Today’s Reader Question comes from Bill in Williamsburg:
I have a lawn that used to be primarily fescue. Over the past few years, bermudagrass has taken over the lawn and now it’s more bermuda than fescue. Can you let me know if the maintenance schedule is the same as it is for fescue? If not, can you let me know what I should be doing regarding fertilizer?
That’s a great question Bill and it’s quite timely too. We are in the middle of the warm season turf maintenance schedule and it’s not too late to begin yours. In case you’re not aware, bermudagrass is considered a warm season grass: it thrives during the warm part of the year. Fescue is considered a cool season grass as it performs best in the cooler parts of the year. With that being said, let’s look at the proper steps that need to be performed for warm season turf:
- Aeration – use a core aerator to aerate your soil. This lessens the effects of soil compaction as well as opens up little pockets of loveliness for items like compost to fill in.
- Perform a soil test – do this before adding any amendments to your soil so that you get a true reading of your soil composition
- Add compost – many people skip this step but if you want your turf to thrive instead of just survive, adding compost is a necessity. You only need to add a light layer, no more than a 1/4″ deep. By adding compost, you are feeding the soil which will in turn feed the plants.
- JJA Fertilization – JJA stands for June, July and August. Fertilize based on your soil test results applying no more than 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 ft2.
- Dethatching – in the first few years that your bermuda is establishing itself, dethatching won’t really be necessary. As the stolons on your bermuda continue to grow upon themselves each year, they pile up and have a hard time breaking down into organic matter for your soil. By dethatching, you are removing the stolons that aren’t breaking down. Your turf will look thin once you’ve completed the dethatching but it will fill in quickly.
I want to mention that as you add compost to your soil, you will be able to reduce your synthetic fertilizer inputs. As you transition over to a healthier, organic soil you should be able to completely eliminate traditional N-P-K. Here’s a link to an article describing the myth of synthetic fertilizers that you may find helpful. Also, I have to give credit where credit is due; I have gleaned virtually all of my turf knowledge from one of my co-workers, Brian Williams. He is a wonderful resource and without him, I wouldn’t have the “how-to” part of turf maintenance in my repertoire. Thanks Brian!
If other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers have helpful hints or tips for warm season turf maintenance, leave me a comment below or shoot me an e-mail. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!