The best time to scalp a Bermuda grass lawn is in spring, typically from Mid-March through the end of April. Scalp your Bermuda lawn after the last frost of the year, but while the grass is still dormant. To scalp Bermuda grass, mow your lawn with your mower’s blade set to the lowest height. This will remove dead grass and thatch build-up, promoting a faster green-up, thicker growth, and a healthier lawn.
Tips for Scalping Bermuda Grass
Consider the tips below when scalping your bermuda grass.
Scalp in Spring
Scalp your Bermuda grass in spring, just before the grass exits dormancy and begins to green-up. This is best performed between March 15th and April 30th. The best time to scalp may vary by region. Keep an eye on your local soil temperatures and plan to scalp once all frost danger has passed and the soil has reached 60℉ (15℃).
Only Scalp in Fall if You Plan to Overseed
If you are planning to overseed your lawn with fescue to promote a green lawn in winter, scalp your Bermuda lawn before overseeding. This is best done when soil temperatures dip below 60℉ (15℃). At this point, Bermuda grass stops growing. Scalping before overseeding will remove thatch, allowing the cool weather fescue seeds to reach the topsoil and sprout, leading to a greener winter lawn.
If you are not planning to overseed your Bermuda grass with a cool-weather grass, do not scalp your lawn in fall. Instead, allow your Bermuda to go dormant and scalp in spring.
Use a Sharp Mower Blade
A sharp mower blade is essential to good lawn care. Scalping a lawn with a poorly sharpened blade will leave the ends of the grass blades ragged and torn, instead of cleanly cut. This promotes grass browning, as well as disease. What you want from a spring Bermuda grass scalping is a luscious green-up. If you mow with a dull blade, you may get a patchy, poor yard.
When scalping, set your mower blade to the lowest setting, typically 0.5 inches (1 cm) above ground height. This ensures that the mower will cut low enough to remove dead thatch, giving your Bermuda grass the opportunity to sprout and develop new, green blades.
Bag the Clippings
During standard mowing, it’s beneficial to allow grass clippings to stay on the lawn. These clippings will quickly decompose, returning nutrients to the soil. When scalping, you’re removing tough thatch, as well as a much higher volume of dead material. If left on the lawn after scalping, this thatch can smother grass, stifling growth, and inviting disease and weeds. Use a lawn sweeper or mower-attached bagger to collect Bermuda grass clippings after scalping. This will ensure your lawn has the best green-up possible.
Beware of Scalping Non-Bermuda Lawns
Bermuda grass and some other varieties of warm-season grasses benefit from scalping. Most grasses do not. For instance, never scalp fescue lawns. Fescue and many other kinds of grass require a longer blade length to thrive. Scalping non-Bermuda lawns can kill grass, or severely damage it. Use a dethatcher or similar tool to achieve the same effect as scalping in a fescue or ryegrass lawn.
In addition to dethatching, Bermuda grass lawns benefit from aeration, and the perfect time to aerate is just after scalping. Use a core aerator on your scalped lawn to decompact soil and allow air, water, and nutrients to reach grass roots. Since your lawn scalping will have removed most of the thatch, your aeration will be more efficient. Scalping and aeration are a potent one-two punch to jumpstart your Bermuda grass in spring.
Is Scalping Bermuda Grass Necessary?
Scalping Bermuda grass is necessary to get the most out of your lawn and prevent grass disease and death, while also promoting green growth. Without scalping, Bermuda grass will build a thick layer of thatch that smothers new grass, robs moisture from the soil, and harbors plant diseases.
If you don’t thatch your Bermuda grass, the lawn will remain peppered with dead, brown grass throughout the growing season. In addition to being unsightly and potentially harmful to your grass, the weaker spring growth will also invite invasive weeds into your lawn.
Should You Scalp Bermuda Grass in the Spring?
Spring is the best time to scalp a Bermuda lawn. It will clear the way for new growth and maintain a healthy, beautiful lawn. Because scalping promotes spring growth and new grass is especially vulnerable, make sure to scalp after the final frost of the season. Scalping too early will expose new grass to dangerous frosts.
Should You Scalp Bermuda Grass in the Fall?
The only time you should scalp Bermuda grass in the fall is if you plan to overseed your lawn with a cold-resistant grass that will keep your lawn green while your Bermuda is dormant. In this case, scalp once your Bermuda grass has entered dormancy (when soil temperatures go below 60℉). After scalping, overseed with your cool weather grass. If you do not plan to overseed your lawn in fall, do not scalp your Bermuda grass until spring.
Should You Scalp Your Bermuda Grass Before Winter?
There is no need to scalp Bermuda grass before winter takes hold. Bermuda grass stops growing when temperatures go below 60℉ (15℃), essentially putting your lawn on pause. You won’t miss out on an opportunity to scalp your lawn by not mowing during the cold months.
It is best to allow Bermuda grass to go naturally dormant in winter and scalp the lawn in the spring, just before green-up. If you scalp just before winter, the grass will not have the chance to recover from the stresses of scalping, which may make it weaker and more vulnerable to winter conditions.
How Low Should You Scalp Bermuda Grass?
Scalp Bermuda grass to 0.5 inches (1 cm) in height. Instead of measuring grass blades, it’s safe to set your mower blade to its lowest height.
Bermuda grass is more tolerant of scalping than most grass species, so it can recover beautifully from a low scalping. Also, 0.5 inches is the optimal mowing height to remove the most dead grass and thatch from a Bermuda lawn without threatening grass growth.
Will Scalped Bermuda Grass Grow Back?
Scalped Bermuda Grass grows back healthier than un-scalped Bermuda. A good spring scalping removes all the dead grass blades that went dormant in fall, paving the way for new Bermuda growth to get more air and sunlight. Scalping also removes thatch buildup from a Bermuda lawn. If left unchecked, thatch can rob the soil of moisture, prevent fertilizers from reaching the ground, and choke out new growth. Scalping ensures your Bermuda grass will grow back strong.
Tips on How Not to Scalp Your Bermuda Grass
Scalping Bermuda grass is beneficial at the right time but harmful if performed incorrectly or at the wrong time. A bad scalping job can kill Bermuda grass, promote disease, or set back grass growth. Here are things to avoid when scalping your Bermuda lawn:
- Scalping at the wrong time: Don’t scalp Bermuda grass during the growing season. Scalp in the spring, just before green-up, or in the fall once your Bermuda has stopped growing. Scalping grass mid growing season can cause stress and make it difficult for your grass to recover into a lush lawn.
- Using a dull mower blade: Dull mower blades tear and shred grass blades, inviting disease and putting extreme stress on your grass. If you mow with a dull blade, your grass may turn brown at the tips, resulting in a poor-looking lawn.
- Leaving Thatch Behind: Make sure to bag your clippings during Bermuda grass scalping. This will prevent your lawn from being choked out. Because thatch is so harmful to Bermuda growth, consider aerating after scalping to further break up thatch and kickstart your lawn.
Scalping Bermuda Grass
A Bermuda grass lawn benefits most from a scalping in the spring, just before it exits dormancy and begins to turn green again. Scalping is nothing more than mowing your Bermuda grass at the lowest height and bagging the clippings, but it has tremendous benefits for your lawn. It removes unsightly and unhealthy dead grass at the same time it promotes faster, greener growth. Scalping your Bermuda grass is a great way to maintain its health.