Restoring A Sickly Bermudagrass Lawn On A Budget
It happens to most of us. Maybe we've been
too busy with work or family. Perhaps a run of
bad luck kept us out of the yard. Or maybe a
neighbor's weed science project got out of hand.
One way or another, we wake up one warm spring
day and realize that our bermudagrass lawn is
overrun with weeds.
We figured this happened enough that it was
worth an experiment to see if we could bring back a bermudagrass lawn
on the brink of extinction. And one such lawn in Georgia
was available that had no less than eight different
weeds including annual bluegrass, bittercress, henbit, horseweed,
mouseear chickweed, dandelion and parsley-piert.
We also decided to work with common tools and products that would fit within
a budget of $150 for a year. So we stuck with a three-year-old Toro 22 inch mulcher/bagger
that we already had rather than running out and
buying a new machine. And our test weed killers are Spectracide® Weed Stop® for Lawns and Ortho® Weed B Gon MAX® Plus Crabgrass Control Ready-Spray®,
easy enough to find at your local big box retailer or
local garden and nursery store for around $10.
Join us as we chronicle our journey to bring back this bermudagrass disaster on a budget.
April 02, 2010 - One test area is mowed, one is left unmowed. The liquid herbicides are applied by water hose. Outside temps are 87 F. Time is 15:45 EDST.
An hour later there is no noticeable effect on weeds from either Ortho or Spectracide.
NOTE: The green in these pictures is not
bermudagrass but weeds! The brown spots
are where RoundUp was applied to dense patches
|April 03, 2010 - At 15:45
EDST (24 hours later) some wilting can be
detected for Dandelion, Mouseear Chickweed and
Horseweed (Mares Tail) on both the Ortho and
Spectracide halves of the unmowed test area.
Wilting not noticeable on mowed test area.
No noticeable effect yet on Henbit or
Bittercress by either product. Effected
weeds treated with Ortho seem to be more
advanced in wilting stage than those effected by
Spectracide. No rain or watering has
occurred in the past 24 hours.
|April 05, 2010 - It has now
been 72 hours since we sprayed the lawn.
There has been no rain or watering and daytime
temps have been in the 80s.
Wilting of some
weeds continues but bittercress and henbit are
being stubborn. Wilting becoming evident
on mowed test area also.
Dandelion Treated With Ortho
Dandelion Treated With Spectracide
|April 06, 2010 - Four days
have passed and yellowing or browning is
becoming more evident. Neither brand of
herbicide is a clear leader at this point.
Flowering henbit finally starting to wilt but
younger henbit still looking robust. Rain
predicted for Thursday. Will mow and bag both
test areas after rain.
|April 08, 2010 - The
bittercress is finally beginning to yellow.
In the pictures at right both Ortho and
Spectracide are finally proving effective on
bittercress in the mowed test area (they both
are also working in the unmowed test area).
It rained today and both the mowed and unmowed
test areas are due for a fresh cut this weekend.
Some weeds (young henbit, young mouseear
chickweed) still seem rather robust. One
thing is sure: these herbicides take quite
awhile to work.
Bittercress Treated With Ortho
Bittercress Treated With Spectracide
|April 10, 2010 - It's a
beautiful Saturday when we finally take our Toro
to the unmowed test area for the first buzz of
the season. We know that several of the
weeds we have (especially
bluegrass) can be an indicator of compacted
soil. However, our budget doesn't allow us
to rent a core aerator so we don a pair of
aerator sandals that you can order from
Amazon.com for less than $15 and wear these
while we mow.
"Unmowed" Test Area Has Been Mowed
"Test Area 1")
Just having a cut makes it
look better but still no big difference between
Ortho and Spectracide.
|April 11, 2010 - We mowed our
"mowed" test area (herafter "Test Area
2") nine days after the original
cut. We've bagged all our clippings so far
because many of the weeds have gone to seed.
This won't get rid of all the problems next
season but will help. Again we used our
aerator sandals and then put down Scotts® Turf
Builder® Lawn Fertilizer with 2% Iron on both
Test Areas 1 and 2. The
instructions said for faster results water in
lightly, so we did. We like faster
This old Toro keeps on mowing!
|April 18, 2010 - We mowed
Test Areas 1 and 2 again today. They are
looking greener and less weed infested. We
thought the Ortho side of both Test Areas looked
"paler" (less green, more yellow) than the
Spectracide sections. More on that next
We've spent $43 on supplies so far
and it's just the first month. Can we make
it to next April on $107?
Test Area 1
(unmowed before treatment)
Test Area 2
(mowed before treatment)
|April 28, 2010 - Last time we
promised a little more insight on the "Ortho
fading" we witnessed on both Test Areas.
While Ortho and Spectracide both seem to have
had equally good results on our weeds (just be
patient), the Ortho herbicide seemed to have
annual bluegrass as well. We witnessed
large clumps of dying annual bluegrass in both
Test Areas treated by Ortho Max.
To be sure,
we treated another section of this lawn that had
not previously been treated with Ortho Max and
saw the same results - dying annual bluegrass.
While this is hardly a scientific experiment,
our theory is that the Ortho Max accelerated the
natural summertime die-out of the annual
bluegrass by making it more susceptible to the
daytime temperatures that are already in the
mid-80s in Georgia.
How's that for a lucky
Annual bluegrass sprayed with Ortho® Weed B Gon
MAX® Plus Crabgrass Control Ready-Spray® in Test
Our second test with the Ortho herbicide also
killed the annual bluegrass.
|May 21, 2010 - Test Area 1
(and all the lawn) is making great progress!
With just one application of herbicide and
fertilizer, one use of
aerator sandals, and regular mowing (once
every four or five days now) the bermudagrass is
growing nice and thick. There are still a few
henbit weeds here and there and mare's tail pops
up every now and then but the active weeds are
well under control.
We will use
the aerator sandals again in June and will
fertilize again in July.
Test Area 1 on May 21
Test Area 1 on April 02
|July 03, 2010 - Test Area 1 is showing normal signs of the summer heat and less rain. This lawn has not been irrigated yet this season though it is inevitable.
Also, the bermuda grass was allowed to get too long between cuts in June and too much of the greenery was trimmed. This will recover, however. In June we
also aerated with our sandals. On July 03 we applied Scotts® Turf Builder® Lawn Fertilizer with 2% Iron.
Crabgrass is popping up in spots but is being
hand-plucked for now.
Test Area 1 on July 03
Crabgrass In Bermuda Grass
|August 20, 2010 - Daytime
temps have exceeded 90°F for weeks in
Georgia and rainfall has been limited.
When part of the lawn began to brown (more
evident in Test Area 2) we raised the mower
height 1/2 notch and began weekly irrigation.
The grass has improved noticeably and weeds are
still at bay. (NOTE: The brown spot in the grass
at front of Test Area 1 is from dog urine,
another frustration in lawn management.)
Test Area 1 after watering and raising mower
Test Area 2 with spotty signs of the Georgia
heat and dryness
|September 30, 2010 -
September was very dry for our lawn restoration
project and we watered weekly [not calculated in
our budget] until rain returned at the end of
the month. A mower repair had our lawn without a
buzz for two weeks and we've raised the deck
again to about two inches to avoid taking off
too much grass. We put down a layer of
Halts ($15) when the nighttime temps reached the
50s and our test areas have remained largely
In October, a product like Scotts WinterGuard
will help feed your bermuda grass root system
through the winter months.
If cool season weeds are already noticeable in
your bermuda grass lawn this fall, consider a
combination winterizer / herbicide like Scotts
WinterGuard with Weed Control.