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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hybrid Bermudagrass Lawn Needs the Bumps Gone

Q. My hybrid bermudagrass lawn is flat and 30'x40', yet it seems bumpy when I mow. Can I get it as flat and smooth as a putting green? Should I top dress with sand or something else? If so, what and where do I buy the material, and how do I spread it? I do not overseed in the winter, thus it's dormant now.

Hybrid bermudagrass makes a beautiful soil cover but does require
work to keep it like this
A. You can do a lot of damage to hybrid Bermuda and it will come back but you should do this when it gets hot, not now. You can level it by taking the high spots out with a straight-nosed shovel, you can fill in low spots with soil (not sand, but something similar to the soil you have now).

Once you get these highs and low spots rectified, then this putting green (if that is what you want to do with it) will never have the same type of ball roll as a putting green because it is not built the same way. The best putting greens are constructed along very specific engineering specifics called the USGA Greens Section constructions specifications.

In golf course terminology you have what is called a "push-up green", one that is made inexpensively from the local soils. These work just fine but will not give you the “feel” of the Augusta National.

Aerator for turfgrass.
Sorry but I dont remember where I got this years ago.
If you aerate lawns in LV, let me know.
Once you have your area level you should then start to aerate, fertilize and topdress your green on a regular basis. Topdressing can be done by hand with a shove with a little practice at "throwing" it.

I would look at sourcing stuff like this from sand and gravel company. Sand is used a lot because it is smaller and won't interfere with ball roll and it is inexpensive. For professionals they would select sand similar to the sand used for constructing it.

If you don't have one, you will need a greens-type mower (usually around $600or so for the inexpensive type or frequently you can find one used from people who have converted to desert landscaping). But this will be a reel-type mower, not the rotary type.

Greens are mowed at about 3/8 inch or thereabouts (bragging rights among superintendents is “how low you can go” with some at ¼ inch). These types of heights mean mowing daily in the summer months. If you let it go and mow it after a week you will not have the same quality. Mowing frequently makes the grass “tight" and helps keep weeds out as well.

Thatch is not just the light brown stuff, its the dark brown peat moss
stuff below it. It is mostly dead stems, not leaf blades
This climate can produce very high quality hybrid bermudagrass. It is similar to Tucson. I would rule out the climate as a problem. If it is flatter than this, then you should fill in the lower spots with soil similar to the soil in the lawn. I would not use pure sand to fill in these low spots.

Bermudagrass will start to have an inferior look if you don’t dethatch the lawn. An advantage of overseeding bermudagrass in the fall is that this process requires dethatching or opening up the turf for better soil and seed contact to improve germination. If the area is small, a hand dethatcher is adequate and gives a great upper body workout.

You would overseed sometime between mid-September and mid-October in our climate. Use high quality perennial ryegrass, not annual rye if you want a high quality winter lawn. Seeding rates are high if you plan on a greens height cut in the winter.

I would use something around 15 pounds of seed per thousand square feet. When you mow close, the grass plants need to be closer together so you have to use a higher seeding rate than it says on the bag.

Aerating is important but if you do not dethatch bermudagrass you will have problems with color, texture and just plain looks of the grass. If you don’t overseed in the fall then you should dethatch it, but earlier so it has a chance to recover and fill in before cold weather hits. I would dethatch any time it is actively growing fast.

Bermudagrass can handle that kind of stress in the heat. Cool season grasses like tall fescue cannot and must be dethatched in the spring or fall; fall is preferable, around mid-September to mid-October. Same time as overseeding (strange how that works).

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