There’s a reason why a lawn with Bermuda grass is thinning out. Skimpy topsoil that gets compacted easily makes it difficult for air, nutrients, and water to reach the grass roots. Too much shade, inadequate fertilizer, and sometimes insect and disease infestation can make bermudagrass lawns thin. If a thin patchy lawn is your problem, here’s how to make Bermuda grass thicker.
To make Bermuda grass thick, apply enough fertilizer in the right ratio to feed the grass adequately. Mow more often at slightly lower than an inch to encourage thicker lateral growth and make sure you water your lawn afterward. If thinning is caused by weeds, apply a weed killer at the right time for a fuller, greener lawn.
Read more on these tips below.
6 Ways to Make Bermuda Grass Thicker
A really thick, green lawn requires the right care and maintenance. If you start early enough, you’ll get this a little bit later in the year -- which is usually the best time for lawns with Bermuda grass.
Following a calendar is very important because a step-by-step approach to growing and nurturing your lawn will prevent the thinning problem and promote thick lawns.
Here are 6 great ways to make your Bermuda grass lawn thicker and healthier:
1. Mow the lawn closer
Mowing is very important if you’re trying to grow a thicker lawn. What mowing does is that it makes the grass grow and spread laterally wide as opposed to vertical growth.
What you want to do is mow a bit lower than you’re used to. But what is the best mowing height for Bermuda grass? Usually, we recommend you mow slightly lower than 1 inch, which means you need to use the right mower for this type of grass.
A good lawn mower for this job would be one that produces a clean cut instead of hacking the grass. Reel mowers are great at this and my favorite for Bermuda grass is the Scotts 2000-20 20-Inch lawn mower.
Also, mow a little more frequently than you’re used to to promote faster growth. But that’s not all you need to do to make Bermuda grass thicker, dense and green.
Observe the following two tips to promote the growth of Bermuda lawns.
- Always follow the mowing with water.
- Always check and increase fertilizer levels.
I’ve discussed more on these two points in the sections below. It’s important to note that these tips don’t just apply to Bermuda grass. Almost any type of grass will grow thicker if you use this technique. It just happens that Bermuda grass is very responsive to this method. That’s why you find golf courses with carpet-like grass -- thick, green and healthy. They mow almost every day!
2. Feed your lawn with 4-1-2 fertilizer
The best times to really push your lawn to grow thicker and get a beautiful lush green look is spring and early summer.
This timing is usually the best especially for lawns with Bermuda grass. So, feed it with enough fertilizer to grow as fast as it can.
- Do a soil test to determine the low-level nutrient.
- Apply adequate general purpose fertilizer -- NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) in the ratio of 4:1:2.
Healthy plants require fertilizer with the three elements in the ratio of 4:1:2. So, before you start applying anything on your lawn, start by testing the soil. If low fertilizer levels are causing your lawn to appear thin, then you know it is time to apply fertilizer.
The benefit of applying adequate fertilizer is that it stops disease, weeds, and make your lawn more drought-resistant.
Most lawns with Bermuda grass start to thin out when there’s drought. You can prevent this by ensuring your lawn grows as dense as possible prior to that season.
3. Apply pre-emergent weed herbicide
Lawns that have weeds often show signs of thinning and patchiness. If this symptom recurs every year, what you need to do is to control weeds.
Preventing weeds such as poa annua, crabgrass and quackgrass from growing is one of the best ways to make your Bermuda grass lawn thicker, greener and fuller.
- Apply pre-emergent early enough in the spring to prevent most weeds from germinating and choking out your bermudagrass.
- If you think there’s a heavy weed infestation, a great yard care tip is to apply pre-emergent every 60 to 90 days.
I did a very detailed article on the best pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicides here. Check it out if you are at this stage.
If you stop the weeds early enough, you’ll not have to worry about those hot months such as June, July, and August. Applying lawn weed killers during these months usually has a negative impact on the growth and development of your lawn.
From experience, the worst weeds that thin out Bermuda lawns are quackgrass and crabgrass (click the link to see their comparison). When these two grass weeds take over, they limit the growth of other lawn grasses because they’re dominant and aggressive. Aggressive lawn weed control measures are the best ways to get a thicker lawn easily.
4. Apply post-emergent on visible weeds
Now, there are times when you’ll already have weeds growing in your yard. In this case, you’ll need a post-emergent herbicide to get rid of crabgrass and other broad-leaf grassy weeds.
There are different ways of getting rid of such weeds, including uprooting, killing them with a post-emergent herbicide, etc.
My favorite method is using a herbicide. You don’t want to apply it all over your lawn. Try to focus on the affected areas in order to kill the weeds in those spots and allow Bermuda grass to grow out thick and full.
Note that weeds such as quackgrass are very difficult to control because they grow and spread their root system underground. You might need a serious plan to be able to get rid of them if an extensive part of your lawn is affected.
5. Aerate your lawn
You’ve probably been advised to aerate your lawn in late spring and early summer. That’s correct, but for a healthy, thicker Bermuda grass lawn, aerate as soon as your grass is starting to turn all green to enhance even stronger and faster growth.
Also, it is best to aerate just after scalping when the grass is still short. If you have clay soil or any hard-packed soil in your lawn, it is very important that you start aerating very early to promote better nutrient and water penetration.
6. Treat lawn diseases
As I’ve already mentioned, lawn diseases could be the reason for thin Bermuda grass. Fungal infections, for example, can really affect the growth and health of bermudagrass.
Spring dead spot, brown patch disease, and dollar spot are very common fungal diseases that usually cause slow growth and thinning in the turf.
Another deadly disease that can also lead to a thin lawn is root rot, also called Bermuda decline. It affects the roots and eventually leads to poor growth and thin lawns.
Spring spot manifests as small circular patches that start to spread out and form larger areas that are affected. This problem usually starts in the fall but shows up in the spring. It is also probably a sign that you applied really large amounts of nitrogen in the lawn.
Dead root is usually a consequence of poorly aerated soil. If your lawn has clay soil, aerating it should be at the top of your agenda if you want to make it thicker, fuller and healthier.
Grubs and Japanese Beetles are some of the lawn insects that may also affect your lawn and make it thinner than you like.
Is there too much shade?
You might also want to consider how much shade is in your yard. Bermudagrass requires a lot of direct sunlight If there are too many trees, buildings and other structures affecting the lawn, you’ll likely experience thin areas.
Consider reducing the amount of shade to allow your bermudagrass to grow thicker faster.
Sources and References
1. Texas A&M University -- Cooperative Extension: Bermudagrass Decline