Bermuda grass, sometimes known as Devil grass, is commonly grown all over the United States, being popular for its low cost, fast-growing capabilities and resilience to foot traffic, heat and drought. It’s even able to grow on such salty terrain that almost nothing else is able to grow, making it ideal for coastal locations. Though Bermuda grass is tough and great for areas of activity, it is also aggressively invasive (hence the term “Devil” grass)—something you may want to keep in mind if you have other plans for your lawn.
Planting Bermuda Grass
As with other grasses, you can plant Bermuda grass by seed, by plugs, or by laying down sod. When choosing a location for your grass, make sure that the area has full sun exposure, and plant during the spring or early summer once soil temperatures linger around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare your soil by breaking up and turning it about six inches deep—water and smooth out with a rake. Wait about two to three weeks to see if any weeds start to sprout up, and if the coast is clear, add fertilizer and compost. Your fertilizer should contain substantial amounts of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous, such that your soil should have an ideal pH between 6.5 and 8.0. Turn the soil over again, making sure everything is mixed deeply in, and rake the area smooth so that your area is completely even.
If you’re laying sod down, make sure to water the soil beforehand. When you’re laying your sod rectangles down, make sure that all the ends do not line up in straight up and down columns. Try and space them out so that the ends fall in different places in comparison to each adjacent row. Once you’re finished, water and press it all down to ensure the sod has adequate contact with the soil to take root. You can do this by either walking on the sod or by using a yard roller. For the first week, water it twice a day, and lessen your waterings to once a day, then three times per week, and once it’s more established, about every three or four days.
To plant plugs, you can actually cut up sod into three-inch strips and bury them in one-inch deep holes about three to six inches apart. Keep in mind that the closer you space the plugs together, the faster your lawn will fill itself in, though if they’re farther apart, you can cover a much larger area in the long-run. As with sod, you should make sure that the plugs are making adequate contact with the soil, and you can also use the same watering pattern here as you would with sod.
To plant Bermuda grass from seed, try to spread them across your soil as evenly as possible by sowing them first row by row in one direction, and then going back over each row in the opposite direction. Lightly rake the seeds into the soil and cover them with a thin layer of soil (if you want, you can add a small amount of mulch), about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick, and water. Start out your first three weeks watering the seeds three to four times a day for ten to 15-minute intervals. Once you’ve noticed your lawn starting to sprout, in about two to four weeks, cut your waterings down to twice a day for about a week, and once they’re more established, just once every three to four days.
Though your lawn’s purpose factors into how you should regularly water it, in general, make sure the thatch is always moist. One inch of water per week is in colder climates, though where it’s warmer and drier, apply half an inch twice a week and supplement with more water if needed. If your soil is more on the clay-heavy side, it will be much better at water retention than sandy soils, and consequently will not need to be watered as much. The less frequently you water Bermuda grass, the shallower the roots and the less drought-resistant it can grow. Aerate and top-dress with sand or aggregate material every once in a while for thatch removal and so that your water can penetrate more deeply.
Fertilize your Bermuda grass at least twice a year (or several times a year with a water-diluted liquid fertilizer) with something most applicable to the type of soil you have. The sandier the soil, the less nitrogen-retention it has, and he more light and frequent the applications should be. Potassium is most important in preventing leaf spot disease and encouraging root growth and climate stress tolerance in Bermuda grass. In terms of amount per application, your ratio should be about .5 to 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each month during the growing season.
The optimal mowing height should be between a half and one and a half inches—grass any higher than that will not be as resistant to wear. Reel mowers are great for Bermuda grass, though it does depend on how high you wish to maintain it. The shorter you want it, the more numerous the mower blades should be. Because it tends to be invasive, you’ll want to especially pay attention to edging your grass properly.