Ronald Strahan, Koske, Thomas J. | 4/5/2005 9:22:58 PM
Bermudagrass sod is a tough, fine-textured, aggressive, warm-season turf, just perfect for a pretty lawn or well-performing athletic turf. It does not tolerate shade, so overhangs and trees are a big problem. It will grow in many soil types but should have a fertile soil with pH of 5.8 to 7.1.
Many pesticides are labeled for bermudas (some are restricted use), so pest control of all types is generally available. It has good wear, drought and salt tolerance and can establish quickly. Bermudagrass is a high-maintenance turf if it is to look its best and perform well, so it is not often a good choice for home lawns. Without the higher maintenance, the quality of many cultivars becomes similar and would not warrant choosing expensive improved cultivars over Arizona common bermudagrass.
The best-looking bermudas are usually the vegetative hybrids that must be established from live stolon pieces or sod. There is no seed; these are sterile hybrids. They may look 30% to 50% better than the best of the seeded types and about twice as good as the Arizona common bermudagrass if maintained properly.
More than 20 varieties of seeded turf bermudagrass are on the market. Many perform only about as well as common bermuda, especially if minimal maintenance is provided; however, they may cost three or four times more. In lower maintenance budgets, common bermuda may be the best choice because it is more sustainable under lower maintenance. Varieties that rated best quality in 2002 test plots of 18 seeded selections grown at the LSU AgCenter's Burden Center in Baton Rouge were:
Savannah, Sultan, Sydney, Rivera, Southern Star, Primo and Princess-77. Yukon, Transcontinental and especially Riviera had performed well under cold stress and would be good choices in our northernmost parishes. Most other cultivars had a freeze tolerance similar to common when tested in southern Oklahoma. Princess and Contessa are quite fine textured for seeded types.
Also worth trying in Louisiana are the varieties: LaPaloma(blended), Sunbird, Southern Star, Sundevil-II, Black Jack, Pyramid and Jackpot. Arizona Common bermuda is what is most often found and it is a good choice for lower maintenance sites having less demands from the bermudagrass.
Seeded bermudas take about three months to establish in good growing conditions, so stating this lawn after mid-August is risky, depending on which part of Louisiana you are in. Fall-seeded plants have not had enough time to establish a good rhizome system to carry them through a cold winter. Late plantings are thus subject to greater winterkill or total loss.
It is best to plant as early as mid-spring or when soil temperature, at a depth of 3 inches, holds in the upper 60s F. Bermudagrass is seeded at a rate of ¾ to 1 pound of pure live seed per 1,000 sq.ft. That works out to 33 to 43 lbs./A. Seed should be either coated or hulled (nicked or scratched) by the seed company to provide faster and more uniform germination. Cost of seed ranges from $100 to $300/A for older types of cultivars and $300 to $1,000/A for the most modern types.
Plant seed in a well-prepared fertile seedbed with a soil pH 5.8 to 7.1. Roll, drag, press or cultipak the seed into the soil for good seed-soil contact. Water well as needed and don't let the seedlings dry out; they have few roots at this stage.
After the seedlings are up for a couple of weeks, reduce watering and start fertilizing the grow-in with a high-nitrogen material used at a rate of ½-2/3 lb.N/1,000 sq.ft. every two weeks for the next few months. Mow regularly to 1½ inches high whenever the turf gets over 2 inches high. Watch out for chinchbugs, worms, etc.