Fertilizing your lawn adds nutrients the soil cannot adequately provide. Balance is the key to successful fertilization. Too much fertilizer causes disease, excess thatching, increased water costs and excessive mowing. Too little fertilizer promotes yellow, diseased lawns that are intolerant to traffic.

Most commercially available fertilizers contain Nitrogen (N), Phosphorous (P), and Potassium (K). Use a fertilizer with a higher portion of nitrogen in the mixture for rapid shot growth and healthy color. Phosphorous is also necessary for healthy lawns, because it stimulates healthy root growth and development. Potassium is also needed but is usually available in the soil, although an extra amount added through fertilizer is sometimes helpful. Iron can also be important for healthy lawns. It is usually most helpful where soil pH is high.

For a healthy lawn, follow these guidelines and consult your local nurseryman for more suggestions:

  1. Read labels of fertilizer for exact rates before application. Consistency of application is important.
  2. Application methods vary with form of fertilizer and type of spreader.
  3. Newly planted sod usually needs an application with some nitrogen (Ammonium Phosphate 16-20-0) fertilizer at installation and another application after 2 weeks.
  4. In the summer growing season (April – September) a high nitrogen fertilizer (Ammonium Sulphate 20-0-0) can be substituted. Apply every 4-6 weeks or as necessary to maintain color and vigor. A healthy lawn will have few weeds. A “Combination type” fertilizer works well throughout the year.
  5. Substitute a “Complete fertilizer” (or blend) 3 times during the growing season. The blend contains N, P, and K in varying amounts as stated on the bag. A higher portion of the N usually gives good results.
  6. Use fertilizer containing micronutrients sulfur, iron, magnesium, and zinc at least once a year.
  7. During the winter season if sod is over seeded use Ammonium Phosphate to fertilize.
  8. Note: Use Ammonium Sulphate in the summer and Ammonium Phosphate in the fall.

Spring Lawn Transition

Every Spring, your Hybrid Bermuda lawn that have been overseeded with winter rye grass will require careful management that will encourage healthy dormant permanent sod to awaken from Winter dormancy.  Transition begins after 8 – 10 days of 60 degree night time temperatures and day time temperatures of approximately 85 degrees or above.  Follow these guidelines to help you effectively manage this transition.

  1. Lower moving height on setting every mowing until optimum Hybrid height (see Watering and Mowing Your Lawn section) OR a more aggressive approach is to lower your mower immediately to its lowest setting.  This is known as scalping your lawn.
  2. Withhold water for approximately 5 days to further stress the rye grass.
  3. At this point, fertilize with Ammonium Sulphate (20-0-0) at a rate of 10 lbs./1000 sq. ft. and reintroduce water.  Repeat with application as recommended in the Fertilizing Your Lawn section.
  4. Begin watering twice daily, 12-15 minutes per cycle.  Maintain water at this rate for approximately 2 weeks or until yard is completely filled in.  You may return to the usual watering schedule as suggested in the Watering and Mowing Your Lawn section.

Fall Overseeding

Fall overseeding of your Hybrid Bermuda with Perennial Rye Grass is preferred if you wish to have your lawn green during the Hybrid’s dormant season.  Overseeding should be done prior to the onset of cool temperatures that cause the summer grasses to go dormant.  This usually occurs (Oct. 1 – Nov. 15) when night temperatures stay below 60 – 65 degrees for 5 or more nights.  Use the guidelines below for best results in your overseeding.

  1. Lightly verticut OR set mower on lowest setting and mow grass down to the dirt (scalping).  Rake excess thatch from yard.  If grade needs leveling use sand to dress low areas and smooth out.

  2. Seed with a high quality perennial rye grass blend.  Seed in 2 directions at the rate recommended on the bag.

  3. Apply 1/4″ of topdressing (manure or mulch) to save on water and to warm the soil to assist in germination.  Apply fertilizer Ammonium Phosphate (16-20-0) at a rate of 10 lbs./1000 sq. ft.

  4. Water 3 times daily, 12 – 15 minutes per cycle until germination occurs at approximately 10 days to 2 weeks after planting.  At this point, reduce water to twice daily until first mowing.  Mow when rye grass exceeds standard moving height of 1″ – 1 1/2″ for your established Hybrid Bermuda lawn.  Do not mow the rye grass until it is mature enough to withstand the mowing process.  This is usually around 6 to 8 weeks after planting.

  5. Considerable thatch build-up should be dethatched at the onset of transitions.

A newly planted lawn needs to be continuously wet for several weeks.

FIRST 2 WEEKS: During the first two weeks, watering your lawn frequently for numerous short periods of time is crucial.  Your goal is to maintain moisture in the top 3″ of soil until your lawn can establish their root system.  In the summer months water 3 times a day approximately 12 – 20 minutes depending on weather factors such as excess heat, drying winds, monsoons or porous soil conditions.  Dry weather and wind may cause need for increased watering time or frequency.  Avoid any water standing for longer than 20 minutes after sprinkler is shut off.

AFTER 2 WEEKS OR WHEN SOD IS TACKED DOWN: Soak the sod thoroughly 2 times per day.  You can test penetration depth with a long bladed (6″- 8″) screwdriver inserted into the ground.  If after you have shut the watering system off for 20 minutes, a screwdriver can be easily pushed into soil all the way down, the soil has obtained enough watering depth.  Once your lawn has established it’s roots, decrease the number of daily waterings and increase the length of each watering to keep water penetration in the soil about 6″-8″ deep.

BY WEEK 4: Soak the sod thoroughly 1 time per day during the summer and every 3 – 5 days as necessary during the winter.

Mowing Your Lawn

You can cut your lawn after the pads of sod have tacked themselves to the ground (if you tug on a pad it should be securely attached).  You will have to stop the watering for a day or two  so you don’t ruin grade, tear the grass or cause the mower to plug up because of wetness.  Throughout the summer months, mowing consistency is very important for a healthy lawn.  If you let your lawn grow to tall between cuttings you can cut off all the green protein of the leaves, which causes yellowing and stress.

  • Santa Ana: Maintain at a mowing height of 3/4″ – 1″.  Mow every 5 days to achieve a very manicured appearance.  Reel or rotary mowers are acceptable for cutting.
  • Tiffgreen: Maintain at a mowing height of 3/8″ – 1″. Mow every 5-7 days.  A reel type mower is preferred, but not necessary for normal lawns.
  • Midiron: Maintain at a mowing height of 3/4″ – 1″. Mow weekly.

Tiffgreen 328

Primary usage is for lawns, golf courses, and putting greens. Leaf texture is fine, with a dense thatch, and bright green color. Drought tolerance is good, with a good injury recovery rate, and average disease resistance. As with all bermuda hybrids, tolerance to shade is poor.

A reel type mower is recommended if using area as a putting green; otherwise a rotary mower may be used. Mowing height should be at 3/8″ to 3/4″ with a frequency of every 5 to seven days.

  • Gives a very manicured look.

Santa Ana

Primary usage is for lawns, athletic fields, and commercial areas. Leaf texture is medium-fine, with very dense thatch, and deep green color. Drought tolerance is good, with a very good injury recovery rate, and average disease resistance. Tolerance to shade is poor.

Rotary or power reel may be used for mowing. Height should be set at 3/4″ to 1″ with a frequency of every 3 to 5 days.

  • A very plush, carpet-like look.

Midiron

Primary usage is for lawns, athletic fields, and commercial areas. Leaf texture is medium with open thatch, and deep green color. Drought tolerance is good, with an excellent injury recovery rate, and excellent disease resistance. Tolerance to shade is poor.

Rotary or power reel may be used for mowing. Height should be set at 3/4″ to 1″ with a weekly frequency.

  • Lowest maintenance – most popular in yards with children and pets.

Information courtesy of Southwest Sod

For more informative answers to questions contact the University of Arizona, Maricopa County, Cooperative Extension Service at (602) 470-8086.