Lake Jem Farms Turf Grass And Sod
Bahia Grass in Central Florida
Bahia grass originated in Brazil, but moved to the United States in 1914. It first became popular for beef production in pastures, but has risen in popularity as a southern turf grass in lawns throughout the south east. It is a great all-purpose grass if you are looking for sod for a Florida landscape, as it is aggressive, and is easily planted from seed.
Bahia is great as an all-purpose grass, and has increased in popularity due to its ability to survive heavy drought periods. It has a much better tolerance for drought than many other St. Augustine grasses, due largely to its extensive root system. It also performs well in infertile, sandy soil without the constant input of fertilizer; making it relatively low maintenance compared to other warm season grasses. Also, unlike many other St. Augustine types that are susceptible to fungal infections and issues with chinch bugs and other pests, Bahia rarely holds disease or insect problems.
In terms of looks, the blades of Bahia grass are relatively long, tall, and thin. They do not create excessive thatch on the long. The blades reseed themselves during the summer, growing long, narrow stalks that hold black seed pods at the end. Despite the fact that they are made of thin blades, it can still give the impression of a nice thick lawn with the right regular fertilization and watering. Generally, it creates a light green lawn, but it is also receptive to nitrogen applications to create a darker green color.
This all purpose, warm season perennial will not fail your landscape during humid, drought periods. If you are looking for a low maintenance grass, Bahia sod is the choice for you!
Bahia grass forms a deep and extensive root system. It can survive in sandy, infertile soil and it requires a minimal amount of fertilizer and water compared to other types. It is ideal for homes that have a large yard or where there is not an irrigation system. During periods of extended drought, it will turn brown and go dormant until favorable conditions return.
Bahia prefers soil that is acidic, a pH of 5.5 is optimal, and it does not create an excessive amount of thatch. It can be grown from seed, but it is a laborious and time consuming endeavor. It is much quicker and easier to establish a lawn from sod grown at Lake Jem Farms.
During the summer months, it will form rather unattractive seed heads if it is not mowed, therefore, it should be mowed regularly to prevent the stalks from growing tall and forming seed heads. Bahia doesn’t have a lot of problems with insects but it does have susceptibility to mole crickets. It doesn’t tolerate shade, saltwater, or a lot of foot traffic well and grows best when it receives full sunlight.
Bahia Grass Establishment
A Bahia lawn may be established from seed or sod. With sod, you will get quick lawn establishment and less chance for invasion by weeds but the seeds take a long time to germinate and even longer to create a turf that is uniform.
Normally, sprigging or plugging does not work well with this type of grass since it grows rather slowly and these methods leave open soil areas that can be invaded by weeds. Aggressive weed control is necessary if using these methods.
You can establish Bahia grass during any time of the year in Central Florida, but in the northern part of the state it is best to wait until spring or early in the summer. Growth is reduced in the cooler months of fall and winter. When establishing new sod, it’s important that you irrigate frequently and for shorter time periods than established lawns. Until the roots are fully established, the water demand will be greater, and it is suggested that you irrigate. Irrigating for 10 minutes several times throughout the day for the first 10 days will help the grass become established and not dry out. For the subsequent 10 days irrigate once per day applying one half inch of water. After this, the frequency of watering should be three times per week. Four weeks after the sod is placed, it should be established fully and you can irrigate as it is needed.
A lawn that is newly planted shouldn’t be fertilized right away. It should be fertilized about 50 days after it has been planted. The reason for this is that the system of roots is not fully developed on new lawns, consequently, fertilization can cause the nutrients to runoff or leach. Don’t mow your lawn until the roots have attached to the soil, which will usually take about 3 weeks after the sod is placed. When the roots are pegged the sod can’t be lifted from the soil without a lot of force. Once pegging has occurred, the lawn may be mowed.
To keep a lawn healthy, fertilization is vital. Fertilization will improve the quality and health of the lawn and decreases vulnerability to insects, disease, and weeds. In general the first application of fertilizer should occur in early April.
Bahia grass should be fertilized 3 times per year in Central Florida, from the time it becomes green in the spring through fall. Nitrogen should not be applied very early in the season, since a frost has the potential to cause damage to the grass. Similarly, don’t fertilize in the latter part of the year when growth has slowed down.
Proper mowing is needed to maintain an attractive and healthy lawn. During the warmer months, when the grass is actively growing, it can be mowed every ten to twelve days. It should be mowed to a height of about 3.5 inches. This height will help to promote an extensive system of roots which will make it more tolerant of insects, disease and drought.
It is best to irrigate Bahia as it is needed once it is mature and has been established. This grass is different from other warm season grasses because it is able to survive periods of extended drought. It will become dormant under these conditions, turn brown, and stop growing. In order for Bahia to stay green and keep growing, watering is necessary when the leaf blades start to wilt, fold up or turn color to a bluish-gray. You will also be able to tell that it needs water because it won’t be resilient when it is walked upon and the footsteps will be visible for an extended time period. You should apply 0.5 to 0.75 inches of water with each watering. This will be enough water to reach most of the roots and it will recover quickly from drought conditions after receiving water. In instances when an irrigation system is not available, the grass should remain untouched during the drought. Don’t mow, apply pesticides or fertilizer under these conditions. Don’t water your lawn too much since this will make the turf weak and encourage weeds.
Bahia grass is:
- fairly low-maintenance and it can live with limited water and fertilizer inputs.
- adapted to conditions of sandy soil with low fertility that are common in Florida. It won’t grow well if the pH is above 6.5.
- grows best during the mid-summer months when the days are longest.
- rarely affected by disease or insect problems. The mole crickets are a pest that often damage Bahia, but this can be controlled biologically via wasp parasites and nematodes. Effective pesticides also exist.
Check out this video to learn more about Bahia grass:
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