Spring is finally here and you should begin to notice that your bermuda grass is starting to come out of dormancy. The first thing that needs to be accomplished is getting that bermuda scalped. It is possbile to scalp your bermuda too early. I ran into this a few years ago when we had weeks of 80 degree weather in February. I scalped the lawn and all was fine until early April when there was a period of 4 days with highs in the low 30’s. This resulted in a bit of winter kill but everything did recover. Ideally you should wait until the grass is at least 50% greened up. I tend to wait until it is around 60%. I scalped my lawn over a period of two days. You can see how I did it below.
What comes after the scalp?
The scalp is finished and while your initial reaction may be to drop some fertilizer. Dropping fertilizer is fun but there are a couple considerations that need to be made first. I hope that you had a soil test performed. While you can get away without using a soil test, you are doing yourself, your lawn, and the planet a disservice. Having a soil test performed gives you the information needed to determine the type of fertilizer needed as well as any amendments, such a lime, that should be applied.
After the soil test, the first thing you need to consider is the weather. This of course varies based on region and changes yearly. The last frost date needs to be taken into consideration. For my location the last frost is typically April 15. Leading up to that date I continually look at the weather forecast. I learned my lesson a couple years ago. The reason you want to watch the weather and not apply fertilizer too early is in the event of a late freeze you do not want the grass to be growing too aggressively as there will get a greater change for it to return to dormancy or even be killed. A little patience now will prevent a possible headache later on. Check out the gallery below to see what happened in 2018 vs 2019.
Time To Fertilize
What you use for fertilizer is really a personal preference. I use both liquid and granular fertilizer. I prefer liquid for my spoon feeding application due to the ease of applying small quantities. When going with a granular, the lower the N value the easier it will be to get proper coverage. The downside is the need for more overall material, which can add up quickly if you have a large lawn. This is why I prefer liquid and my go to choice is a spray grade ammonium sulfate. This gives the the higher N percentage of 21 and just happens to be right near the amount of nitrogen, .2lbs/M, that I like to apply when I spoon feed my greenup. I apply this weekly for 3-4 weeks and then back it down to every 2-3 weeks, depending on how the turf is responding. Once I begin to lower the input frequency, I also introduce Plant Growth Regulators. I prefer using fast release fertilizers when spoon feeding during the transition out of dormancy. Their uptake is more predictable and the effects of the application show up faster.
Your soil test will help you determine the NPK ratio that you should use. It is bad advice for me to just tell you to drop some starter fertilizer or a 10-10-10. This is why soil tests are so important. You do not want to apply something that is not needed. I just used the soil test that was provided as part of my deal with Sunday. I found out that this was a Mehlich-3 test. Which is the same tests I have ordered in the past. the downside is that there are no recommendations associated with this test as it is part of their service and should something be needed they will add it to a future shipment. I am fortunate that everything came back great and I am not lacking any nutrients. Becasue of this, I will be applying just Nitrogen for my greenup. If for some reason you did not get a soil test, then applying only nitrogen should be what you do as well.
Biostimulants can be used anytime the ground is not frozen and you have active plant growth. These are NOT as replacement for a traditional fertilization program. These are to enhance your current program. I have seen great results from the use of biostimulants and the soil quality of my lawn has increased drastically since their introduction. Do I recommend these? I sure do, however, they are not a requirement and should be seen as another tool available for use.
Spring fertilization of bermuda grass is a simple process and does not require any fancy fertilizer. Adding in biostimulants, if you have the means to do so, will help with the transition out of dormancy. The most important factor is knowing your soil and that is only possible with a soil test, so I recommend getting one done. Watching the weather is the other important factor. You do not want a surge of growth to occur and then be met with a potentially devastating set back due to the cold snap.