Thomas J. Koske | 5/27/2005 1:40:59 AM
Bermudagrass may be the plague of flower beds and gardens, but is an important turfgrass species, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.
The cynodon species is a tough, aggressive, perennial grass. Synonyms are "couchgrass" and "wiregrass," but most just refer to it as bermuda. Its warm-season grass metabolism makes it thrive in Deep South summers.
"The aggressive growth makes bermuda ideal for sports turf or sunny areas that receive much wear," Koske says, noting that a strong fertility and irrigation program will usually allow it to keep up with reasonable wear.
"If you wish to have a slow-growing lawn, this grass is not for you," the horticulturist warns.
Two groups of turf-type bermudagrass are known as common and hybrid. Commons and their improved selections are the species C. dactylon. These are grown readily from seed. Koske says the improved seeded bermudas were better selections from commons. Their crosses produce a better turf but need attentive care. Without extra care and fertility, most improved seeded bermudas look like their cheaper progenitor Arizona Common. Seeded bermuda textures run from medium to medium fine.
Hybrids are found on better lawns, athletic fields and golf course greens and fairways. They may be medium in texture or all the way down to a very fine putting surface. The hybrids are made from crossing two species and often irradiating or altering the genetic material. As such, hybrid bermudas are sterile and won’t produce viable seed even though many develop seedheads. All hybrid bermudas must be established vegetatively by planting sprigs, sod or plugs.
Hybrids form the best bermuda turf, but require 30 percent to 50 percent more fertilizer and at least twice as much mowing. Without the extra effort, hybrids will be less attractive and sustainable, allowing weeds to encroach.
Common bermuda is used in pasture forage, but better farms grow special hybrid pasture-type bermudas.
Koske says the advantages of bermudagrass include vigorous, deep-rooted turf that is well adapted to Louisiana. The grass has good to excellent wear, drought and salt tolerance. Most are pleasantly colored as dark green to blue green.
Disadvantages include high maintenance, no shade tolerance, invasive, brown color after frost and high thatching potential.
"Bermudas are subject to a number of diseases and pests, but have an extensive arsenal of materials for pest control," Koske says, pointing out, "In many cases, they just outgrow the problem."
They all prefer a slightly acid soil of pH 6 to 7 and suffer at either extreme.
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.