Brown Bermuda grass

wheelingiceMay 12, 2012

Hello, first post. I am having trouble with my Bermuda grass in Charlotte, NC. I inherited a poor lawn from the previous owner. I have been doing the infrequent but deep watering, organic fertilizer, etc.

What I don't understand is why the old Bermuda grass is dead and brown, while there are new clumps of green Bermuda popping up beside it.

See picture:

Any ideas?

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david_tx(7a North Texas)

I see very little live Bermuda in that pic. The clump in the left center of the pic looks like poa to me.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:44AM
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That's my point! How do I get the Bermuda growing??

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 2:38PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

How much sunlight does that spot get?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 1:29AM
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david_tx(7a North Texas)

What are you using for fertilizer and how much/often do you apply?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:06AM
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I got a soil test done, everything was fine. The only thing they recommended was fertilizer.

I used Milorganite back in April and it didn't seem to do anything. Then I used Scotts Natural Lawn Food a couple weeks ago at a rate of 1 N per 1,000 sq ft (which is what was recommended by the soil test).

Yard gets a lot of sun, including the area for which I took the pic. The whole yard looks pretty much like that picture.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:13AM
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david_tx(7a North Texas)

It looks like you have very little live Bermuda. The good news is that it's an aggressive grass and a little Bermuda can cover a lawn fairly quickly.

Bermuda needs 1) frequent low mowing, 2) lots of nitrogen, 3) sunlight, and 4) water. It sounds like you have plenty of sunlight, you've been watering, and I'll assume you mow at about an inch or so. That leaves nitrogen up for discussion.

It's difficult to get enough Nitrogen to a Bermuda lawn with organic fertilizers. I maintain a very nice Tiff419 lawn with organic fertilizers. I use CGM, soybean meal, or cotton seed meal at the rate of 10lbs/1000 sq ft monthly. I start my applications around Valentine's day and continue monthly until October.

Organic fertilizers are slow acting. The Milorganite is just now kicking in and the Scott's is still laying around and not doing much yet. The Scott's will start showing results in another couple of weeks, and that's about the time you need to make the next application of fertilizer.

Some people will say that you can't get enough Nitrogen to a Bermuda lawn using organic fertilizers. My experience says that you can but you have to be diligent about applying it, you have to apply a lot of it, and you have to know that it's going to be slow acting. It makes you think ahead, thus the reason that I'm fertilizing in mid February.

Basically, I think that all you need is time. Time for the fertilizer to work and time for the lawn to fill in.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 1:27PM
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Well, I hope you are right! I have been mowing at 2" with a reel mower, but right now the only thing I'm mowing is weeds. When/if the Bermuda starts growing, I will try the lower mowing height.

Start fertilizing in February? Wow! A question: do you think fertilizing that early in the year would increase Spring weed growth as a side effect?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 3:15PM
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Do you have hybrid bermuda or common? 2" is pretty high if you have hybrid(sod). When I let mines grow to 1 inch it starts thinning out and showing the soil big time. Maybe its time to start the prostrate approach. If your land permits, maybe try to mow between 3/4 inch - 1 inch since you have a reel.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 3:54PM
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david_tx(7a North Texas)

Yeah, I'd go ahead and start mowing lower. It's not a good time to scalp Bermuda but, from what I can see, the Bermuda isn't all that tall anyway and 1" isn't really scalping. Get the weeds out of the way to get more sunlight to ground level where the Bermuda is.

Yes, I start in February. It takes about 6 weeks for the organic ferts to really start working. When the grass wakes up late March/early April, the organic fertilizer is doing its job.

As for the weeds, I'll tell you my own story. I maintain my 4000 sq ft back yard with organics and the 7000 sq ft front yard with chemicals. Normally, the one place that I will use chemicals, even on my back yard, is with pre-emergents. We had a horrible drought last year and I quit watering the front lawn. (It only took a $400 water bill to convince me that I wasn't that worried about the lawn.) I also skipped pre-emergents last fall.

The result this spring? The front yard came up really sparse, which I expected because it was in bad shape at the end of last year. The front yard weeds were worse than I've ever seen them. The back yard, which received continuous care last year, had a few weeds but nothing like the front.

I did use CGM on the back yard in February and it's supposedly a pre-emergent, but I don't really believe that. I think it's far more likely that the thick grass covering kept sunlight (and warmth) away from the weed seeds.

FWIW, the weeds are mostly gone now. Winter weeds don't do well in the heat and they sure don't like regular short mowing. I keep my lawn at fairway heights.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 6:08PM
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Thanks david. redvq, I don't know if I have common Bermuda or hybrid. Is there a way to tell the difference?

I just finished mowing my lawn tonight. It was probably 80% weeds. Sigh... Hope those organics kick in soon.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 8:41PM
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