Common Bermuda grass, also known as Couch Grass or Wiregrass is scientifically called the Cynodon dactylon. It is actually a type of weed that originated from African Savannah and India. The name is Bermuda Grass because it was first introduced in the USA from Bermuda. Bermuda grass is a perennial lawn or turf grass, or grown as forage (pastures).
It needs sun and grows well in warm temperatures such as in tropical, sub-tropical and the transition zones like Southern US, South America, Australia, Africa, India etc.
Common Bermuda Grass
Photo: Forest and Kim Starr, flickr, cc by 2.0
The color of this grass is usually dark green and spreads by rhizomes and stolons. This grass has the ability to grow in extreme climate conditions because of its extensive root system. It has a good tolerance capacity against insects and diseases. This grass is largely used on home lawns, golf courses, sports fields, parks, coastal areas and pastures.
In the US, Bermuda grass is widely adapted in the southern parts. However in Florida, it has some difficulty to grow. It is susceptible and vulnerable to the sting nematode, a pest which is very common in Florida.
In dry weather Bermuda grass generally turns brown in color but recovers quickly after a heavy rainfall. The leaves become green with purple tips. It spreads in a very short time during rainfall and also has good tolerance in drought and cold conditions. It is the best grass for a hot, sunny or even adverse climate. It can even grow in sandy to clay soil with low cost maintenance.
Hybrid Bermuda Grass (Tifway)
Photo: cultivar413, flickr, cc by 2.0
Due to its rapid growth, Bermuda grass is easily available throughout the year. The main characteristics of this grass are its high persistence and aggressive nature. Bermuda grass does not grow well under low light (i.e. shaded) conditions. The sun loving Bermuda grass can grow easily in poor soil as well and have the ability to recover quickly from damages such as cutting, fires etc.
It can tolerate both acidic and alkaline soil and is highly tolerant to saline conditions. Bermuda grass can survive some flooding but does best on well-drained sites. Although it may persist under low fertility, Bermuda grass has a high nitrogen requirement for achieving a good quality lawn.
Bermuda Grass (Close Up View)
Photo: Forest and Kim Starr, flickr, cc by 2.0
Bermuda grass needs simple methods for care, maintenance and mowing. It also has fairly strong insect and disease resistant capacity. Due to its long root system, it's quite difficult to destroy or kill this grass. The aggressive nature of the grass can easily affect adjoining flower beds where it can itself become fast spreading weeds that are difficult to eradicate. In order to address such a situation, repeated applications of appropriate herbicide on the flower beds are necessary.
Bermuda grass is also widely used for farming and animal husbandry. In India, it is extensively used as cattle feed and also for controlling soil erosion from excess rains or over-watering. The ancient Romans used the liquid of Bermuda grass stem as Diuretic medicine. In modern homeopathy, Bermuda grass juice is used as an anti allergen. It also has application as antiseptic.
Several types of seeds and sods of Bermuda Grass are available in the market. A decision on the type or quality of the grass for growing a lawn or a turf depends on several factors and desired characteristics such as the degree of disease and insect resistance, cold tolerance, time in which the lawn needs to be established, fineness of texture, ease in plantation, cost, etc.
The links below will take you to the details of various aspects of growing and fully establishing a lawn using Bermuda Grass including its seeds, sods and plantations, lawn maintenance methods, fertilizing, mowing, watering, weed control and more.
Bermuda grass can be easily grown from its seeds resulting in a "Medium plus" grass lawn. The quality of the grass will depend on the type of seeds used - i.e., common or improved varieties. And there are several sub-types within each variety.
While the entire process of growing the grass from its seeds is relatively simple, but it may take about a full year and sometimes longer in order to fully establish a lawn of standard size.
Ideal time for planting or seeding Bermuda grass is when the weather is warm and the air temperature in the range of 75-90 degrees (F). Bermuda seeds germinate in seven to fourteen days and fully grow in grass within 60 to 90 days.
Best time to seed is between Mid-May to August because the soil temperature remains warm around this time. You need to ensure proper soil conditions (including pH factor) and follow the right procedure of tilling, raking, seeding, and watering to get the optimal results.
These grasses are created by breeding common Bermuda grass with another type of grass in order to get certain qualities. They are fine in textures, highly tolerant to disease and insects and offer compact growth, but they are not available in seeds. The hybrid variety is mainly used to create sods which can be laid to create a beautiful lush green lawn. However, the sods can be expensive.
Sods are the cut-outs of grass beds where the top layer is the grass and the bottom layer is the soil which are held together by the root system of the grass. These sods are mostly made of hybrid Bermuda grass. They are fine in texture but can be expensive. An advantage with Bermuda grass sod is, a lawn can be established quickly within 2 to 3 weeks time, while fully establishing a lawn from Bermuda seeds can take a long time and sometimes up to a year or two. However, for consistent growth and development, the sods require high level of care and maintenance.
Step by step guide on how to plant or lay Bermuda Sod.
Best practices for maintaining Bermuda grass including calendar maintenance schedules - mowing, fertilizing, watering, cultivation, disease control, weed control and renovation.
A guide to know about the different types of fertilizers for Bermuda grass, when and how much to apply and the other best practices.
Know about the different types of weeds that may affect Bermuda grass. This understanding will help in effective weed control.
How do you control or kill weeds that grow in Bermuda grass? There are several ways depending on the grass and weed types.
Because of its aggressive and persistent nature, Bermuda grass itself can be a weed to other grasses and is very difficult to kill or eradicate. Go through the link above for full information on herbicides, time of application and methods to use when you want to kill Bermuda grass.
When you look from afar, well cultivated and maintained lawns of both these two grass types look quite similar. But when you look closely, there are a lot of differences. Zoysia gives thick dense coverage of true green turf and looks beautiful although the grass is stiffer and feels more prickly. On the other hand, Bermuda is softer and can have different shades of green.
Unless the conditions are right, Zoysia can take a long time to cover (2 - 3 years or even longer), while Bermuda grass spreads quite fast and can be difficult to control unless you follow the right maintenance procedure. There are important differences between the two when it comes to sunlight requirement, temperature, growth, tolerance, expenses, over all maintenance etc.
There are many other types of grass that are often compared with Bermuda grass both in seed or in sod form. Go through the comparisons and know if Bermuda Grass is the right choice for you, or you might be happier to explore another type.