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How to Plant Bermuda Grass Seed For Lawns

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Preparing to Plant Bermuda Grass Lawns

Bermudagrass is a warm season turf grass and is best planted in spring to late spring or early summer. Plant Bermudagrass seeds when soil temperatures are consistently above 65° F (18°C) -- this soil temperature is reached when daytime air temperatures are 80° or higher. The optimum soil temperature for germination and root growth of Bermudagrass is 75° to 80°F (24° to 27° C) - Higher temps are acceptable provided moisture is maintained.

  • Site Selection: Plant Bermudagrass in full sun on well-drained soil in the temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climate zones. Proper drainage is essential for successful establishment and the development of mature healthy turf.
  • Soil Test: Prior to seeding, a soil test is recommended. Apply fertilizer and other amendments per test. Add lime as needed to establish a minimum 6.0 soil pH. A lawn starter fertilizer is an ideal choice to apply prior to planting.
  • Seedbed Preparation: Loosen soil to a depth of six inches (15 cm). Level area to proper grade with approximately .5 inches (14 mm) pulverized soil at the surface. Rake smooth prior to planting. Do NOT use any herbicides or weed & feed fertilizers during planting. You must allow a period of 10-14 weeks prior to, and 10-14 weeks after seeding date in which NO herbicides or weed & feeds can be applied. Keep area mowed frequently to control weeds.

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Bermuda Grass Seeding Rate for New Turf Applications

Plant 2 to 3 pounds of Bermuda grass seed (coated seed) per 1000 square feet (1 kg/100 square meters) for new turf applications. More seed may be needed when stands are established early or late in the season to ensure full coverage. The planting rate for lawns is much higher, than for pastures, due to the desire to have a higher plant population per square foot in laws. This works to create a dense turf when mowed.- See info below for planting into existing ryegrass or fescue lawns.

Bermuda Grass Seed Planting Depth

It is is very important to cover the Bermuda grass seeds with soil or mulch (1/8 to 1/4 inch) – a bare, open-to-the-air seed lying on the soil surface with no protection from wind or dry air or hot sun, cannot be kept moist enough to germinate well. You have to dump a lot more water just to keep the surface a little moist and even then they will see the seeds germinate much faster in shaded areas, since it is too hard to keep exposed seeds from drying out.

I know that people want the easy way out, but they are leaving themselves open to getting bad germination results with only half the area sprouting if the seeds are not properly covered, etc.- NOTE: Be careful to NOT cover deeper than 1/4 inch as the seeds may not germinate if planted deeper.

Overseeding or Repairing Established Bermudagrass

Bermudagrass may be overseeded into your existing stand of seeded bermudagrass such as common to improve its overall turf quality or repair damaged areas of seeded bermudagrass and some vegetative bermudagrass varieties. The suggested renovation seeding rate is 1 pound per 1000 square feet (.50 kg/100 sq. meters). For bare areas, use the new turf application seeding rate. If the turf is in very poor condition or the damaged areas very large, total removal of the existing grasses before seeding Bermudagrass is recommended for maximum stand uniformity and overall turf performance.

When over-seeding into an existing stand of turfgrass, care must be taken to ensure adequate seed to soil contact. Products such as growth regulators may be used to reduce competition from the existing stand or herbicides may be applied to eliminate any undesirable grasses before seeding. Follow label instructions for usage and observe the required waiting period, if any, before seeding. Small areas can be raked vigorously to remove accumulated thatch and break up the soil surface before seeding. Maintain adequate soil moisture and restrict traffic in the renovated areas during germination and the early establishment phase prior to the first mowing.

Planting: Care must be taken not to cover the seed with too much soil – no more than 1/4 inch of soil covering the seed is recommended or germination will not occur. However the seeds MUST have proper soil coverage (ideally 1/8 inch) for good germination to occur.

Effective planting methods include broadcasting by hand, using seed spreaders, and hydroseeding – Rake or drag planted areas to provide soil coverage over seeds. Or you may use a slit seeder to plant the seeds (Mix the Bermuda seeds with dry building sand / play sand). Plant the seeds 1/8 to 1/4 inch. If overseeding, aerate prior to seeding. Do NOT use herbicides when seeding 10-14 weeks before, during or after planting date for seeds.

  • Watering: Soil moisture around the seed must be maintained for about 1 to 3 weeks. The seedbed must be kept moist during germination. Once established, provide less frequent, deep watering to encourage deep root growth.
  • Germination: Bermudagrass has very good seedling vigor. Under ideal conditions, germination begins within 7 to 10 days. Again, soil moisture must be maintained during the germination period. Allow 14 to 18 days after the first seedlings emerge for complete germination.
  • Establishment Time: Under ideal conditions, full coverage is attained 6 to 10 weeks after seeding. If planting is early or late in the season, more time may be needed for establishment.

PLANTING INTO EXISTING LAWNS - OVERSEEDING

Long experience among turf grass professionals on golf courses and sports fields, plus university research, has proven that it is harder and takes longer to establish a healthy stand of Bermuda grass from seed or sprigs into an existing, live, growing stand of existing fescue or perennial ryegrass. This is partially due to the endophytes produced by fescue and perennial rye grass. The best option is to kill the existing grass first before planting your Bermuda grass seeds.

Planting Bermuda into existing Ryegrass Lawns

If planting into existing Ryegrass (especially Perennial Ryegrass).. It is usually best to kill off the ryegrass prior to planting Bermuda. Sometime between April 15 and May 15, no matter how good the ryegrass still is, plan to kill it. Do NOT wait much longer than that as you lose important warm-weather time for establishment of your long term, permanent Bermuda grass base turf. You should be planting the Bermuda around last of May to the first of June.

If you do not kill a Perennial Ryegrass stand before planting your bermuda grass seed, you will not have a successful stand of bermuda grass. Shortcuts such as cutting off the ryegrasses water, mowing it short or scalping, etc. these are all wastes of time and will directly affect your success with the Bermuda grass seed establishment. Long experience among turf grass professionals on golf courses and sports fields, plus university research, has proven that it is impossible to establish a healthy stand of Bermuda from seed or sprigs into an existing, live, growing stand of perennial ryegrass.

In most cases you can get away with planting bermudagrass into Annual Ryegrass lawn as long as it is late in the spring (May / June) and the ryegrass is mowed short or is already dying out prior to planting. If planting into perennial ryegrass you must kill the perennial first before planting Bermuda (due to toxins created by perennial ryegrass plants). Planting methods used for planting into annual ryegrass can be similar to those listed below for planting into Tall Fescue lawns (slit seeding / spike aeration and seeding / tilling soil to prepare a smooth seedbed, etc.) - Tillage is always best as it removes all "other" grass competition, thus allowing a much higher rate of initial establishment of new Bermuda seedlings. (Where another grass is already growing... you can't initially get a new plant to occupy that same space.)

Planting Bermuda Into Existing Tall Fescue Lawns

If planting into an existing Tall Fescue lawn, killing the tall fescue and tilling it under is the best method, mostly because an old struggling half dead tall fescue lawn probably has some soil crusting and compaction issues and tilling is a way to loosen the soil and improve the planting seedbed (raking it smooth after tillage) rather than just throwing seeds on top of hardpan, crusted over old soil and expecting them to do well.

But if you want to you can mow off the live tall fescue in late spring (scalp very low & rake / vacuum debris), just to reduce the shading effect and allow for some sunlight on the bermuda seed. Then slit seed or broadcast or spread over aerated areas (spike or core aerated areas), etc.

The better the seed to soil contact the more successful will be the establishment results, Good preparation for seed soil contact is always better than just rather than just dumping the seed on top of the soil surface.

MOWING THE TALL FESCUE AT 1 INCH DURING THE BERMUDA ESTABLISHMENT PERIOD (8-10 weeks), KEEPS THE TALL FESCUE FROM SHADING OUT THE BABY BERMUDAS – THIS IS A KEY POINT, UNTIL THE BERMUDA LAWN IS DOMINANT. MONTHLY FERTILIZATION OF THE BERMUDA WILL ALSO HELP IN ESTABLISHMENT.

NOTE ON PLANTING IF USING A CORE AERATOR:

If you are aerating using a core aeration method... You should first core aerate, then broadcast the seeds and then rake the cores to break them up which allows the broken up soil cores to provide some soil covering to cover your seeds. The only potential drawback here with tiny seeds like Bermuda – some of the seeds will fall into the core holes and perhaps be buried too deep to spout. - Ideally repeated trips across the lawn using a spike aerator is a better method of preparing the soil prior to broadcasting out Bermuda seeds.

Killing Existing Grass Lawns & Weeds - Preferred Organic Solutions

Note: It has become common knowledge that chemical herbicides and pesticides, especially glysophate, are not the environmentally friendly products they have claimed to be. In fact, some manufacturers have been required to remove untrue labeling that stated their product was safe for the environment.

That said other environmentally friendly alternatives exist to kill the existing grass such as these:

Solarization or 'baking' the grass by covering it with clear or black plastic for 4 to 6 weeks causing it to bake in the sun and die -- this will also take care of weeds. After removal of plastic till the area well and remove any roots that may be left.

Vinegar - Another method to kill grass is by spraying the grass you want to kill with white distilled white vinegar (on a warm, sunny day). A couple of days later, remove the now dead grass and be sure to dig up any existing roots. Vinegar is environmentally friendly being harmless to humans, pets, wildlife, and the soil.

Sheet Composting or Layering - Till and cover the area with overlapping cardboard, 6 inches of compost, and then mulch on top of that. After two months the buried grass should be completely dead and decomposing along with the cardboard. It is now that you can seed your new grass directly into the soil. Note - if you are removing deep rooted grass such as bermuda grass, and other deep rooted grass - then you may need to till the area and remove all roots to keep these grass types from returning.

After using the above methods and establishing a good clean seedbed plant your bermuda grass as directed. The Bermuda seed or other grass seed should sprout and establish well, with the ryegrass (or other grass) killed and no longer competing or causing chemistry problems.

Additional bermuda grass or any type of organic grass removal techniques may be found here http://www.sunset.com/garden/earth-friendly/how-to-remove-bermuda-grass-00400000052080/.

The chemical method - Due to recent studies showing the dangers of using glyphosate -- including the evidence provided by Dr. Don M. Huber - " The widespread use of glyphosate is causing negative impacts on soil and plants as well as possibly animal and human health." These are key findings of Don Huber, emeritus professor of plant pathology, Purdue University and other scientists. Further scientific studies have shown that the use of glysophate is harmful to humans, pet, wildlife and the soil.

Seedland does not advocate the use of glyphosate based herbicides or other chemicals. We suggest that if this is the route you decide to take then follow the manufacturer's instructions.

But if you insist and we accept no liability here -- To kill the existing grasses, spray with Round Up or other Glyphosate herbicide to kill the existing grass. At least 10-14 weeks prior to, and 10-14 weeks after the application of any herbicides or weed killers, mow the dead grass as short as you can, rake or vacuum the excess debris and then spike aerate to expose soil and then seed the Bermuda grass or other grass directly into the soil (rake to cover if possible).

The First Mowing of Bermuda Grass Lawns

First Mowing, Minimum Mowing Height and Mowing Frequency: The turf is ready for the first mowing approximately 3 weeks after seeding or when most of the grass has filled in. To avoid scalping the turf, do not remove more than 1/3 of the leaf blade per mowing. Minimum recommended mowing height (reel mowers) is .5 to .75 inches (12.5 to 18.75 mm). After the first mowing, mow every 3 to 7 days. Rotary mowers require higher minimum height (around 1”) to prevent scalping. Frequent mowing reduces the “brown look” on Bermuda grass.

NEED A WINTER GRASS WHEN BERMUDA IS DORMANT?

Winter Overseeding (With a Ryegrass): Winter overseeding of dormant bermuda grass may be done for year round green color. It is not generally recommended on immature turf (less than 6 to 8 months of age). The safest practice would be to wait until second year (fall / winter) after your bermuda is established. Late season plantings and newly established bermuda grass may also be damaged by the vertical cutting and scalping procedures, leaving it unable to compete with the overseeded species during the spring transition. Ryegrasses are the primary overseeding species. - Read more on planting ryegrass into bermuda lawns.

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