How To Care For Bermudagrass In Winter Conditions
Bermudagrass is a warm-season turfgrass you can find throughout much of the Southern United States, as well as in some transitional zones. This dense turfgrass has many desirable features, including an appealing medium-fine texture, rapid establishment and growth rate, and an excellent tolerance to both heat and drought.
While a high heat tolerance is ideal for warmer, drier climates, homeowners may find that their Bermudagrass lawns go dormant once air and soil temperatures begin to drop in the winter. Some lawn owners may worry that a brown lawn means the grass is dead, but a dormant Bermudagrass lawn is simply conserving its energy until warmer weather returns. Here, we’ll offer tips on Bermudagrass fall care, explain how to winterize a Bermudagrass lawn, and clue you in on what you can do to ensure your lawn grows strong and healthy in the summertime.
When Does Bermudagrass Go Dormant?
Though they appear similar at first glance, dormancy and death are two different things. While dormancy will cause your lawn to turn brown, it’s a normal part of the grass’ life cycle and will not harm your grass long-term. For Bermudagrass, dormancy occurs in the winter once soil and air temperatures begin to drop. Your lawn should begin to green up again once air nighttime temperatures consistently reach 60oF and soil temperatures exceed 65oF at a depth of four inches. Exactly when this will occur depends on your location, as well as local weather conditions.
If you’re in a location where winter temperatures regularly drop below 10oF, there’s a good chance that your Bermudagrass will experience winter injury. In these areas, you may want to consider seeding your lawn with a cool-season grass instead, that can withstand the colder climate.
How to Winterize Bermudagrass
Homeowners with Bermudagrass lawns often want to know how to keep Bermudagrass green in the winter. Unfortunately, you can’t — when it gets chilly, your lawn will enter dormancy and begin to turn brown. However, with warmer temperatures come spring, it’ll green up again fairly quickly.
Winter dormancy in warm-season grasses is similar to hibernation - a period of inactivity that helps conserve stored energy and resources. As a result, plant leaves lose their chlorophyll (green color) and turn brown.
Winterizing Bermudagrass can help ensure that come spring and summer, your lawn is in great shape to grow thick, strong, healthy, and green. Here are some things you can do to help protect your lawn over the winter:
Fertilize in the early fall
To reduce the chance of winter injury, ensure your Bermudagrass lawn is fertilized with a nitrogen-free, potassium fertilizer in the early fall before dormancy hits. Potassium helps build strong roots and also helps harden off the grass before it enters dormancy, lowering the susceptibility to winter injury. Then, your spring fertilization service should provide your lawn with nitrogen to jump-start green up. Leave the guesswork up to your TruGreen® lawn care expert who will ensure your lawn receives the nutrients its needs at the appropriate time to suit your lawn’s unique needs.
Wondering how short you should cut Bermudagrass before winter? Generally, a Bermudagrass lawn should be mowed to a height of around one and half inches, but can be left a little longer in the winter. No matter the season, you’ll want to keep your Bermudagrass lawn under 2.5 inches, and remember not to cut more than ⅓ of the leaf blade at a time.
Adjust watering during dormancy
As fall transitions to winter, your lawn will go dormant—at which point, the slowdown in growth leads to grass plants needing less water. Aim to water your lawn as usual up until you begin to notice your grass browning. Once the lawn is fully dormant, watering only needs to take place during extended dry periods. If no natural rainfall occurs, dormant lawns should receive around 1 inch of water every 4 weeks to remain healthy.
Should I overseed Bermudagrass in the winter?
Overseeding a dormant Bermudagrass lawn is one way to achieve a green lawn during the dormancy period, and involves seeding cool-season turfgrass to temporarily achieve that. There are pros and cons to overseeding your Bermudagrass lawn. Allowing your lawn to go dormant will mean minimal water and maintenance, while overseeding will require continued work throughout the season to maintain the lawn. Additionally, fall pre-emergent weed control cannot be applied when overseeding, which can leave your lawn susceptible to winter annual weeds such as annual bluegrass (Poa annua). If you choose to allow the dormancy period, expect your Bermudagrass to brown from about November to February, though those dates can change based on weather, region, and overall health of the grass.
Let TruGreen Help Maintain Your Bermudagrass Lawn All Year Round
If you’re not sure what to do with your lawn season to season, or you don’t even know what kind of grass you have, we can help. Your TruGreen lawn care specialist can create a tailored plan based on grass type and climate conditions to give your lawn exactly what it needs to reach its full potential.
Explore our plans and get started on fostering the lawn of your dreams.