By Janine Soriano, Master of Science in Forestry, government environment researcher
Cynodon dactylon, more commonly known as Bermuda grass, is a popular lawn species in the US. It is distinguished by its fine leaves that seem to “wrap around” the lawn due to its dense growth. As a warm-season species, Bermuda grass is green throughout the year and tends to be highly tolerant of various environmental conditions. Bermuda has acquired tolerance to full sunlight and to problem soils at moderate to basic pH. Its hardiness makes it perfect for turf coupled with suitable cultural management techniques. Aside from recreational use, it has various ecological uses such as erosion mitigation, water conservation, forage for wildlife and weed regulation. Several breeds of Bermuda grass have gone into the market which varies by ease of propagation, texture and intensity of green coloration. If you want Bermuda grass to spread faster, get the sod propagules as seeds have a lower rate of survival.
Mowing is an important component of any lawn care program to keep a vibrant green and healthy turf. As a fast-growing species, Bermuda grass is best managed by regular mowing to reduce thatch on the surface. Depending on the climatic conditions, there could be variations on the timing and mowing schedules all over the US. Nonetheless, the thinning height of Bermuda grass is set an inch lower than most grasses. Never mow lower as it can lead to scalping. First mowing schedules usually eliminates thatch while succeeding mowings promote shoot growth. Applying fertilizer with high nitrogen content ensures greener leaf blades. If mow clippings are used, fertilization should reduced by 25% of weight of clippings as the nitrogen gets recycled back upon decomposition. Watering is done when necessary if the grass appears grayish-blue in color. If the turf tends to hold too much moisture, proceed with core aeration so that roots don’t decay due to waterlogging.
Best mowers for Bermuda grass
Consider site conditions such as soil grade, lawn size, and purpose of amenity to decide on the best mower to use. For Bermuda grass, reel and rotary types work best.
A reel mower is equipped with 5-7 rotating blades. The mechanism is similar to using scissors. The advantage of reel mowers is that they produce a fine cut over straight lawns. Because it can mow at low heights, the downside is that the units are sensitive to debris is best used on intensively managed turf like those for competitive sports. They also require more technical expertise on things like turf height adjustment, blade sharpening and overall maintenance. Some recommended brands are Fiskars, DuroStar, Gardena, Toro, and Scots.
Rotary types on the other hand only have a single blade that cuts by sheer force. As a result, the turf gets a rough cut. Operating height settings and blade cleaning are more manageable than the reel type. This makes the rotary type popular for beginners, reducing reliance on and need to find service centers. You might want to look at models from Remington, Swisher, Honda, Troy-Bilt and Egopower.
While the lawn industry prefers reel mowers for Bermuda grass, it’s still possible to create high-quality turf using the rotary type by consistently sharpening blades and mowing more frequently. Personal taste still matters in picking the best lawn mower for Bermuda grass. Do you go for fuel-powered, battery-operated or electric? Are you tight on a budget, or you prefer a premium unit for long-term use? For home use, it might be practical to use the rotary type. Choose what you think will suit your budget without compensating turf quality. Ultimately, selecting the best mowing gear is only a part of making your lawn looking great, and you need to implement an integrated lawn care program based on science and experience.