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 Post subject: Bermuda lawn woes...
PostPosted: Wed Apr 15, 2009 10:26 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2009 7:48 pm
Posts: 2

After reading several posts I realize I've already made tons of mistakes with my semi-bermuda/mostly dandelion lawn. On a positive note, I haven't used chemical weed killers, fertilizers, or pesticides for well over a year, but I neglected the lawn in January when I didn't put down the CGM like I did last year. Needless to say, I'm paying the price now.

On a Saturday about a month ago, I aerated my lawn thoroughly with a rented aerator and had 4 yards of organic compost and a half yard of lava sand (mixed) dropped in my driveway. As a data point, I learned that 4.5 yards of compost mix dumped in a driveway on a sunny day in early spring can be pretty much evenly distributed over an average front yard by ten neighborhood kids ranging in age from 4 to 12 using nothing more than buckets/small plastic trash cans from their own garages in a little less than an hour and a half . Hey, don't get the wrong idea, I didn't even ask for the help, they begged and begged until I finally caved. Even the mention of cow manure didn't sway them. The other neighborhood dads looked on and commented with envy. An operation like this could only be pulled off with as much success once a year, at best.

My time in the limelight, however, was short-lived. Two weeks later, my lawn was easily the worst looking lawn on the block, and probably a dead heat with the worst in the whole neighborhood. Some of my neighbors assumed that compost I had delivered was chugging full of weed seeds. But, to be fair, the weeds were already there. They just came up through the compost mix with renewed vigor.

Well, I've been manually pulling weeds for two straight weeks. I've won some small battles (smallest area to largest, a weed pulling snowball, so to speak), but I'm still definitely losing the war. Oh sure, my heart is in the right (organic) place, but I just got a letter from my HOA. Evidently, they're even less impressed with MY version of the organic program than my neighbors are. The heckling is all in good spirit, of course. "You know, they make a real easy spray for that."

Now for the questions... I've got the makings for a spray (not the spray my neighbors are peddling, mind you). I have orange oil, molasses and vinegar, but do I really want to spray that down when I seriously have more dandelions than I have bermuda grass? Seriously, I might as well broadcast spray the stuff and kill everything. That said, maybe I should I just start over!? It looks like the sprinkler heads would still clear above a new layer of bermuda if I put it down right on top of this mess I have. After all, I'm guessing the bermuda under the compost is in pretty bad shape anyway. I just learned after reading some of your posts that the top dressing probably should have been spread a whole lot thinner in the first place. But, even if I do buy new bermuda, would I be able to get some that was grown organically?

Bottom line - My yard is bumpy, full of weeds, and sparse in the way of grass. It is, all in all, a deeper green than my neighbor's yards (thanks, cow manure), but they're not going to be knocking down my door any time soon asking for lawn advice.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you may have.

 Post subject: Re: Bermuda lawn woes...
PostPosted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 8:30 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2003 3:45 pm
Posts: 2884
Location: San Antonio,TEXAS
Where to start :lol: :lol:

Lets start with the basics. Here they are in a nutshell.

  1. Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds and prevent new (weed) seeds from germinating.
  2. Mulch mow at the LOWEST setting on your mower (only because it is bermuda). Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. Bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses are the most dense when mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. Dense grass shades out weeds and uses less water when tall. Dense grass feeds the deep roots you're developing in 1 above.
  3. Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 5 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above. For bermuda you can fertilize every month if you want it green all the time or you can slip to every other month or even follow my holiday schedule. Memorial Day is coming!!

Now for some details.

Get a WeedHound tool. This link shows how to use it. You can pluck the dandelions out as fast as you can step on them...and there's something very satisfying in that. It should cost about $20. They are available everywhere but they seem to sell out every year. After you get all the current dandelions out, it should be June or July :D . Hopefully it will still be April, but don't expect a miracle to come along until June or July with the HOT weather. That is when your bermuda should start to look good. If you still have weeds in June, then consider the vinegar spray. You should have very few weeds if you are following the watering and mowing suggestions above.

Top dressing:
If you still have brown showing and grass hidden under the brown, get out there with a push broom and pull the grass blades up from underneath. Just sweep the compost away. If it is very loose you can blow it away with a leaf blower. Otherwise YOU WILL SMOTHER YOUR LAWN for the rest of the season AT LEAST. Get the grass out and showing or you will have no grass. Yes, even bermuda can be smothered out.

Bumpy lawn:
There is a cure for that, too. Bermuda is the worst for bumpy lawn because it is mowed the lowest and scalps so easily. Before we can get you to the point where we fix that, you have to get the watering, mowing, and fertilizing on schedule as itemized above. I don't have experience fixing a bumpy lawn but I'm becoming an expert simply because I am writing an article with two people who have successfully leveled there's. I'll sound like the expert but it's really them. In a very brief summary, you get the grass as healthy as possible mowed to a very short height, then scalp it all the way down, apply sand, level it, and water. There is a lot more to each of those steps but that's the basic idea. You can fix up to 3 inches of bumps with one crack at the sanding process.

Next time:
  1. Don't aerate when the grass is not exploding out of the ground. Wait until June for bermuda.
  2. Don't apply compost topdressing unless the grass is dormant or exploding out of the ground. It smothers easily.
  3. Don't apply more than 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet of compost or anything else.

David Hall
Dirt Doctor Lawns Forum

 Post subject: Re: Bermuda lawn woes...
PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 4:15 am 

Joined: Wed Apr 15, 2009 7:48 pm
Posts: 2

Thanks a ton! My wife and I had talked it over, and we were about to just give up and throw new bermuda sod down on top of the whole front yard. It looks like the weed hound will be the better option, probably just a little cheaper too!

I'll be looking for that lawn leveling article around August, about the time I finally get my weeds under control - assuming I quit my day job and do nothing else between now and then...heh, heh.

Thanks again, I do really appreciate the reply.

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