Issue: June 7, 2003

Bermudagrass

Question:

I read an article about bermudagrass and wondered if it was a good grass for me. I checked with some garden centers and couldn't find the seeds. If this is a good grass, where can I get seeds? Tony A. Albuquerque

Answer:

I relayed your question to Dr. Bernd Leinauer, NMSU Extension Turfgrass Specialist and Arden Baltensperger, NMSU Professor Emeritus. They have written the answer below: The use of bermudagrass for home lawns in Albuquerque has generated interest after a recent magazine article on the breeding efforts in seeded turf type bermudagrasses at NMSU was published. From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, if tolerance to heavy traffic and recuperative ability during the winter months when the grass is dormant are not concerns, bermudagrass can be an acceptable low water use choice for home lawns. With the introduction of newly developed seeded turf-type cultivars such as NuMex Sahara or Princess 77, bermudagrass can be established and grown at a low cost in areas that were historically not considered suitable for bermudagrass. Bermudagrass is a representative of the warm season grasses and is therefore much better adapted to the warmer desert climates than grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. As such, bermudagrass can be maintained at an adequate quality level with only 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week in the summer. However, the large water savings come from the winter months when only 1 or 2 irrigations are needed during the entire dormancy period. The use of bermudagrass for home lawns certainly makes sense from a water use point of view in periods of droughts, even in Albuquerque. During the summer, when bermudagrass grows actively, it is extremely wear-tolerant and recuperates well from traffic stress. All these advantages, however, come at a cost for home gardeners and people who love their flowerbeds. Bermudagrass spreads aggressively by stolons (above ground runners) and rhizomes (below ground runners) and can become a nuisance when it invades flowerbeds and gardens. Also, periods of high temperatures that are conducive to growing bermudagrass may be limited to the 6 or 7 summer months, leaving the turf area dormant and brown for the remaining 5 to 6 months of the year. Furthermore, people allergic to bermudagrass may have to choose a different grass for medical reasons. Sahara, the first seeded turf type bermudagrass was released 12 years ago from the breeding program at New Mexico State University and has been a big improvement in turf quality and texture compared to the much coarser common bermudagrass. Sahara is now being sold in southern New Mexico by large retailers such as Lowes and Home Depot making the seed easily accessible and lawn establishment affordable. Princess, the first seeded hybrid bermudagrass, was released 3 years ago by Seeds West in Arizona. Princess is considered a quantum leap in turfgrass breeding. It is not only the first seeded hybrid bermudagrass but it also combines texture, uniformity, and quality of the vegetative hybrid bermudagrasses (such as Tifgreen and Tifway) with affordability and the ease of establishment of seeded grasses. The latest research from the University of Arizona has shown that Princess uses about 20% less water than Tifway to sustain the same quality level. Princess is not yet readily available in big retail stores. Curtis & Curtis, a seed retailer in Clovis, sells Princess and other seeded bermudagrasses in New Mexico, and these grasses can also be purchased on the Internet (e.g. www.seedland.com). Note: Dr. Leinauer is conducting trials with both warm season and cool season turfgrass varieties in New Mexico. As information is developed and confirmed, Dr. Leinaur will release this information in NMSU Extension Service publications.

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Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at desertblooms@nmsu.edu or at https://www.facebook.com/DesertBloomsNM/. Please include your county Extension Agent (aces.nmsu.edu/county) and your county of residence with your question!

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page: desertblooms@nmsu.edu.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.