How to Make Bermuda Grass Thicker and Spread

Bermuda grass is one of the most beautiful and lush types of grass. Golf courses primarily use it for that very reason. However, if you have a garden, it is unlikely you are planning to build a golf course, and having short grass is a problem.

Weeds or certain diseases such as brown spots can prevent your grass from creating a lush and green environment but thankfully there are lots of ways to prevent and treat them if they occur.

This article will provide some of the best nurturing, mowing, and watering practices that help make Bermuda grass thicker and spread faster. Read on to find out more.

Understanding How Bermuda Grass Grows

In science, Bermuda Grass, also known as Cynodon dactylon, is a type of plant that grows like forage or turf grass for livestock. This grass is also known by other names: devil grass, dogtooth grass, wiregrass, or couch grass.

The origin of Bermuda grass can be traced from Africa in the year 1751. Since its introduction, it has widely spread from the south of the United States to the southwest.

This grass is common in California and other parts of the West coast and grows at altitudes of under 3,000 feet. It is commonly used for landscaping orchards, turf areas, gardens, vineyards, industrial areas, and roadsides. Besides, it can be regarded as an invasive weed.

Scientists have developed Bermuda grass hybrids, including Tifway, Tifdwarf, Tifgreen, and Santa Ana, and each has a long dark green season and delicate leaves. You can use these subspecies as turfgrass for your lawn.

Bermuda grass generates many seeds that can stay for up to 2 years without losing their viability. However, hybrid varieties do not produce seeds.

Regional Climates and Bermuda Grass

The ideal time to plant Bermuda grass is in the late spring. You may face germination issues if you plant the grass during any other time of the year.

It’s worth noting that Bermuda grass grows slowly in cold climates because the low temperatures affect root growth and development. Therefore, there will be stunted growth due to inadequate water and mineral absorption. So, avoid planting Bermuda grass during the onset of winter.

In areas such as Hawaii, South Florida, and the Caribbean, where the temperatures are always high, Bermuda grass can be planted any time of the year. In such areas, planting Bermuda grass is popular since it is economical and makes lush lawns.

It takes approximately one year for Bermuda grass to spread. This time is enough for the grass to cover the entire lawn.

Bermuda grass tends to become brown in hotter climates. So, consider irrigation during the hot months to ensure that the grass remains green and thick.

In tropical regions, Bermuda grass maintains its green color the whole year, especially if the rainfall is sufficient.

I find it best to use dormant seeding when planting Bermuda grass during winter or late fall for the best results. Un-hulled seeds are the most suitable for such cases because of how they germinate and spread fast.

Avoid using hulled Bermuda seeds, especially during fall, because they take longer to germinate or spread.

When planting, I always ensure that the temperatures are within 60 and 65 degrees – this range helps to minimize risks that come with high temperatures, such as dormancy.

After planting the seed, it will stay dormant until spring comes.

It is also worth noting that premature germination may happen if the temperature rises above 65 degrees. Premature germination can cause the grass to die when the climate becomes cold.

Bermuda Ideal Soil Conditions

Summer and late spring are the ideal times for seeding Bermuda grass. During this time, the soil temperatures are usually below 100 degrees but above 65 degrees.

Attention should be kept to soil temperature when deciding how to make Bermuda grass spread. This is because the correct temperature plays a significant role in maintaining favorable germination conditions during the growth phase.

I use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the soil. In my experience, it is best to insert it around 2 or 3 inches into the ground to ensure that you get the best reading.

The ideal soil temperature is 75 to 85 degrees. Stunted growth can occur if the temperature goes below 60 degrees.

Bermuda grass typically germinates within 14 days and will fill the lawn within 90 days when subjected to ideal soil conditions. So, in addition to keeping a check on the soil temperatures, it is vital that you understand soil pH, provide adequate water, and supplement with nutrients and minerals if you want to grow the grass fast.

The grass will also require high quantities of water to ensure that it doesn’t dry out therefore keeping your freshly laid lawn hydrated is a must.

Conducting a soil test will help to identify the soil pH. The ideal pH should be between 5.6 and 7. You can add Sulfur if the soil is alkaline, or lime if the soil is acidic. These two components are a potting shed must and can come in handy when I’m trying to correct the soil’s pH.

Be sure not to add any fertilizers or herbicides to the soil two or three months before seeding for the best results. It is also best to avoid planting other grass species together with Bermuda grass.

Soil Type

Strong alkaline or acidic soils affect the growth of Bermuda grass.

Soil pH

For the best results, try a soil pH of anywhere between 5.6 and 7.

Besides, ensure that you conduct a soil test if you notice that the Bermuda grass is growing thin. This action will allow you to identify what components your soil is missing. It will enable you to rectify your soil type, giving the grass optimum growth conditions.

Dormancy

Bermuda grass tends to become dormant, especially when the conditions are unfavorable. They can occur in either a hot or cold season or when the soil’s pH is too high or low.

Nitrogen fertilizer is essential when reviving Bermuda grass from dormancy. High Nitrogen fertilizer can help to eliminate dormancy and helps your Bermuda to grow fuller and thicker.

Application of a liquid lawn fertilizer with a 16-4-8 NPK such as the Anderson Professional PGF full fertilizer when dormancy occurs assists the Bermuda grass to spread and grow faster and thicker. 

Thin lawns only require Nitrogen fertilizer application of 1.0 to 1.5 lbs. per square foot in one month. This process also encourages thickening and faster growth.

Another suitable fertilizer for evading dormancy and making Bermuda grass thicker is Milorganite. This fertilizer releases slowly and serves the grass for an entire season with one or two applications.

On the whole, fertilizer helps prevent dormancy and encourages thicker and faster growth by providing additional and necessary nutrients. It also helps deal with the issue of patchy turfgrass, especially during the dry season.

I advise testing the soil nutrient level before using any fertilizer. Testing will help to identify any lacking nutrients and enable you to determine what N-P-K ratio you need. Never guess fertilizer amounts or frequency of application. This is because excessive use can cause Bermuda grass to turn brown or yellow and burn.

Bermuda Grass Growth Rate

To encourage even growth of established lawns, as well as enhance growth rate, and stifle any emerging weeds, it is good practice to apply a weed and feed product in late spring. 

For freshly laid sod, reseeding projects, or newly seeded lawns bear in mind that Bermuda grass seed takes between 7 and 14 days to germinate. Expect an established lawn to emerge in between 60 and 90 days. A thicker and fuller lawn effect will take longer.

If you are worried about how to make Bermuda grass spread, use hulled seeds. Hulled seeds germinate in less than ten days. 

Bear in mind that without the ideal conditions – watering, fertilizing, appropriate soil pH, and ground temperature – the Bermuda grass can take more days to germinate and grow.

How Does Bermuda Grass Spread?

Bermuda grass has a very high rate of growth when compared to any regular warm-season grass. It produces stolen that spread below the ground and rhizomes that spread above the ground.

Although it can bear heavy use, it is hardy, resilient, and spreads quickly and easily. In fact, Bermuda’s aggressive growth rate makes it hard to contain and it recovers very fast if it is damaged. This is what makes it suitable for use in athletic fields and golf courses.

Rhizomes Vs. Stolons

Bermuda is a wiry perennial grass type that is low-growing. It contains two kinds of stems: Stolons, which are located below the ground, and rhizomes situated above the ground.

The stolon and the rhizomes help to root the grass into the soil, hence building new plants that grow from the first plant or after they are cut and placed on moist soil. These rhizomes and stolons are known to develop quickly and effectively in Bermuda and can easily crowd out weeds with their rapid growth.

Rhizomes are shallow; they range between 1 and 6 inches. Flat stems contain a light leaf sheath at every node.

The stolons usually grow 1 or 2 inches long and bear spikelets in two rows on one side.

Making Bermuda Grass Thicker and Spread

Here are the best ways to make Bermuda grass spread and become thicker:

Aerating the soil

Topsoil that is compacted can negatively impact the growth rate of Bermuda grass and may result in a patchy lawn. This is because the grass is unable to absorb oxygen, nutrients, and water from compacted soil.

Aerating needs to be a regular and essential part of lawn maintenance. Without it, your Bermuda grass will be unable to effectively spread and or grow thicker.

Deep Watering

Although Bermuda grass is drought tolerant, lack of enough will lead to a thin and slow lawn.

Water Bermuda grass 1-2 inches every week to promote the spread of the lawn. Do this in the morning to prevent evaporation during the heat of the day.

Mowing

If you want a thicker and fuller lawn, mowing is essential too. The best height for mowing is below 1 inch. Remember to water your Bermuda grass after mowing to further promote its growth.

Weed Management

Aggressive weeds may hinder your lawn from becoming thicker. Use a pre or post-emergent weed killer – depending on your weed type or dig out all the weeds using a weed puller or your hand for the best results

High Phosphorus Fertilizing

Feeding your lawn with a high phosphorus fertilizer is only recommended for new sod or at the start of the growing season in spring. This will help to establish strong and healthy roots. 

Use a high nitrogen fertilizer during the summer months and switch to a fertilizer containing potassium in the Fall to help protect your lawn against adverse weather, protect against diseases and help the grass become drought resistant.

Remove Thatch Build Up

Thatch is often the cause of slow growth, and an inability to spread and become thick in Bermuda grass. Thatch is essentially a layer of decomposed grass that has been left behind after mowing and can build up on top of the soil if not removed. 

The resulting effect is poor ventilation and underwatering. In addition, any attempts to apply fertilizers could be futile if the thatch prevents the product from getting into the soil.

To remove a build-up of thatch I recommend mowing your lawn vertically during the spring. Alternatively, use a power rake to scrape it off the surface of your lawn.

Fixing patches in Bermuda Grass

If a Bermuda lawn has brown patches, it may show poor soil or inadequate watering. The best solution is to test the acidity of your soil and check your schedule for watering. In addition, aerate your soil so that you can be sure that nutrients are being absorbed efficiently.

Seeding Bermuda

Overseeding a lawn can enhance the thickness of Bermuda grass. However, this needs to be done in autumn or early spring as seeds won’t germinate if the weather is too hot or too cold.

To do this cast seeds on the affected areas of your lawn. Water regularly and stay off the area for two or three weeks before mowing. The seeds will germinate and fill all the gaps on the lawn, hence encouraging Bermuda to grow thicker.

Bermuda Sod

Bermuda sod is a hybrid grass from improved varieties. They offer instant coverage on a lawn patch. It can take just 2 or 3 weeks to re-establish a lawn using this method.

Bermuda sods take root in the lawn faster and produce lush and dense green coverage.

Bermuda Plug

The best Bermuda plugs include:

  • Celebration Bermuda plugs 
  • Dog Tuff Bermuda grass plugs 
  • Latitude 36 Bermuda grass plugs 

FAQ How to Make Bermuda Grass Thicker