Bermudagrass (with video)

ProPlugger Co - Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon.) forms a beautiful, dense stand of turf grass making it a great choice for lawns, athletic fields, golf courses and and even pastures. Most species are moderately drought and salt tolerant and while it thrives in the hotter southern part of the U.S., it also is somewhat cold tolerant.

This perennial sod is fast to recover after being damaged and stays green as long as the temperatures are above 60º F.

Nicknamed “the South’s grass,” Bermuda is quick to establish compared to other warm season grasses (in 60-90 days). Because of its fast growth and spread rate, it can be quite invasive and care should be taken when considering bermudagrass near any planting beds. 

Is Plugging Bermudagrass Right for You?

Bermudagrass can be started from seed and is also available for purchase as plugs and sod. Bermuda grass can be cut shorter than other grasses. It will quickly fill in bare spaces with its above ground shoots (called stolons) and underground rhizomes.

Leaf Texture

Medium to fine.

Climate Zone

Bermuda is a warm season grass that grows best in the warm, mostly humid regions of the United States (to USDA Hardiness Zone 9) and is also adaptable in the cooler “transition” zone extending into southern Kentucky in the southeast region of the U.S.

When to Plant

Bermudagrass seed are tiny with about 2 million hulled seed or about 1.5 million un-hulled seed per pound. Hulled seed germinates in about 5 days in warm soil (above 70º F), but germination time may be 7 to 10 days for un-hulled seed, creating weed control issues until establishment. 

Bermuda seed and plugs will establish best under very warm conditions (90º-100º F), so it should NOT be planted in late fall. Plant Bermuda seed and plugs in late spring as hot temperatures are approaching or in very early fall (90 days prior to the first frost date in cooler regions).

Light Requirements

Bermudagrass grows best in full sun and quickly thins in areas of modest shade.

Watering Requirements

If seeding, bermudagrass should be watered several times daily until germination is complete, then tapering off as the seedlings grow. Once established, periodic watering is recommended for bermudagrass. 

Planting Methods

Plant bermudagrass with quality seed or by plugs. See video (above) for plugging methods. 

Soil Preparation

The key to growing a nice lawn is soil preparation and an essential element is having your soil tested for nutrient content and, more importantly pH. Whether you’re planting grass from plugs, sod or seed, the finished surface should contain at least four inches of quality topsoil, free of stones and large clumps of soil. Use a tiller, if needed, to work up the topsoil and smooth it out with a garden rake.

How to Plug Your Bermudagrass Lawn

Many landscape companies as well as DIY homeowners choose plugging as an inexpensive alternative to sodding. For easy cutting and planting of sod plugs, use the ProPlugger 5-IN-1 XL. This tool will save you time and some serious bending over. Simply step down on the ProPlugger's foot pegs, letting your body weight and gravity do most of the work and start pulling plugs for your planting holes. The same technique works for cutting sod plugs from pieces of purchased sod.

Depth rings included with the 5-IN-1 allow you to dig the exact depth hole needed (2", 4" and even 6"). As you pull plugs, the soil gets stored inside the tool and when you're ready to empty, simply turn the tool upside down and soil plugs slide out easily. 

Press the plug in the hole using potting soil to snug into place. It's that easy. .

PH and Fertilizer

Most lawn grasses grow best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. If a soil test indicates a need to add lime, determine the proper amount needed and mix it in to the ground prior to planting to a depth of about 4 inches. A soil test should also indicate how much fertilizer to add at the time of planting. Clemson University suggests applying 1/2 lb of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet after spring green-up, but no more than 2 lbs of nitrogen in any given growing season. Use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 4-1-2 ratio, such as 16-4-8.

Insects and Diseases

Be on the lookout for a plethora of insects, including armyworms, cutworms, sod webworms, bermudagrass mites and Rhodesgrass scale (mealybug). Possible diseases include: dollar spot, spring dead spot, leaf spot, brownpatch and Pythium. Contact your local extension agent on tips and products to control insects and disease in turf grass. Disease problems are managed mostly by good cultural practices, i.e., mowing, watering and feeding.

Bermuda Varieties

Yukon, Mohawk and Rivera (all three have good cold and drought tolerance). Sport turf varieties include U-3, Tiflawn and Tifgreen.

Other ProPlugger 5-IN-1 Planting Tool Applications

  1. Bulb Planter
  2. Bedding Plant and Annual Planter
  3. Weeding Tool
  4. Ground Cover Planter

Neil Moran is a horticulturist and author of three books on gardening. He is also the creator and author of the garden blog Haylake Horticultural.