Bermuda grass grows in transitional and southern zones and has a dense, medium-fine texture, a fast establishment and growth rate, and excellent heat and drought tolerance. While Bermuda grass has a high tolerance for heat and drought in southern states, it has a limited tolerance for cold temperatures and shade in northern ones.
Many gardeners wanting a great lawn often ask, does Bermuda grass die in the winter when in Southern California, it can last year-round?
Some lawn owners worry that if their grass turns dark, they’ve killed it, but with Bermuda grass in winter if you’ve done everything correctly, won’t have died as you may expect when it browns.
In our guide, you can learn more about your Bermuda grass, winter treatment, and why it looks the way it does. By the end, you’ll understand that during the cold months, you get dormant Bermuda grass because of the cooler environmental stresses. (Learn How To Get Bermuda Grass To Spread)
What Time Of the Year Does Bermuda Grass Go Dormant?
When the soil temperature drops below 55 degrees, warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass go dormant. Cool season grasses only go dormant when the soil temperatures drop below 45 degrees regularly.
The warm-season grass goes dormant in the winter because of its low tolerance, resulting in a brown lawn.
Some lawn owners worry that if their grass turns dark, they’ve killed it, but with Bermuda grass, if you’ve done everything correctly, it’s most likely merely dormant rather than dead grass. Bermudagrass spreads by invasive underground stems called rhizomes and runners called stolon’s, so letting it go dormant can be an essential part of lawn care.
Unlike the spring and summer months, winter lawn care for Bermuda grass can be a lot less demanding.
Here are ways you can care for your dormant grass over the late winter.
There are benefits and drawbacks to overseeding your Bermuda grass lawn rather than letting it lie dormant. Allowing your grass to lie dormant saves you money on water and care, but overseeding requires you to maintain your lawn all year.
If you choose to let your Bermuda grass, go dormant, expect it to turn brown between mid-November and February; however, these dates can vary depending on the grass’s weather, region, and overall health. (Read Will Bermuda Grass Choke Out Weeds)
Before Bermuda grass goes dormant in the early fall and winter months, fertilize your warm-season grass with potassium and nitrogen in equal measure.
It will prevent iron deficiency and fertilize again for other nutrient deficiencies come the early spring in mid-March when it will begin to green up.
However, in February or early March to late spring, use a pre-emergent for crabgrass, goosegrass, and other summer annual weeds that usually germinate around mid-March.
When Should I Stop Watering Bermuda Grass In The Fall?
You have good taste in lawns if you need lawn care ideas for Bermuda grass. This warm-season grass is popular for many reasons, including its brilliant green hue. However, it differs from something like the cool season grass Tall Fescue that can stay green year-round.
Bermuda grass is also low maintenance and highly durable. This grass can endure intense heat, thus prevent drought stress, and is used on golf courses and sports fields across the Southern United States.
It requires less water and is ideal for yards because of its resistance to foot traffic and general wear and tear and can help with weed control in full growth.
Bermuda grass, also known as devil grass because of its invasive tendency, is easy to maintain. When the temperature drops, it turns brown and dead-looking. Preparing your Bermuda grass for the winter requires proper upkeep in the fall. This treatment might help it return to its spring green color.
Bermuda grass has many advantages, including drought resilience. It simply needs weekly or biweekly watering. While letting nature handle everything might be more straightforward, rain isn’t always the best solution.
You can tell if your Bermuda grass lawn needs water by looking at it. When the grass blades are slightly bent, almost thin-bladed and bowing, it is time to water the lawn.
Initially, keep your schedule regular. Reduce the frequency of watering the lawn as October progresses. Now water your dormant Bermuda grass once a week.
Throughout the fall, water your drought-tolerant Bermuda grass less frequently. After November, only water the lawn once a month. Continue until the winter is gone, then return to your regular watering routine in March.
Weeds usually seed in the spring, but you’ll see them in the late fall. By getting rid of them early, you can avoid a spring invasion. Destroying young weeds in late autumn can help break the yearly cycle. You’ll also reduce the number of weeds you have to deal with in the future.
The health of your dormant Bermuda grass benefits from spot treating weeds. Safer for the environment, as pesticides are hazardous if not handled properly. Pre-water your dormant Bermuda grass before weeding it. It’s also recommended to wait two days before mowing the lawn.
Is it OK To Mow Dormant Bermuda Grass?
In a place with such an unstable environment as South Carolina, creating a yearly maintenance calendar for reliably managing turfgrass such as your bermudagrass lawn year on can be tricky.
As a result, it’s critical to monitor nighttime temperatures and implement management practices based on the year’s weather.
Late winter or early spring, when the dormant grass turf is emerging, and early fall, the first frost will be expected. These are critical periods to monitor the weather. From the coastal sections of South Carolina to the foothills of the Upstate, the first and last frost dates can vary by weeks to a month.
Bermuda Grass Maintenance Schedule
Here is a quick maintenance schedule you can use as a starting point.
Mow the lawn at a lower mowing height than usual in the summer of around 1-inch.
Make sure the mowing heights are not too low, or you’ll end up with too much dead material across your lawn. Do this right before the lawn will green up, typically in late April or early May toward the early summer.
Collect clippings and eliminate any dead material from winter dormancy by using a mower with a bagger if possible. Alternatively, surface debris can be blown away with a leaf blower or raked by hand to remove the additional dead leaf.
A sharp mower blade will smoothly cut the grass blades rather than destroying the leaves. Dull mower blades shred the grass blades instead of slicing them. Because of the jagged edges of the blades, the grass becomes more susceptible to diseases. Sharpen the mower blade once a year or as needed during the growing season.
What Does Core Aeration Do?
Core aeration is punching small holes in the turf and soil to relieve compaction and allow air to enter the root system. This will assist in settlement of problems with infiltration and drainage. Combine lawn aerification with dethatching once the threat of frost has passed to ease any soil compaction difficulties.
If scalping or verticutting for thatch removal is done, it must be done in the late summer heat to give the turf enough time to heal before the cooler fall temperatures slow development. The turf will not have enough time to recuperate if verticutting or scalping is done in the fall.
In the transition zone, verticutting in the late summer has also been found to help prevent the harmful effects of spring dead spot the following spring.
The choice of a cultivar and the management of that cultivar can affect Bermuda grass fall color retention. Using management measures to extend the autumn color of a Bermuda grass type should be done with caution.
High nitrogen rates, for example, may lengthen Bermuda grass autumn color in all sites, but in the transition zone, this may cause a large patch of winter mortality and spring dead spot.
Depending on weather patterns, a cultivar selection and care approaches can boost fall color retention to an acceptable level for 2 – 6 weeks in most areas.
It is possible to maintain bermudagrass green all year if winter soil temperatures and air temperatures don’t fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit and there is no environmental stress from freezing.
Dormant warm-season grasses are ugly by some lawn managers and homeowners. In many parts of the country, annual or perennial ryegrass overseeding keeps the grass green all year.
The tan hue of dormant Bermuda grass is appealing, and with no irrigation or management measures, you can extend your turf’s growing season and enjoy a few months off from yard maintenance.
You can also find competition from winter weeds like annual bluegrass, which can slow the recovery of Bermuda Grass in the spring.
Moisture stress can promote deep rooting in the warm summer months. If you need to grow, you’ll find it is hard to find Bermuda grass in seed form, and it is grown most often from plugs.
In addition, never add herbicides to your grass growing in partial shade, as this can have a significant impact on rapid growth.