Bermuda Grass Fertilizer and Its Application

 
 
Fertilizer has an deep effect on Bermuda grass during its dormancy, germination and growth. Proper application of fertilizer is one of the most important elements to achieve fully established Bermuda grass. There are however other factors too such as the soil type, atmospheric conditions depending on the location, age of the lawn, practices of lawn maintenance etc. 
 

Types of fertilizers

 
Bermuda Grass fertilizers are commonly of two types  - organic and inorganic
 
The most commonly used organic fertilizers comprise of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium which are the three key nutrients of Bermuda grass. 
 
Organic fertilizers such as soybean or cottonseed meal are high Nitrogen containing fertilizers. Corn meal and Urea can also be used as fertilizers for Bermuda grass and are often called 'Synthetic Organic' fertilizer. Urea is a coated slow release fertilizer with a small percentage of fast release nitrogen. Use of Nitrogen Fertilizer can significantly increase the growth and population of Bermuda grass. 
 
Potassium too is a natural and essential element for Bermuda grass. While application of fertilizer should continue through early fall, Potassium and Phosphorus levels should be maintained all along but based on soil requirement. 
 
While seeding Bermuda grass, Potassium fertilizers can be applied by different methods. It can be applied near the seeds which is probably the best option. However it should be tolerable to the type of seeds you have. If it is not suitable for your seed type, then use side band method where potassium is applied on the sides and not directly on the seeds. This method can be safe for such seeds and prevent bad effects during germination. Check with the seed supplier for the method to be used for the particular seed type. 
 
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for photosynthesis. One method of applying phosphorus fertilizer during seeding is 'Broadcast and Incorporation' where the fertilizer is applied in the soil before seeds are planted. Like Potassium, Phosphorus can also be applied using side band depending on the type of seeds used. Phosphorus fertilizer is required to be applied three to four times in a year and is generally used to increase soil fertility and create lush green lawns. 
 
It is however not necessary to apply Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium fertilizers individually. Most commercially available products are a mix of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) and would have the N-P-K ratio mentioned on the bag or packet. So when you buy Bermuda grass fertilizer, you will usually see the bags or packets showing three numbers like 25-10-15. The first number indicates Nitrogen percentage, second number is Phosphorous, and third is Potassium. 
 
The fertilizers are available generally in granular form. There are some that need to be dissolved in water before they are applied. The granular ones tend to be better and last longer in the soil. A slow release fertilizer is generally more effective than the one that releases the nutrients quickly on a rain fall. 
 
Inorganic fertilizer includes PH neutralizing fertilizers such as lime or sulfur. They should be applied while preparing the lawn for planting Bermuda grass. This type of fertilizer can balance the soil quality and keep the correct PH range between 6-7.  
 
 

When and how much to apply

 
First try to get a soil sample test done to find out the recommended nutrient (NPK) and lime requirements for your soil. Soil tests are performed at various laboratories. For example in Florida, the IFAS Extension of University of Florida does so. You can also consult your Cooperative Extension Center and find out the nearest soil testing laboratory. 
 
However, if soil test is not possible, go for a Nitrogen rich NPK fertilizer in the ratio of 4-1-2 (the product bag could show 12-3-6 or 16-4-8 which is perfect because the ratio is same as 4-1-2). You can also consider a ratio of 3-1-2. 
 
Now once you have identified and purchased the product, next is to figure out what quantity of the product should be applied. If your soil for example requires 3 pounds of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet, you will need to do a simple math to calculate the fertilizer amount required. In case of 12-3-6 product, divide 3 pound by 12 (% of Nitrogen) and multiply by 100 i.e. (3/12) x 100 = 25 pounds would be the amount of fertilizer to be applied per 1000 square feet. 
 

Spring

 
First round of fertilizer should be applied two weeks after the full spring green-up (i.e. during April to May and two weeks after your lawn is fully green). In absence of a sample test, apply 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet (you can use a product with 4-1-2 ratio, but do calculate the amount). 
 

Summer

 
The next round should be six to eight weeks later in June and then again in August (use similar quantity as in Spring). For effective results, four to five times fertilizer application is required in an interval of 3-4 weeks during the warm season till mid September (but not after that). Sodded varieties and hybrid Bermuda grass require extra care and more frequent fertilization. 
 

Fall and Winter

 
In Fall (i.e. September to November) and 4-6 weeks before frosting/dormancy is anticipated to start, use a Potassium rich fertilizer with low Nitrogen (such as 5-10-30) and apply only half pound of Nitrogen per 1000 square feet. During winter (i.e. December to February) you should not fertilize Bermuda grass lawns in general. An exception is if you have overseeded the lawn. You should then apply only half pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet using fertilizer with 4-1-2 ratio. 
 
NOTE: The fertilizer which contains weed control chemicals can be applied in September - November before dormancy starts.  
 
Fertilizers can be applied by equipment like wheels and a handle for easy spreading, or a broadcast spreader. Cyclone spreaders and drop spreaders are also frequently used. Make sure the spreader is properly set to apply the right amount of fertilizer. 
 
 

Related Articles

 
1) Check out Bermuda Lawn Care to know how to maintain Bermuda grass lawns. 
 
2) Check out Bermuda Grass for a complete guide on Bermuda Grass.