Bermudagrass is a warm-season grass that flourishes under proper maintenance and is popular in Texas. Fertilizing Bermuda is essential, just like adopting the correct mowing and watering for maintaining a healthy lawn. But when should I fertilize Bermuda in Texas?
In Texas, fertilize Bermuda grass in spring when temperatures exceed 65°F and growth is active. Fertilize at least 4 times yearly, starting in mid-April. Avoid summer fertilizing during drought/heat stress. Test the soil first and fertilize actively growing, non-stressed grass for best results.
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Fertilizer Need for Bermuda in Texas
Texas is a large state with several different soil types. Each soil type varies in nutrient content, determining the fertilizer needs for Bermudagrass lawns in this state. For instance, regions with acid loam-clay soils have low nutrient levels and require a high fertilizer application rate for Bermudagrass to thrive. They include The Rolling Plains, The Edwards Plateau, and The Northern Rio Grande Plain.
On the contrary, Bermudagrass growing in regions with well-draining sandy loam and silty clay soils only requires a low-level fertilizer application program, as these soils already contain significant nitrogen levels. Examples of regions in Texas with these soil types include The Lower Rio Grande Valley, The Grand Prairie, and The Trans-Pecos.
When and How Often to Fertilize Bermuda Grass
Various factors determine when and how often you should fertilize your Bermuda lawn. They include the type of turfgrass, the desired appearance, and the region where you live.
Bermudagrass (both standard and hybrid varieties) is best fertilized when actively growing and can take up nitrogen. This is usually the period between the last spring frost date and the first autumn frost date.
Bermudagrass lawns in Texas have low nitrogen fertilizer requirements. Apply fertilizer once in the spring and, if necessary, once again in the fall for regions with longer growing seasons where a high lawn management level is desired.
As for how often you should fertilize, it’s best to split the fertilizer into two small applications. For a low management level, 1-2 applications in the spring and the late growing season will suffice. This schedule is best for Bermudagrass grown for pasture/foliage that doesn’t require much maintenance.
For moderate lawn management, the second fertilizer application should be in the summer to boost turf density and overall quality. A moderate management fertilizer schedule is best for Bermudagrass grown for leisure and landscaping that needs moderate nitrogen to maintain the desired turf aesthetics.
Finally, for a high level of lawn management, we recommend 2-3 supplementary applications in the summer. A high-level management fertilizer schedule is best for Bermudagrass growing on golf courses and sports turfs that require a high amount of fertilizer for optimal aesthetics and performance (wear tolerance).
Newly established Bermuda lawns need regular fertilizer until they green up. Lawns established via sod or plugs establish much faster and only need regular fertilizer from March-May to fill in. Meanwhile, a Bermuda lawn established via seed takes longer to green up and fill in and needs regular fertilizer application until the end of the growing season in the fall.
For Bermudagrass, the first application of nitrogen fertilizer should be in the spring after the grass is well established and mowed 2-3 times. The turf is actively growing and can readily take up nitrogen at this stage.
The recommended fertilizer application date is approximately six weeks after the average last spring frost date. Therefore, for Texas homeowners, some of the recommended dates for the first nitrogen application are as follows:
- 15th March in Corpus Christi and Laredo
- 1st April in Houston, Victoria, and surrounding areas
- 15th April in Waco, Austin, and San Antonio
- 1st May in Dallas, El Paso, and surrounding areas
Apply fertilizer in the fall to boost the density of your Bermudagrass lawn, enhance its resistance to winter weeds, and improve its fall color and ability to recover the following spring. For this application, apply soluble nitrogen at 1 pound per 1000 square feet. This modest application rate ensures that the nitrogen is not leached from the soil into groundwater during the winter.
Fertilizer application in the summer can benefit newly established Bermuda lawns or those without maintenance for a while. Slow-release nitrogen fertilizers are best suited for summer application, as they prevent growth surges, eliminating the need for more frequent mowing.
How Much Fertilizer to Apply
The amount of fertilizer to apply depends on the type of Bermudagrass and the desired lawn management level:
- Apply 0.5- 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet yearly for a low management level.
- Apply 2-3 pounds (common Bermudagrass) or 3-4 pounds (hybrid Bermudagrass) of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year for a moderate management level.
- Apply 4-5 pounds (common Bermudagrass) or 5-6 pounds (hybrid Bermudagrass) of nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year for a high management level.
How To Select a Good Fertilizer?
The best fertilizer products for Bermudagrass are those that combine quick-release and slow-release nitrogen sources. Quick-release nitrogen sources like urea and ammonium sulfate stimulate immediate short-term plant growth. However, when applied in excess, they can cause excessive turf growth and, consequently, scalping and buildup of leaf clippings.
On the other hand, slow-release nitrogen sources like methylene urea and organic fertilizers provide a slower but long-term response. When quick-release and slow-release nitrogen sources are combined, you get a fertilizer product that provides immediate growth and long-term response. Before buying fertilizer, check the labeling for information regarding the amount of quick-release and slow-release nitrogen in the fertilizer product.
Meanwhile, if you’d previously undertaken a soil nutrient test, the best fertilizer for your turf is that whose nutrient composition aligns with the soil test result recommendations. Fertilizer labels usually include information on the amount of the three primary macronutrients required for optimal turf growth (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Therefore, if the test results determine that your lawn has a phosphorus deficiency, pick a fertilizer with high phosphorus content.
Tips on How To Select a Good Fertilizer for Bermuda Grass
- Look for a high percentage of nitrogen content. Nitrogen is essential for Bermuda grass’s healthy growth and lush lawn establishment.
- Check for the N: P: K ratio, the best for Bermuda grass having 3:1:2 or 4:1:2 for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (like The Andersons Professional PGF Complete 16-4-8 Fertilizer with 7% Humic).
- Consider using organic fertilizers since they slow the release of nutrients to the soil and prevent overfertilization and nutrient runoff.
- Select the appropriate season or time for fertilizing Bermuda grass. Fertilize in early summer using slow-release and late summer/ early fall with quick-release fertilizers.
Note: For Bermuda grass, apply Nitrogen-rich fertilizer in the early summer, transition to a Nitrogen and Phosphorus blend (like Milorganite All-Purpose Eco-Friendly Slow-Release Salt-Free Nitrogen 6-4-0 Fertilizer ) later in the growing season. Always follow the instructions on the fertilizer package and avoid over-fertilization, as this can damage your lawn and harm the environment.
Bermuda Grass Fertilizer Schedule Texas
The first fertilizer application for Bermudagrass should be done when the grass is actively growing and has been mowed 2-3 times. In Texas, this is usually from early April- late May. After that, you can apply fertilizer three more times at intervals during the growing season from early June to late October. The applications should be 4-8 weeks apart.
You should only apply fertilizer to Bermuda turf that’s fully green. Avoid application on lawns experiencing drought stress in the late summer heat. Nutrients are best taken up by turfgrass when the lawn is actively growing; thus, application during this stressful period results in the wastage of fertilizer and potential leaching.
Also, avoid applying fertilizer to a Bermudagrass lawn that’s in/entering dormancy in the late fall or winter. Finally, don’t apply fertilizer to your Bermuda turf if rainfall has been forecast within the next 24 hours.
Here is Fertilization Schedule for Bermudagrass in Texas
|Timeframe||Fertilizer Recommendations||Other Maintenance Tips|
|March – May||Apply 1 lb soluble nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft every 4-6 weeks OR 1.5 lbs slow-release nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft every 8-10 weeks after grass turns green and frost risk is low.|
Soil test to determine needs if possible.
|Mow when grass first turns green and set mower low without scalping.|
Water 1 inch per week.
Apply preemergent and post-emergent herbicides.
Note areas with white grub activity.
|June – August||Continue fertilizing with 1-1.5 lbs nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft every 4-10 weeks.|
Use nitrogen-only or low phosphorus fertilizer.
|Mow to 5/8 – 2.5 inches height.|
Water deeply and infrequently.
|September – November||Apply max 0.5 lbs nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft in September unless overseeded.||Mow until dormancy before expected frost.|
Control broadleaf weeds.
Soil test every 2-3 years.
|December – February||Do not fertilize||Mow leaves/debris for earlier spring green-up.|
Control winter annual weeds.
Considerations When Applying Fertilizer in Bermuda Grass
Here are the essential aspects you should consider when applying fertilizer to Bermuda grass.
Bermuda grass growing in the shade only requires half as much nitrogen fertilizer as in full sunlight. Shade also determines when fertilizer should be applied, as turfgrass can best use nitrogen when sunlight reaches the grass leaves.
2. Age of the lawn
Newly established lawns are usually thin and require a proper nitrogen fertilizer application schedule to achieve a desirable level of density and ground cover. While mature lawns will do just fine with low fertilizer application rates (0.5-1 pound per 1000 square feet per year), a newly established Bermudagrass lawn requires more nitrogen for the first year after planting to thrive and fill in. We recommend an application rate of no less than 2 pounds per 1000 square feet per year for new Bermuda lawns.
3. Soil type
There’s a higher potential for nitrogen leaching in sandy soil than in loam and clay soils. Therefore, if you have sandy soil and need to avoid problems associated with nitrogen leaching, it would be prudent to use a slow-release fertilizer. Alternatively, if you must use a quick-release fertilizer, make small, frequent applications.
4. Mulching (Recycling grass clippings)
Recycling glass clippings can minimize your Bermuda lawn’s overall fertilizer needs. When you leave grass clippings as mulching after mowing the lawn, a significant amount of nutrients is reinfused into the soil. Afterward, you’ll only need fertilizer to keep your grass healthy.
5. Bermuda grass Traffic and pest injury:
Additional nitrogen applications are recommended when heavy use is expected or when pest damage has occurred. The additional fertilizer, if well-timed and applied in measured quantities, helps the turf to recover from wear and pest injury.
6. Soil test results(micronutrients):
A soil test may determine that your Bermuda lawn lacks the essential micronutrients needed to thrive. Common micronutrients include iron, manganese, copper, and zinc. For instance, if your Bermuda lawn has high-pH soil, you need to apply a fertilizer that’s rich in iron to prevent yellowing.
7. Type of fertilizer(liquid or granule):
Liquid fertilizer products are more expensive than granular fertilizer. Additionally, liquid nitrogen products are more likely to cause fertilizer burn in the summer, especially when applied at rates above 0.75 pounds per 1000 square feet. Granular fertilizer, on the other hand, isn’t suited for light applications in small areas, and liquid fertilizer is the better option in such instances.
8. Watersheds and nutrients management:
Watersheds are areas with water quality problems that require extra care and nutrient management to ensure nutrients don’t run off or leach into groundwater. Examples of watersheds are porous soils and sloping soils.
Note: Before choosing a fertilizing schedule, consider the grass type, climate, and ideal lawn appearance. Carry out proper soil tests reveal deficiencies and prevent wasted fertilizer. For Bermuda grass to flourish in Texas, feed and fertilize that lush green lawn on warm spring sun and when the soil temperature is above 65°F. Spring feed the verdant blades for vigorous growth but then stop the fertilizer when late frosts loom since it shocks freshly fed lawns.
I. David R. Chalmers and James A. McAfee, AgriLife Extension- Texas A&M System: Lawn Fertilization for Texas Warm-season Grasses