How to seed Bermuda Grass
Required Soil Conditions
The best time for planting Bermuda grass seed is in late spring or early summer when soil temperatures are above 65 degrees (F), but within 100 degrees (F). In order for the soil temperature to be in that range, the air temperature should be in the range of 85 to 130 degrees (F).
The soil temperature is very important when planting Bermuda grass. You can measure the soil temperature by inserting a probe thermometer 2 to 3 inches into the soil. If temperature drops below 60, the growth of this grass becomes quite slow and can even completely stop. The optimum soil temperature for seeding is between 75 to 85 degree Fahrenheit.
In ideal condition, Bermuda seeds (un-hulled) can germinate in 7 to 14 days and can fully grow as grass within 60 to 90 days. If the seeds are hulled (i.e. skin removed), the germination is usually faster (5 to 10 days). If conditions are not ideal, it may take longer time for both types of seeds. During germination, Bermuda grass needs a lot of water and the soil needs to be always kept moist.
It is important to get a soil test done. The ideal pH level in the soil should be between 5.6 to 7. You can get this test done at your local University's cooperative extension. If the soil is found to be more acidic, you should mix lime, if found too alkaline, use sulfur to get the right pH level.
You should not apply any herbicides or fertilizers on the soil at least 2-3 months prior to seeding and 2-3 months after seeding.
If ryegrass or other grasses are planted along with Bermuda, the Bermuda seedlings are likely to face problems during the germination stage. Seedlings will not survive along with its weeds. The turf experts generally recommend that it is not wise to cultivate seedlings along with ryegrass or others.
The right seasons for seeding
Bermuda grass should not be planted in late fall. Even if Bermuda grass is planted in early spring, there is likely to be some negative impacts in the germination procedure. This grass also should not be planted later than 90 days before first expected frost in Northern areas, or later than 60 days before first expected frost / freeze in more southern locations.
There are some other risks in planting Bermuda grass late in the year. Bermuda grass can not quickly store enough food reserves in their roots to last through the dormancy period (which is the winter time). As a result the grass that are seeded late, starve and then die. During dormancy period in winter, the grass in any case needs sufficient nutrients and water to survive.
In those areas where temperatures remain high throughout the year, Bermuda grass can be seeded or planted round the year, such as in Hawaii, Caribbean or South Florida. Planting or seeding Bermuda grass is quite popular particularly in case of making lush lawns and it can be quite economical as well. The grass, if properly seeded, can cover a full lawn in one year.
This warm season grass grows a little in colder climates also. In high temperature the seeded Bermuda grass turns brown in color. In tropical countries, Bermuda grass retains a beautiful green color throughout the year if there is enough rainfall.
If you have to seed Bermuda grass during late fall or winter time, you can use a method known as winter "dormant seeding". In such a case, use un-hulled seeds. The new seeded varieties are mostly hulled and should not be planted during fall. You also need to ensure that there is no risk of the temperatures rising above 60-65 degrees. So, after being planted, the seeds will remain in dormant stage before the spring comes.
When soil temperatures increase above 65 degrees, then germination will occur in the Spring. But this process is not full proof. There may be a risk of premature germination due to a sudden warm snap and then the grass may die when the cold weather returns. Also if the wet or winter weather gets extended, that can also cause a risk to proper germination.
Procedure for seeding
As already discussed, the best time for seeding Bermuda grass is from mid-May through mid-August. However, the process for seeding will vary depending on whether you would like to seed the grass into a fully tilled out soil or like to seed where there are already some grass existing.
For best results, it is always recommended that you seed on a tilled out lawn area because the existing adult grasses are likely to add competition to the new seedlings by sharing sunlight and nutrients from the soil which the seedlings may not be able to cope with.
Once you have tilled the lawn thoroughly with the help of a tiller or even a shovel (tractor harrows are used for large grassy areas), you should rake the soil to remove all weeds, loose grass and dusts. And then rake it further to smoothen the soil and level it.
Once done, you can go ahead and plant the seeds. You can hand seed or use a lawn seeder (often called Broadcast Seeder) which you can purchase (would cost between $10 - 30). You need to plant the seeds at a depth of 1/4 inch (the seeds must be all covered with soil). Use 2 to 3 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of soil. Bermuda seed texture is very fine like dust particles. For uniform distribution of seeds, it is okay to mix it with sand.
Once you have planted the Bermuda seeds, lightly water the entire turf area until the soil is moistened to a depth of at least 1 inch. You need to ensure that the soil remains moist and therefore keep watering every 2-3 days (or even daily if required).
Stick your finger into the soil and check daily that the soil is moist to the depth of about 1 inch. For germination, it is essential that the soil is kept consistently moist initially. The seeds will likely germinate in 7 to 14 days time, sometimes it may take a little longer though.
Once you follow the above steps, you will likely get the results of a lush lawn within 60 to 70 days. Once the seedlings have reached a height of 1/4 inch, you will need to normally water the lawn (as done in normal Bermuda grass lawns), use fertilizers as required and also mow the lawn. Note that mowing the weeds that also grow with the grass will help the grass to grow better because the weeds would then consume lesser lights and nutrients from the soil.
If you want to revamp or repair an area of the lawn that already has some grass and weeds, then choose the spring time (instead of fall) for better results. If you must sow the seeds in fall, then use un-hulled seeds for relatively better results.
First rake the area thoroughly with a hand rake, make deep scratches so that the seeds can get into the grooves between the existing grass and weeds. Now, use a broadcast seeder to seed the lawn. Once seeding is done to a soil depth of about 1/4th inch, rake again so that the seeds get a soil cover. Use 1 pound of seed per 1,000 square feet of soil.
Note that sprinkling the seeds on the soil surface won't enable germination of the seeds.
Once the above step is done, continue the normal practice of watering, fertilizing and mowing the grass as usual.
NOTE: If you plan to seed Bermuda grass where there is already Ryegrass (particularly the perennial ryegrass) or Tall Fescue, you should first eradicate the ryegrass or tall fescue before seeding Bermuda grass. Otherwise, you are unlikely to get the desired results.
1) Check out Bermuda Grass
for a complete guide on Bermuda Grass and Lawn Care.
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