I am often asked to make recommendations on the best fertilizer for bermudagrass. In this article I’m going to take soil test results from one of our community members who has a bermuda lawn and make recommendations on fertilizing for the rest of this season.
Note: there is no “best fertilizer for bermuda” because pretty much any fertilizer will work if you throw it down right. The difference is in your end goal - do you just want it green or do you want it thick, lush, healthy and beautiful for the long haul? Do you want it to be able to withstand pressure from insect, disease or heat? If so, then you need to focus on the soil that your bermuda is growing in first.
Most of the fertilizers I recommend here not only turn the lawn green via nutrients, but they contain soil building elements and bio-stimulants that strengthen up the base, the soil too. This is the difference in what I recommend here on Yard Mastery and what you will find in the local big box store up the road from you.
Soil Testing Bermuda
Having soil test data to direct your choices can mean the difference in a decent bermuda lawn and a dominant bermuda lawn. Additionally, knowing your bermuda’s growth habit and seasonal preferences can help you make even better informed decisions.
Bermuda Grass Growth Habit
Bermuda is an alfa grass and loves to thicken up and run hard in the hottest parts of the summer. If you want to fill in thin areas in your lawn, summer is ideal timing.
Typically, where bermuda is grown, it’s going to be plenty hot from now until the end of September so you still have plenty of time left to make some headway!
Now before I go getting too deep into the details (I tend to do that) I want to recommend you review 2 other blog posts I wrote earlier this season. They talk about lawn fertilizers and what’s in them and why. I cover basics like “what do the numbers on the bag of fertilizer stand for?” and the difference in macronutrients and micronutrients. The second one also gets into general fertilizer choices.
Everything You Need To Know About Lawn Fertilizer - Click Here
Goes into the nutrients lawns need and what they do.
How To Choose Fertilizer Based On A Soil Test - Click Here
Talks about ‘general purpose’ vs ‘specialty’ fertilizers.
Now let’s look at some soil tests. First one I am going to show is to let you know what a “contaminated” soil test looks like. This one got some sort of fert in the sample. It only takes one little prill in a sample to throw it off like this:
The person who posted this one for me said they had applied fertilizer 30 days prior. Usually 30 days would be enough time but if you used something that contains charged up bio char like CX or XGN, those are slow release because the biochar has chicken poo in it and if you get some of that in your sample, this is what you see.
So if you get a sample like this, you should probably test again. And in the future, wait a good 45 days after you fertilize before you test your soil.
Soil Test Bermuda Lawn
This one is from Jim E, a high school football field, bermuda, near Bastrop, LA
Looks like it needs quite a bit but before we do, some folks tend to get concerned about the levels of high nutrients rather than the low, so let’s address that first. If you are high in certain nutrients, the idea is to not add more. However, you will not always be able to find the perfect product on a store shelf that has only what you need, and nothing of what you don’t. It’s just not practical. So if you find products in this case, that have the iron (Fe), Zinc (ZN) and Copper (Cu) that you need but also contain some Manganese (Mn) that is perfectly ok, especially when it comes to the micronutrients (minors). The extra will just hang around or be sloughed out, they will not cause any harm.,
However, when it comes to the macros of N-P-K and Ns (sodium) you can and should avoid adding more of those if they are high and I’ll cover that in a soil test below as well as here.
Bermuda Soil Test - Fertilizer Recommendations
Now let me start by saying “there is no special fert just for Bermuda” or really any grass type. They all need the same nutrients you see listed in the soil test. However, there are periods of the year when some grass types could use more of one than the other and that is what you should be focusing on.
Bermuda for example, needs more nitrogen in summer and very little in spring and fall. And that is the first thing to realize, in a soil test, do not be concerned with the Nitrogen level. Apply nitrogen with every application in later spring and summer and it’s best to give bermuda lower doses monthly rather than super heavy doses only every 8 weeks.
Those blog posts I mentioned above will explain to you how to calculate nitrogen rates but if you go by what the “bag rate” is on the products I recommend below, you will be just fine if you don’t want to do all the math.
In our soil test above, we are deficient on the big 3, N-P-K so let’s correct those first.
For a general purpose fertilizer at a very good value, the ProPeat 13-5-8 will bring all those levels up and add lots of carbon to the soil. This is a peat based product that spreads nice and greens up the lawn very fast - and not fear of burning anything. You could apply this every month until soil temps fall below 70F which in Alabama won’t be until October sometime. Currently it’s one of the best values on the site at $39.99 for 40lb bag. (includes shipping)
Another good general purpose fertilizer you could look at, that is also super inexpensive, is our Yard Mastery Macro-Micro Blend. It's got the big 3 macros in a 24-4-8 analysis but also contains a small amount of the minors: copper, iron, molybdenum, manganese and zinc. This one is only $34.99 shipped right to your door and will turn your bermuda lawn green nicely. You could apply this monthly until fall time.
I would also recommend some extra potash be added to get those levels up to help the grass retain moisture over the dry winter. We have talked about potassium before and its affect on turgor pressure which is essentially water retention. In cool season lawns we need this in the summer when they want to wilt from heat but in warmer season lawns where we don’t get snow cover and the lawn is subjected to outside, dry air with no humidity (winter in the south) we need all the help we can get so packing in potassium is a good idea. We have a 0-0-48 SOP which has a very low salt index which is ideal here because the sodium is high in this soil test anyway. It’s polymer coated and slow release, easy to spread. Apply this 2-3 times between now and winter. Soil temps don’t matter with this one as long as the ground is not frozen. It won’t burn so feel free to thrower down whenever you like using the suggested 3lbs/1000 sq ft.
From here I would focus on the micronutrients. We have some great liquid options here. If you like the Greene County Products and are already using the Bio-Stimulant pack, then the 0-0-2 MicroGreene included in there will suffice. You could also go for a single gallon product and get the Sunniland Minors blend.
Here is our friend BYD, Bermuda Grass Central showing you the results on his Bermuda using the minors blend:
One other thing to mention is the pH.
Raising the pH
Mag-i-Cal Plus for Acidic Soil - this product is specifically designed to raise pH in all soils. The key is the calcium carbonate in the product, specifically the carbonate CO3. Carbonate will neutralize acids and effectively raise the pH. Additionally, this product contains some carbon sources (humic and biochar) to excite soil microbes which also work to balance the soil. If your Bermuda has aras that it just won't fill in, it could be that the pH is off and it's just sitting there, unable to spread too quickly because of it.
In the case of this soil test, it may only take a 1 or 2 applications to move into the optimal range but adding Mag-i-Cal Plus to your normal yearly application schedule is a good idea. Apply once in fall and once in spring. Re-test your soil every 2 years. (or yearly if you are a real nut case!)
From there you should be off and running nicely. These fertilizers will work great on Bermuda nad give you lots of good color while also correcting your soil. The thing to realize here is that you do not have to retest every year unless you want to. Every 24 months should be fine so just use the thinking process I taught you here and get products that match up as close as possible to what your needs are. Run in that direction for 24 months then retest and see if you need a course correct from there.
Remember, you will be living in this house (and with this lawn) for many years to come and it will only get better and better, decade after decade!