YOU ARE HERE: IVPress HomeCollections

Tips on planting a new lawn

May 18, 2002|By Keith S. Mayberry

Imperial County-University of California adviser

Bermuda grass is hard to beat for a lawn in Imperial Valley. This heat-loving grass is inexpensive and can be planted from seed. It tolerates both drought and salt.

Common bermuda grass grows well in a wide variety of soils from sandy textured soils such as those found in Holtville to the heavy clay-textured soils of most other Valley cities such as Imperial, Calexico, Calipatria, Seeley, El Centro and many parts of Brawley.

Bermuda grass will crowd out most weeds and other grasses if the lawn is vigorously growing. To keep a dense turf the soil must be regularly irrigated and fertilized.


A bermuda grass lawn is relatively fast to establish when starting from bare soil. If the seed were planted in the next few weeks there should be a solid turf lawn by the end of summer. Fifty percent coverage can be expected in a little over a month after planting.

Common bermuda grass costs about $3 per pound and 3 pounds will be sufficient for 1,000 square feet of lawn. A 30-by-30-foot lawn would cost around $10 to seed.

Bermuda grass has some disadvantages, as it does not tolerate cold well. At temperatures well above freezing, bermuda grass turns brown and becomes dormant. It is also invasive in flowerbeds and gardens. There is little or no shade tolerance in bermuda grass (both common or hybrid).

In addition, improved bermuda grass seed selections are available with characteristics similar to the hybrid bermuda grasses. They are touted to have deeper green color, more disease resistance, finer textured blades and better wear resistance. Some improved bermuda grass offerings are sold as a mix of three varieties such as Sahara, Majestic, Sonesta, etc. Others are sold as single selections. A 3-pound container of one selection was selling for about $18. In another store a 5-pound container of an improved bermuda grass mixture was around $28.

The recommended rate of sowing for most pelleted varieties is 3-5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Be sure to check the label of each container for the germination percentage and the amount of area the container will cover.

Hybrid bermuda grass varieties are produced by crossing common bermuda grass with other bermuda grass species. The hybrids are reported to produce finer blades and texture, deeper green in color and stay green in cold weather. The hybrids are normally egetatively propagated.

Some hybrid varieties require stolons or sod to establish while others are grown from seed.

Most hybrid bermuda grass lawns require a low cut to keep them looking good. This almost necessitates the use of a reel type lawn mower to get a good cut. In general, reel mowers are expensive to purchase and expensive to sharpen. If you fail to maintain a regular schedule of mowing, then you may scalp the lawn.

Sod is the most expensive way to establish a lawn but it is also the quickest. Sod comes in rolls and is laid like carpet squares. It is best to calculate the cost in advance and make an order with a good supplier. Prepare the yard well in advance to receive the sod.

St. Augustine is a coarse-bladed grass with relatively low fertilizer requirement. It produces long runners that mesh into a mat. It will tolerate salt and tolerates shade better than bermuda grass. It has a low cold tolerance and goes dormant in the winter.

St. Augustine spreads fast and will cover a lawn in the summer. After a few years there are a few root-rotting lawn diseases that may create brown patches in the lawn. There is no control for them. St. Augustine may be cut with a rotary lawnmower.

The most common method of establishing St. Augustine is to find someone digging out the St. Augustine lawn for a patio, driveway or sidewalks and simply taking the stolons to the new location. You can cut plugs or evenly distribute the stolons on the soil. Cover them with soil or mulch to have good soil contact.

St. Augustine also is sold in flats. The price is about $5 per flat. You need to install 2-inch-by 2-inch plugs on a 1-foot square grid to establish a lawn.

To establish a lawn, follow these steps.

Remove buried rocks, construction waste, plaster or other debris. Make sure to grade the soil so that it slopes away from the house. You do not want a steep grade as water will run off without penetrating and it

will be difficult to grow grass. If the slopes are steep consider terracing or using ground covers and shrubs instead.

Break up soil compaction by rototilling or spading. If you can't spade the soil easily the grass roots won't grow well either.

If you are going to install a sprinkler system, then do it now. Be sure the sprinklers will cover well and overlap to prevent dry spots. Bury the lines deep enough so they will not be broken by future cultivation. Back fill the trenches and settle the soil by filling them with water. Then re-level the soil.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles