Bermuda grass goes dormant when soil temperatures reach 55℉ (12℃). When dormant, if temperatures are above freezing, Bermuda grass should be watered with half the amount of water required during the growing season. Dormant Bermuda grass will stop growing almost entirely, so it does not need regular mowing.
At the end of dormancy (typically mid-March through early April), mowing your Bermuda grass down to 1 inch in length will help remove dead material and promote a greener spring return.
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How Do You Know if Bermuda Grass is Dormant?
Grasses are very sensitive to temperature. Their growing and dormancy cycles are nearly all determined by soil temperature. Because Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass, its cycle is somewhat unique. Here are the signs that your Bermuda grass is dormant:
- Your grass isn’t growing. Bermuda grass stops growing when soil temperatures dip down to 60℉ (15℃).
- Your Bermuda grass begins to turn brown. Bermuda grass enters true dormancy when soil temperatures sink to 55℉ (12℃). This is characterized by browning of the grass blades. The grass may appear dead during this period, but if your Bermuda grass is turning brown due to temperature, not lack of water, it is simply going dormant.
- Try the pull test. Tug on a section of brown Bermuda grass. If it comes out of the soil easily, and/or feels spongy to the touch, it’s dead. If the grass resists being pulled out of the ground, it’s merely dormant above and still has strong, living roots beneath the surface.
How Long Does Bermuda Stay Dormant?
Bermuda grass may remain dormant anywhere from a few weeks up to a few months, depending on the region it’s planted in. Because Bermuda is a warm-season grass, it thrives in southern and transitional regions in the United States.
Abroad, Bermuda grass grows well in tropical and subtropical regions, including most of Australia. In regions with especially mild winters, Bermuda grass may not enter dormancy at all, remaining green all year round.
Bermuda Grass Dormant Months
Although local geography may change the exact dormant period of your Bermuda grass, the following is a guide to the Bermuda grass dormant season by region:
- Atlantic Coast: Mid-November–Mid-March
- Gulf Coast: December–January
- Florida: No dormancy
- Southern California: No dormancy
- Southwest: No dormancy
- Eastern Australia: Mid-May–Mid-August
- Western Australia: No dormancy
How to Treat Dormant Bermuda Grass
Just because your Bermuda grass is dormant doesn’t mean you can forget about lawn care entirely. The roots of dormant grasses are still collecting water and nutrients. Dormant grass still needs water and dormant Bermuda grass benefits from fertilizers and other treatments.
Should You Water Dormant Bermuda Grass?
As long as temperatures are above 40℉ (4℃), continue to water dormant Bermuda grass. Reduce watering volume by half, to 0.5 inches of water once per week. This is about half an hour of watering with a standard sprinkler.
If Bermuda grass isn’t watered during dry winter months, the grass can be weakened or even killed by drought. To promote strong roots and vibrant green-up in spring, water as directed above. Subtract any rain showers from your watering plan. In some regions, your dormant Bermuda grass may get by on natural precipitation alone.
Never water dormant Bermuda grass when temperatures are below 40℉. In these temperatures, wind chill or a nighttime temperature drop can freeze water on the Bermuda grass blades, causing serious damage to your grass. Also, allow morning frost to melt before watering.
Should You Cut Dormant Bermuda Grass?
Cutting or scalping bermuda grass when dormant is not advisable under most conditions. Dormant grass has stopped growing almost completely and can’t heal from the stresses of mowing. The one exception is mowing just before Bermuda grass exits dormancy.
Once soil temperatures rise above 60℉ (15℃), it is advisable to mow your dormant Bermuda grass once. Mow at lower than usual height, cutting the grass to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length. This will remove dead grass blades, resulting in a stronger, healthier spring lawn. This is best done just before the spring-green up.
Is it Okay to Add Potash to Dormant Bermuda Grass?
Spreading potash on dormant Bermuda grass is a great way to fertilize your lawn and boost its health. Potash fertilizer contains potassium, which is an essential nutrient to increase Bermuda grass health and fullness. By spreading potash while Bermuda grass is dormant, you allow time for the potassium to enter the soil and slowly feed the roots of the grass. This promotes a thicker lawn and helps your yard resist weeds in spring.
Potash is great for Bermuda grass, but may not be as beneficial to all plants. Excess potassium in the soil can form salt deposits. While Bermuda grass is very salt-tolerant and is unlikely to experience any negative effects from a potash application, some garden plants may be weakened by an excess of potash. For this reason, take care when spreading potash, being sure to cast most of the fertilizer on your grass and lower volumes in your garden.
Can You Kill Dormant Bermuda Grass?
Dormant Bermuda grass is harder to kill than green, growing grass. This is because the plant systems in the grass blades have mostly shut down, meaning a topical spray applied to dormant Bermuda won’t be circulated into the plant’s system. One of the only ways to effectively remove dormant Bermuda grass is to dig it up and remove it.
Will Roundup Kill Dormant Bermuda Grass?
Roundup is not effective on dormant Bermuda grass. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, works by entering the plant through the leaves and traveling through the plant’s system to attack root and stem systems. During dormancy, Bermuda grass will not absorb Roundup. It is best to use Roundup and other weed killers on Bermuda grass from late spring through summer.
Using Milorganite on Dormant Bermuda Grass
Milorganite is a recycled, sustainable fertilizer that is great for Bermuda grass lawns. Milorganite is composed of nutrient-rich microbes that slowly release beneficial nitrogen to the soil. Spread Milorganite on your Bermuda lawn in spring, once it begins to turn green after a period of dormancy. In regions where Bermuda grass does not enter dormancy, spread Milorganite in mid-March to feed your lawn.
Made from harvesting beneficial microbes from recycled wastewater, Milorganite provides a big boost to your yard, reintroducing nutrients and maintaining strong, green growth. Because Bermuda is such a fast-growing grass with a long growing season, it needs to be fertilized with a powerful, slow-release fertilizer like Milorganite.
Dormant Bermuda Grass
Bermuda grass is a warm-season grass that grows well in regions with short, mild winters. In the northern reaches of Bermuda range in the United States (such as North and South Carolina), your Bermuda grass will typically go dormant from mid-November through mid-March. On the Gulf Coast, Bermuda grass may only be dormant for a few weeks in December through January. In especially warm regions, such as South Florida and Southern California, Bermuda grass may remain green all year round.
Dormant grass shouldn’t be treated like dead grass. Water dormant Bermuda, mow once just before green-up and fertilize with potash or Milorganite. This will promote a lush, green Bermuda lawn in spring that resists weed invasion and requires much less summer care.