Bermudagrass is considered a warm-season grass that grows well in the hot, humid summers of the Southeast. It’s a fast-growing variety, and can quickly fill in any dead patches. So if you are noticing dead spots of your Bermudagrass lawn, something is wrong. To repair the dead spots, you must first determine the cause of the spots and then treat them appropriately.
Causes of Dead Spots in Bermudagrass
Dead, brown patches on a Bermudagrass lawn usually start as small circles. However, in the hot peak growing season, these spots can quickly grow and combine to create a patchwork of ugly dead grass. The first step to beating dead patches is determining the cause. Typically, dead spots in bermudagrass have one of four causes.
1. Fungal or Brown Patch Disease.
If you’re noticing brown patches on your lawn, one obvious culprit could be brown patch disease. While the name sounds like a broad description of a symptom, brown patch disease is actually a specific type of fungal infection. Other fungal infections can also cause brown, dead patches in your lawn. If you’re facing a fungal disease in your lawn, you will need to treat it with the right fungicide for your disease. To do that, you need to know what disease you are treating. We’ll talk more about testing for disease later.
2. Soil Is Compacted
Compacted soil is another common culprit when parts of your bermudagrass lawn are dying. Compacted soil doesn’t drain well. So when the soil is compacted, water from irrigation or rain can pool and suffocate the plant roots. Waterlogged turf roots can’t access the air and nutrients they need to grow and thrive.
3.Too Much Shade
Bermudagrass is a sun-loving turfgrass. While some varieties, such as TifTuf Bermudagrass, can withstand more shade than others, too much shade will kill any turfgrass. If you notice that parts of your lawn are looking unhealthy, look up. If some trees or buildings create shade on your lawn, you may have found the answer. Without enough sunlight, bermudagrass can’t process the nutrients it needs to grow vigorous, healthy shoots and blades.
Bermudagrass requires 4 hours of direct sunlight each day. If your grass is getting less than that, it is not getting the opportunity to photosynthesize and create the energy it needs to grow. Turf that is not well-fed can stop growing. It is also more susceptible to drought, disease, and other stressors.
4. Your Grass is Dormant
Bermudagrass is a warm-season grass with a peak growing season from spring to fall. In the winter, when the weather is cooler, bermudagrass goes dormant. It loses its green color and may look dead. However, when spring arrives and brings warmer temperatures, a well-maintained bermudagrass lawn will green up for the warm season. TifTuf Bermudagrass has one of the earliest and most robust greenups of any bermudagrass variety. So if you’re looking for the greenest lawn, TiTuf is what you need.
Bermudagrass can also go dormant during the summer if the conditions are right. For instance, bermudagrass can be quite drought-tolerant. However, as drought conditions continue, bermudagrass can go dormant to survive the dry conditions. TifTuf Bermudagrass is exceptionally drought-resistant, mainly due to its deep root system that can reach moisture deep underground. However, even TifTuf Bermudagrass will go dormant in dry conditions. But don’t worry. When irrigation or rain resumes, it will green right back up.
Treating and Repairing Dead Spots in Bermudagrass
If you know what is causing the dead spots on your bermudagrass lawn, you can start to treat the lawn to repair it. Different problems require different solutions. Here are some ways to address the most common causes of dead spots.
1. Treating a Fungal Disease
To treat fungal disease, you first need to know what type of fungus you are dealing with. Many garden stores sell generic fungicides that are meant to treat a broad range of fungi. However, the best treatments require testing to determine precisely which fungus is infecting your lawn. To get your grass tested, take a sample, and bring it to your local extension for testing. You should get results in about ten days to two weeks.
When you take a sample, you need to include both diseased and nondiseased grass. To do this, find the edge of a brown or dead patch. From that edge, use a spade to cut out a 4×4 inch square of turf, being careful to get the whole root without cutting it. Half of your sample should be healthy grass and the other half diseased grass. Once you have the sample, put it in an open paper or plastic bag to keep it from drying out. Keep it out of the heat or direct sunlight, and bring it to the extension as soon as possible. If you can’t get the sample to your extension that day, keep the sample refrigerated until you are ready to bring it in. Mondays and Tuesdays are ideal for getting your grass tested. Bringing in your sample early in the week—but not on the weekend—allows the extension to mail the sample to the testing lab that same day, and gives the lab time to process it without delay.
Once you get your results and know what disease you are fighting, go to your local garden store to find an antifungal pesticide made for the appropriate disease. Follow the direction for the amount of pesticide to use. Most fungicides require multiple applications, so be sure you know how often to apply it.
2. Loosening Compacted Soil
If your grass is suffering due to compacted soil, the solution is to loosen your soil. To loosen the soil, you will need to aerate the entire lawn. The best way to aerate is with a high-quality core or plug aerator. A core aerator removes thumb-sized plugs of soil from your lawn. Making several passes over your lawn will open up your grass roots to the air, water, and nutrients it needs to grow and thrive. Loosening the soil also allows it to drain more effectively so that the roots are not suffocated and don’t rot.
If you have aerated your lawn and still have drainage problems, you may need to install extra drainage, such as a french drain or a dry creek bed. Grading your lawn can also help reduce pooling and improve runoff.
3. Reducing Shade
If your turf is suffering from a lack of sunlight, you need to find a way to reduce shade. This may mean cutting back large trees and bushes. You may also consider selectively pruning and thinning large trees to allow more direct sunlight to reach your lawn. If you still can’t get enough light, you only have two choices: remove the trees or remove the lawn. If you decide not to remove the trees and can’t guarantee sufficient sunlight for turfgrass growth, it may be time to replace the turfgrass with another type of groundcover.
4. What to Do When Your Grass is Dormant
If the weather is getting cooler and you notice brown spots growing across your bermudagrass lawn, there may be nothing wrong at all. As the seasons run from fall into winter, your lawn will go completely dormant. During this dormant period, it will look dead, but it is actually still living. The roots underground are healthy, and new green blades will grow in the spring. A lawn that is dormant in the winter needs only minimal watering to stay healthy until the spring.
If it is still mid-summer and your grass is going dormant, look at the weather. If it is excessively hot and dry, your turf may be dormant to conserve nutrients and energy. It may be time to increase your irrigation schedule to guarantee that your turf has the water it needs to grow healthy green blades.
More on How to Prevent Fungal Diseases
The fungi that cause fungal diseases are always present in your soil. So there is no way to treat, kill, or remove all of the offending fungi. Instead, you need to use appropriate cultural practices to reduce the likelihood of latent fungi becoming a fungal disease. Fungi can lay dormant in your lawn for months or years, and they will only become a problem under the right conditions.
Fungi take advantage of two conditions: high nitrogen and lots of water. To avoid fungal infections, you need to prevent these two conditions. Don’t over-fertilize. Using too much nitrogen fertilizer will do nothing for your grass, but it will feed the harmful fungi. Also, be sure not to overwater your turf. The best time to water is in the morning, so the grass has time to dry during the heat of the day. Avoid watering in the evening or at night. Also, make sure to let the ground dry out between waterings. It is better to water less frequently and deeper so that the soil does not remain saturated, and the roots are encouraged to grow deep to access more water. Aim to water no more than once a week. The soil should be moist five to seven inches deep after watering.
A Healthy Lawn Starts With the Best Turf
To grow a thick, healthy lawn, you need to start with the right turf. Bermudagrass is an excellent variety for the warm, humid summers of the Southeast. But not all Bermudagrass is the same. TifTuf Bermudagrass is the result of years of scientific study and effort, and it is available exclusively from the certified growers of the Turfgrass Group. You can find a grower in your area here.