Weed control for Bermuda grass hinges on promoting good soil health, providing plant nutrients, using an optimal watering schedule, applying preventative weed controls, and using the right weed killers on your Bermuda lawn.
If you fertilize, spray for weeds, or scalp your lawn at the wrong time, you can severely damage your grass and invite more weeds. Also, keep in mind that some weed killers are not safe for Bermuda grass, so it’s essential to choose the right weed killing product.
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7 Steps for Bermuda Grass Weed Control
The best weed control in Bermuda lawns is thick, healthy, green grass. So, half the battle is keeping your lawn thick and lush to choke out weeds. But, even if you go by the book, you may see some weeds in Bermuda grass. Bermuda may grow more thinly in shady areas, and Bermuda lawns are typically mowed low (at about 1.5 inches in height). For these reasons, weeds may threaten even the best lawns. Don’t worry though. With this guide, you’ll be primed to prevent weeds and get rid of any invasive plants before they overrun your yard.
Test Soil pH and Lime as Necessary
Winter is a great time to test the soil in your lawn to determine the pH level. You can purchase an at-home soil test kit to determine the pH level in your lawn, or send a soil sample to a local university extension, which will perform an in-depth soil analysis at a low cost.
Bermuda grass thrives with a pH level of 5.8–7.0. If your soil pH is below 5.8, the soil is too acidic. In this case, Bermuda grass will grow poorly or may even die in patches. This invites invasive weeds to your lawn.
Apply lime to acidic soil, to reduce acidity. This will result in a greener, stronger grass. Also, because many weeds thrive in acidic soil, a proper pH balance will discourage weed growth.
Fertilize Bermuda Grass to Choke Out Weeds
Bermuda grass grows quickly over a long growing season. This means it consumes a lot of soil nutrients. In order to keep Bermuda grass strong enough to resist weed invasion, apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as 15-0-15 fertilizer, to your yard. A good Bermuda grass fertilization schedule is one where you apply fertilizer 3 times per year, as follows:
- Spring: Fertilize shortly after spring green-up.
- Mid-Summer: Fertilize in early July.
- Late-Summer: Fertilize in late-August or early-September.
This fertilization schedule will feed your lawn when it needs it most in spring, keep it going strong in summer, and give it a boost before cold weather sets in, serving as fall weed control.
Set a Bermuda Watering Schedule
Bermuda grass requires 1–1.25 inches of water per week to grow optimally and hold back weeds. This water is best delivered through long, infrequent watering sessions to soak soil deeply and promote deep root growth. Watering Bermuda grass for a short period every day actually promotes shallow root growth and makes the grass weaker to drought and temperature changes.
Water Bermuda twice per week, 30–45 minutes each time. Keep in mind, the average yard sprinkler delivers around 1 inch of water for each hour it is in operation.
In areas with sandy soil or in areas with extremely hot summers, like Arizona, it may be necessary to increase watering duration. Clay soils, such as those found in East Texas and Georgia, typically require less water.
Although Bermuda is a drought-resistant grass, reduced water will inhibit its growth, make it thin, patchy, and thus much easier for weeds to invade and grow amongst it. This compounds the problem, as weeds steal water from your grass. Water your Bermuda well to keep weeds out.
Dethatch Bermuda at the Right Time
Bermuda grass is prone to thatch buildup, which robs moisture from the soil, prevents new grass growth, and—most of all—invites weeds. In order to dethatch Bermuda lawns, scalp your Bermuda grass yearly.
It’s important to scalp your Bermuda grass at the right time. It’s best done in spring, just prior to green-up. To scalp your Bermuda grass, you will simply mow the lawn at your mower’s lowest blade height, with the intention of cutting the grass down to 0.5 inches in height. This will remove dead grass material and thatch, causing a brighter, stronger resurgence of your Bermuda grass. By dethatching your Bermuda by scalping, you help your lawn resist weeds.
Apply Pre-Emergent to Prevent Weeds
The best thing about weed control in Bermuda grass is that you can stomp out weeds before they even appear. Pre-emergent weed killers penetrate the soil and kill weed seeds just as they begin to germinate. Since the sprouts die underground, you’ll never even see them break the surface.
Pre-emergent weed killer is best applied to Bermuda grass two times per year. The best way to get weed-killing results is by applying pre-emergent at the right time. For Bermuda lawns, follow this simple guide for a twice-yearly application.
- Spring: Apply pre-emergent to your Bermuda lawn once soil temperatures have reached 55℉ (12℃) for 2–3 days.
- Fall: Apply pre-emergent to your Bermuda grass when soil temperatures have reached 70℉ (21℃) for 2–3 days.
Applying pre-emergent weed killer in spring will stop spring and summer annual weeds from sprouting. A fall application will stop winter weeds and invasive grasses (such as annual bluegrass) from appearing as the weather cools.
Attack Invasive Grasses with Quinclorac
Crabgrass is just one of many pest grasses that can sprout in your Bermuda yard. The problem is, many grass-killing herbicides will kill Bermuda as well. One exception is Quinclorac. A Quinclorac-based weed spray will kill pest grasses but will not kill Bermuda grass.
Some users have reported temporary yellowing of Bermuda grass in areas that have been sprayed with Quinclorac. However, Bermuda grass typically recovers quickly from this, whereas crabgrass and other invasive species are wiped out entirely. If you have invasive grasses in your Bermuda lawn, kill them and preserve your lawn by spraying with a Quinclorac-based product.
Kill Weeds with a Bermuda-Safe Herbicide
If you have dandelions, chickweed, and other broadleaf pests invading your Bermuda lawn, use a selective post-emergent weed killer to remove weeds and leave Bermuda grass unharmed. Avoid non-selective weed killers, such as Roundup, in your yard, as this will kill weeds and Bermuda grass.
Bermuda grass is sensitive to many weed killers, including common selective broadleaf herbicides such as 2,4-D, mecoprop, and dicamba. If Bermuda exposed to too much of these substances, it can be harmed. For this reason, take the following steps when using a broadleaf weed killer:
- Follow product dilution and application directions closely.
- Allow 1–2 weeks for weed killers to kill weeds before reapplying.
- Only choose products that indicate they are safe for use on Bermuda grass.
- Do not apply weed killer at temperatures above 90℉ (32℃).
By following these guidelines, you will safely kill clover, ivy, and any other invasive species in your Bermuda grass, while promoting a thriving lawn.
Can Bermuda Grass Choke Out Weeds?
Healthy Bermuda grass forms a thick, tightly woven carpet that chokes out existing weeds and prevents new growth. By monitoring soil pH, fertilizing, watering, and dethatching, your Bermuda grass will grow thicker and stronger. Sunlight will not reach weed sprouts and they will die before they poke through your Bermuda lawn.
Proper lawn care also has additional benefits that both promote Bermuda growth and inhibit weeds. These include:
- Proper pH balance prevents weeds. Many species thrive in acidic soil.
- Using a high-nitrogen fertilizer discourages weeds. Dandelions, clover, and other common weeds grow best in low-nitrogen soil.
Caring for your soil works in two ways: it gives you a gorgeous Bermuda lawn that will choke out weeds and creates an environment unfit for weed growth.
Killing Weeds in Bermuda Grass without Chemicals
If you want to kill weeds in your Bermuda grass without using chemicals, your best bet is to dig the weeds out by hand. Natural weed killer solutions, such as vinegar and boiling water, can’t be applied to weeds in your lawn without harming Bermuda grass, and there’s no way to flame weed in a lawn without harming the grass around the weeds.
You can hand-dig weeds from your lawn with a garden trowel or weeding tool. It may require you to get your hands dirty, but it’s the best natural option.
Can You Use Weed Killer on Bermuda Sod?
Caring for Bermuda sod requires extra diligence. Sod is young grass that has not established deep roots. For this reason, be gentle with weed care in the first growing season with new sod. Follow these tips for best results:
- Remove old sod and weeds before laying new sod, to help prevent any invasive grass and new weed growth.
- Do not apply pre-emergent herbicide until the spring following Bermuda sod installation.
- Use emergent weed killers sparingly in new sod, as it is extra sensitive. When possible, pull weeds by hand.
- Water sod regularly, to prevent sod shrinkage that can create gaps for weed invasion.
- Prevent foot and vehicle traffic on new sod, which can damage it and promote weed growth.
By treating Bermuda sod gently and avoiding weed killer sprays until the spring following sod installation, you will preserve your fragile sod. This will result in a strong yard that resists weeds.
Keep Weeds Out of Bermuda Grass
To kill weeds in Bermuda and keep weeds out of Bermuda grass, perform the following steps:
- Monitor soil pH and apply lime as necessary.
- Fertilize your lawn 3 times per year.
- Water Bermuda twice per week, for a total of 1–1.25 inches of water per week.
- Dethatch Bermuda grass in spring to promote stronger growth.
- Apply pre-emergent weed killer twice per year—once in spring and once in fall.
- Kill invasive grasses in Bermuda with Quinclorac.
- Apply a selective weed killer to control broadleaf weeds growing in Bermuda lawns.
These simple steps for year-round Bermuda lawn care will result in a lush, green lawn that resists weed invasion. Not only that, but you will be armed to stop any pesky weeds in their tracks. Whether you’re reclaiming a Bermuda lawn overrun by weeds or maintaining a pristine yard, these steps will provide real results for you.