the bare spots. And, as we’ve just mentioned, aerating before overseeding will further improve the results of both processes.
Treat Lawn Diseases
There are several lawn diseases that can affect the health and growth of your Bermuda grass. Fungal infestations cause discoloration in grass, causing it to turn yellow or brown before dying off. If your Bermuda grass looks thin or patchy, it could be a sign of fungal disease.
Common fungal diseases that affect Bermuda grass include spring dead spot, brown patch lawn disease, and dollar spot fungus. All of these diseases will impact the growth of your Bermuda grass. You can combat these diseases by treating the lawn with an appropriate fungicide.
Fungal lawn diseases are typically caused by warm and wet conditions. If your lawn has a recurring issue with disease, it may indicate that your soil has poor drainage. You can improve drainage in your lawn by aerating the soil. If there are definite areas of standing water on your lawn, you may need to level and grade the soil.
Apply Pre-Emergent Herbicide in Spring
Weeds will invade your lawn and outcompete your Bermuda grass, stealing its water and nutrients from the soil. In order to make Bermuda grass thicker from the moment it emerges from dormancy, treat the lawn with a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring.
Grassy weeds like crabgrass and nutsedge will emerge annually around the same time that your Bermuda grass will begin growing. If you don’t treat them preventatively, they will steal water and nutrients from your lawn when it needs them most.
Pre-emergent herbicides are specially designed to kill weed seeds before they get a chance to germinate. By applying these products at the right time of year, you can eliminate weeds before they take hold in your lawn. This will make Bermuda grass thicker when it emerges from dormancy and begins growing at this time of year.
Take note that pre-emergent herbicides will kill all seeds, including new grass seed. If you plant to seed in the spring, leave enough time between the weed killer application and the seeding. You’ll find this information on the packaging of your weed killer. It’s also important to note that pre-emergent herbicides are ineffective on weed seeds that have already germinated; to treat established weeds, you’ll need to use a post-emergent herbicide.
Treat Established Weeds All Year Round
For all established weeds, you should treat the lawn with a post-emergent herbicide to make your Bermuda grass thicker all year round. Identify the weeds on your lawn and use an appropriate post-emergent herbicide when necessary.
Make sure that the weed killer you choose is safe for use on Bermuda grass. Refer to the packaging on your chosen product for this information, in addition to its application and safety instructions. Incorrect application or using the wrong herbicide can cause discoloration of the Bermuda grass, damage it, or even kill it off.
If your lawn is left with bare spots after treating weeds, you can fill in these areas by overseeding the lawn. Bermuda grass will be able to spread to fill bare spots, but you can give it a boost by adding new seed.