How to Make Bermuda Grass Thicker: 6 Expert Tips and Tricks

Bermuda grass is the lush, green, carpet-like grass often seen on sports fields and golf courses. It’s used in these areas because a dense bermuda grass turf can survive the heavy foot traffic, is drought-resistant, and will recover quickly after wear. Today we are teaching you how to make bermuda grass thicker and as dense as the fairways of the Augusta National Golf Club.

How to make bermuda grass thicker

For bermuda grass to grow into a thick, dense turf, it needs to be well-maintained. Mowing frequently at a low mower height will encourage lateral spreading, while proper fertilization and irrigation will promote growth. Bermuda grass needs full sun to prosper and will thin in the shade. 

Bermuda grass is a resilient turf that can take a lot of wear and tear, but it takes a lot of work to keep up that thick, full appearance.

Read on for the specific maintenance needs to keep your bermuda grass lawn up to the standard you’re looking for. 

How Do You Make Bermuda Grass Thicker?

A bermuda grass lawn grows at a fairly aggressive rate, spreading by both above-ground and below-ground stems. To get the thicker, fuller bermuda lawn you want, there are a few things you will need to do.

Mow Frequently and at a Low Mower Height

Mowing your bermuda grass lawn correctly is one of the most crucial elements of your lawn care regimen. Keeping your lawn short by frequent mowing will encourage the bermuda grass to grow and spread sideways. 

Just before the lawn turns green in the spring, the grass should be cut down using a mowing height of about 1 inch or lower and scalping is ok. Cut the grass frequently before it reaches a height taller than 1.5 to 2 inches. Maintain this length and schedule until the weather starts to cool.

When the nights start to get cooler than 70-degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time for you to raise the mowing height by about half an inch.

This will help to protect the grass when the first frost hits. 

Water and Irrigate

Close up image of a sprinkler watering a bermuda grass lawn.

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Bermuda grass needs approximately 1 to 1.25 inches of water per week in the spring and summer months.

Lawns grown in sandy soil may need more frequent watering.

When your bermuda grass lawn goes dormant, it will still need a half-inch of water every 2 to 3 weeks to prevent desiccation. Also, always be sure to water after you mow. 

Aerate Your Lawn

While bermuda grass does need adequate watering, it also needs adequate drainage. Standing water will cause your bermuda grass to thin out.

One way to achieve better drainage is to aerate your lawn. 

Core aeration is a process where small holes are driven into the lawn and the soil. This has several purposes:

  • Improves lawn health by better access to air, water, and fertilizer
  • Reduces soil compaction
  • Assists with pH modification if done before adding lime or sulfur
  • Reduces standing water 

One thing to consider with core aeration is when to do it concerning your herbicide regimen, which we will cover below.

Control Your Weeds

Weeds will compete with your bermuda grass, attempting to deprive it of resources.

There are two different herbicides that you should use when controlling weeds: Pre-emergent and Post-emergent.

Pre-emergent herbicide works by creating a barrier on the soil. When weed seeds sprout and come up through the soil, they are killed by contacting the pre-emergent herbicide. You should not aerate your lawn after applying pre-emergent herbicide as it will disturb the barrier. Wait until just before the next application of pre-emergent herbicide to aerate. 

Post-emergent herbicides are used on weeds that have already begun to grow. (After they’ve emerged from the ground, get it?) Post-emergent herbicide should be avoided while the grass is beginning to turn green in the spring. Any weeds that emerge during this period should be mowed and bagged. 

It is best to control summer weeds preemptively by using pre-emergent herbicide in the spring. Herbicides should not be used if the weather is above 90-degrees Fahrenheit. Above this temperature, your grass is already feeling stressed, and the herbicide can damage it. 

Fertilize Your Lawn

More specifics on fertilization will be discussed below, but for now, it’s sufficient to know this is a step you can’t skip if a lush, full bermuda grass lawn is what you’re after. 

Reduce the Shade

Bermuda grass needs at least 7 hours of full sun. It will not grow densely in areas with moderate to heavy shade. 

How Do I Fix Patchy Bermuda Grass?

With the aggressive growth rate of bermuda grass, if you’re mowing, watering, and performing regular weed-control, you should have no problem getting bermuda grass to fill in any patchy areas. However, if you are having problems with patchy areas, here are a couple of steps you can take:

Filling the Area with Sod

If it’s a bald patch of dirt that you want to fill in, you can do so quickly by cutting a section of sod and placing it over the area. You will need to prep the soil before doing so and be sure to water

Repairing the Area with Seed

You can also repair the area by using a shovel to remove the patchy area. Add topsoil to the area you removed to keep it level with the rest of your lawn. Cast a thin layer of grass seeds onto the soil and rake it gently into the soil. Cover with straw; this will not only prevent moisture loss, but will also prevent birds from eating your seeds. 

Related: Our Top Picks for The Best Bermuda Grass Seed

What’s the Best Fertilizer for Bermuda Grass?

The best fertilizer for growing bermuda grass will vary on your soil’s nutrient levels and pH level; this can be determined with a soil test.

Bermuda grass grows best at a pH level of 6 to 6.5. Depending on your soil test results, you’ll likely be adding nitrogen, potassium (potash), and lime or sulfur, depending on your pH level.  

If you have decided to forgo the soil test, your best option will be to use prepackaged N-P-K (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) fertilizer with a ratio of either 3-1-2 or 4-1-2. Keep in mind that you can use too much nitrogen and too much phosphorus. 

Phosphorous is often found to be in excess in soil for three reasons:

  • It’s in most fertilizers
  • It moves slowly through the soil
  • Plants don’t use it in significant amounts

January Through April

During this time of year, refrain from adding fertilizer with nitrogen until several weeks after the grass turns green and there are no more predicted frosts. Encouraged growth via fertilizer followed by a late frost can damage the lawn.

When it is safe to fertilize, your going to apply enough of your chosen fertilizer to provide half a pound to one pound of actual nitrogen for every 1000 square feet, depending on soil type (more for sandy soil and less for clay soils).

If you’ve completed a soil test, add nutrients and either lime or sulfur as needed. Lime will raise the pH level in the soil if it is too acidic. Sulfur will lower the pH level if it is too alkaline. 

A soluble iron product can be added to the lawn to enhance its green color. This should be done in the spring when the weather is between 60- and 70-degrees Fahrenheit. 

May Through August

In early May, assuming the grass didn’t turn green early enough to fertilize sooner, apply half a pound to a pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Use a soil test to determine how much phosphorus will be needed, if any. 

In June or July, you’re going to apply another half a pound to a pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. This time use a fertilizer that is high in potassium. Again, the need for phosphorus will be determined by a soil test. 

In August, apply another round of half a pound to a pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet with a fertilizer high in potassium. Sufficient amounts of potassium in the soil before the grass going dormant will assist with disease and cold-weather resistance. 

In total, your bermuda grass should receive between 2 and 4 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet during the growing season. The higher numbers will be for grasses grown in sandy soils that have difficulty retaining nutrients. 

Here is a link to a handy-dandy Nitrogen calculator to help you figure it all out.

September Through December

Your grass will not be growing at this time, so no nitrogen or phosphorus should be added.

Potassium may be added at a rate of one pound of potash per 1000 square feet four to six weeks before the first anticipated frost. Also, either lime or sulfur may be added to your lawn to maintain its pH level. 

Conclusion

Making your bermuda grass lawn grow in thick and full is a simple matter of putting in the effort. You’ll need to mow your lawn at least once a week during the growing season while also maintaining a water and fertilization schedule. This lawn may be high maintenance, but they say if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. 

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