Spring is in full swing and golfers are starting to hit the links, baseball is starting up and soccer season has arrived. BG Parks has Bermuda grass fields at our municipal golf courses (CrossWinds, Walker, and RiverView) and Lover’s Lane Soccer Complex. We are commonly asked, “When will the Bermuda grass green?” The answer is, “Soon.”
Bermudagrass is considered a warm season species of grass as opposed to Fescue, Ryegrass or Bentgrass which are cool season grasses. Bermuda functions best when it is warm and fescue functions best when it is cool. Fescue is the grass of choice for most homeowners here in Bowling Green, but during our hot humid summers, Fescue suffers from heat and drought stress, requiring lots of water and fungicide treatments. Bermudgrass on the other hand flourishes in the summer heat of Kentucky. In fact the hotter the better for Bermudagrass and it can handle drought stress very well and has very little disease issues. So, one of the main reasons why Bermudagrass is used on our golf courses and sports fields is cost. Bermuda requires less input than Fescue or other cool season grasses and it is in the best condition when most rounds of golf and sports are played; May through October.
Another positive with Bermuda is it recovers very quickly from injury. Bermuda can regenerate itself via rhizomes (below ground stems) and stolons (above ground stems). When a divot is taken from Bermuda or some type of mechanical injury occurs it can recover very quickly usually within a week or two. Bermuda can also tolerate low mowing heights, usually 1 inch or lower. Due to this, a much more “level” or “quick” playing surface is the result. This is ideal for soccer and golf.
The biggest negative of warm season grasses is that they go dormant during the late fall of the year and turn a light brown or straw color and remain that way throughout the winter. We call it entering a dormant state. As the soil and air temperatures cool in the fall, warm season grasses start to translocate carbohydrates produced in the leaves of the grass plant and move the carbohydrates into the roots to store for the winter. These carbohydrates act as reserves for the plant to survive in a dormant state throughout the winter and then in the spring the remaining carbohydrates allow the plant to come out of dormancy and start to produce green leaf tissue.
Historically, we start to see our Bermuda green-up in early April and mow for the first time in early May. Last year our green-up was delayed because of the extreme winter we had. In fact, we had to replant several acres of fairways and soccer fields last summer due to winter kill. Winter kill occurs to Bermuda when the grass is exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for several consecutive days. We are very optimist about the recovery of our Bermuda this season. While we did have a tough winter in regards to snow fall we did not have low temperatures extremes for long periods of time.
Turfgrass managers are always concerned about Bermuda recovery in the spring. We do all we can in the fall of the year to insure our grass has the best chance of surviving the winter. We insure that proper fertility levels are met, we raise our mowing heights to increase our root mass and depths and the list goes on. Soil temperatures, air temperatures, the angle of the sun and the day length are the major factors that dictate when our Bermuda will green-up.
As of April 1, we should be three to four weeks behind normal Bermuda grass green-up this spring. Hopefully we will to continue to get 70 degree days and 50 degree nights and we will be off and running, playing and mowing and mowing and mowing.
Hope to see you out playing golf, participating in sporting events and enjoying the beautiful recreational facilities our City has to offer.