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Establishing Bermuda Sod {after improper start}

Posted by lifeofjenn North Carolina (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 19:14

We are closing on a house in North Carolina in 2 weeks.

The builder is known for laying sod in less than ideal conditions.

The sod (BERMUDA 419) was laid today (august 22nd) and NO top soil was put down. Additionally, the area was not dampened, so the sod was laid over dry dirt in 90 degree weather. It was watered after. No fertilizer or other application to my knowledge.

Many homes in the neighborhood have weed problems, and it's my belief the builder does not properly kill weeds prior to laying sod either (they place large amounts of dirt over weeds).

Although the builder will be responsible if the grass does not establish over time, once we close on the house I'd like to do all I can to help this lawn along.

Would I change anything to the general establishment practices (watering well, mowing to 1.5 inches or lower without scalping).

I don't have a soil test yet, but offhand would it benefit from nitrogen? Any herbicide since we know weeds may become an issue? regular or organic fertilizer?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Establishing Bermuda Sod {after improper start}

Assuming the builder graded the property for drainage, that is the perfect installation for bermuda. You should be watering briefly (5-15 minutes) three times per day, for the next two to three weeks until the roots are knit into the underlying soil. Do not let the underlying soil get soggy. Watch the grass carefully for signs of drying out. Give those areas just a little more moisture (longer, not more frequent).

Fertilize with organics for now. After the roots are in, then you can start with chemical ferts if you want to. Find the Bermuda Bible online and memorize that. It's short. Here is a summary

Mow low between 1 to 1.5 inches (lowest setting on your rotary mower)
Water deeply once

Fertilize heavily while the grass is growing

That's about it. If you do those three things, you should never need herbicide. Never mind the problems and issues your neighbors have. They are likely not doing the three things I listed. For bermuda if you water too frequently and you get weeds. Mow too high and you get weeds. Don't fertilize every month and you get weeds. The program is simple to understand but a lot of work.

The builder can guarantee bermuda because it is dead simple to establish. The only issue is if you do it wrong, in addition to getting bermuda, then you get weeds along with it. If the neighbors have weeds, it is only the fault of the owner. I don't care if you lay sod over a blanket of weed seeds, once the turf is established (weeds and all), it is much more likely to be the owner's fault for continuing to have weeds. Improper watering is almost always the reason.

This is an interesting time of year to establish bermuda. You will also be sprouting spring weeds. These are also known as wildflowers because although the seeds germinate now, the plants remain dormant and below the canopy of the grass. Then in the spring all these flowering plants will pop up. Try to remember what I'm saying and not over react. All you have to do is mow them down. Most will go away after the first mowing. For those that don't go away, simply spot spray with Weed-B-Gone.

At the end of the establishment period (3 weeks of daily watering) you may have some weeds come up. The reason for these weeds is the daily watering. If the weeds are broadleaf weeds like clover or dandelions, then spot spray with Weed-B-Gone Clover, Chickweed, and Oxalis spray. If they are grassy weeds, you'll have to take a tough love approach and spot spray with a grass killer or RoundUp. These will kill the bermuda in that spot, but the bermuda will return. The weed will not.

The Bermuda Bible talks about deep watering. Deep means one inch all at one time. Measure one inch by placing several cat food or tuna cans in the yard and turning on the sprinkler. Time how long it takes to fill all the cans. That time will be anywhere from 20 minutes (high flow in-ground system) to 8 hours (oscillator on a hose). Your water pressure, sprinklers, and hose are different, so you have to measure your own time. During the hottest part of summer, watering once per week should be plenty (remember to IGNORE what your neighbors do on this subject). When the temps drop into the 80s, you should be able to water once every 2 weeks. With temps in the 70s, you should go once every 3 weeks. Lower than that an you can water once per month. This watering regimen is not a secret, but it is key to keeping weeds out of the lawn. Weeds need much more frequent moisture to germinate. They need the same watering you're about to give your new sod, but that can't be helped. Suffer through some early weeds, take care of them once the lawn is established, and then if you follow the rules, you should be done with weeds. Always water the full one inch unless Mother Nature has helped you along. You don't need any water for awhile if you just got an inch of rain.

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