How To Scalp Bermuda Grass – Complete Guide

Last Updated on April 9, 2023 by Mattias

Scalping is the process of removing dead grass and excess tissue from the top of the grass. Though often neglected, it is an important part of lawn care and cleans away any last sign of winter dormancy period and debris.

Lawn owners of cool-season grasses may be unfamiliar with its benefits. Still, warm-season grasses greatly appreciate this practice and thrive vibrantly if this extra step is taken for their well-being.

Even though the basic part remains the same, the variety of your grass may change the process a little. Here’s how to scalp Bermuda grass.

How To Scalp Bermuda Grass?

Scalping is a delicate process, and luckily, Bermuda grass is one of those types that can tolerate it. It will have several benefits, and the best results can be ensured by following the below-listed steps.

Prep your scalping tool

holding a bad mower blade

The primary step is to prepare your mower for the scalping process. Say you go in without checking its sharpness. A dull blade can not only prolong the process but can damage the grass as well. It will not cut the Bermuda grass smoothly, and stems will have a ragged and untidy appearance.

A sharp mower blade is extremely important for this process to go smoothly. By preparing your scalping tool beforehand and ensuring that the blade cuts clean, you can have an impeccably manicured bermudagrass lawn with the least amount of brown patches.

Scalp your lawn

a red lawn mower standing in the high grass

Once you have ensured that the blade is sharp, set the mower on its lowest setting. Turn it on but make sure that it’s at the 0.5 settings. After that, you can begin the process and mow your lawn from one end to another in this setting. Since bagging the material takes a lot of work, it’s harmless if you take a break and mow the other half of the lawn the next day.

As precautionary advice, lean toward using a small lawn mower if you are mowing on a hilly surface. Large mowers are harder to guide around hilly areas, and you can unintentionally damage the grass while trying to handle it.

The blade can dig deep into the top surface of the soil and remove a portion of grass entirely. This will leave bare patches among the Bermuda grass, and the turf will look rather unsightly.  

Tip: this applies to all uneven surfaces

Bag the clippers

hands wearing red gloves picking up grass clippings

A lot of people neglect the fact that mowing and scalping are not the same. After mowing, leaving the grass clippings behind is beneficial because it acts as mulch and provides nutrients for the grass. Usually, this will help with grass’s growth but doing so after scalping will vanquish the basic purpose.

Bagging the clippings is even more important than scalping in the first place because if excess material is left lying on the soil, the Bermuda grass will not enjoy any of the benefits. Dethatching is supposed to help the grass receive sunlight, water, and nutrients more efficiently, but leaving that layer on top of it will keep smothering it nonetheless.

Furthermore, bagging the clippers gives your lawn a clean and tidy appearance. Bermuda grass can make a pleasant lawn turf, but with discarded clippings on top of it, the curb will look messy and unappealing.

There are two ways that you can go about this. Either you can attach a mower bag and collect the clippings as you scalp, or you can sweep it afterward with a lawn sweeper or rake. 

Both ways are equally responsive if performed properly but using a mower with a bagging attachment will make the process easier for you.

Aerate the lawn

a green aerator

When your Bermuda grass has been deprived of heat and sunlight for a long time, aerating the lawn after scalping will be beneficial. Aeration creates holes on the top surface of the lawn to alleviate soil compaction, which helps the grass roots receive water, sunlight, and nutrients more properly.

Scalping and aeration go well together because they stimulate the entire recovery process and complement each other’s respective functions. If you are planning on aerating your lawn, then consider dethatching first, as it will make it easier for the aerator to do its job.

Spike aerators punch holes in your lawn, while plug/ core aerators remove portions of grass and soil. It is recommended to use a plug aerator rather than a spike, but whichever you’re using, make a round over the lawn in one direction and then repeat the motion in a perpendicular direction.

Aerating the lawn right after scalping will give a good head start to Bermuda grass’s growth, and spring green-up will happen more quickly.

Why Is It Beneficial To Scalp Bermuda Grass?

a bag filled with scalped grass

Scalping is good for your warm-season lawns for plenty of reasons. When Bermudagrass comes out of its dormancy period, it can take a while for it to recover from stress. You are doing your lawn a favor by scalping your grass and removing excess material from the top surface.

The soil will become more exposed to direct sunlight, and soil temperatures will rise more quickly. The Bermuda grass that has been stuck in dry conditions for a long time will thrive in this heat. Now, the growth and root development process will facilitate, and spring green-up will be ensured. 

Furthermore, thatching also hinders a well-circulated flow of air, water, nutrients, and fertilizers for the soil. A whole layer of potential waste will be discarded by scalping the grass, and your Bermuda grass will receive its essential resources properly. Not only this but thatches trap moisture and attract microbes and fungal infections. Scalping will reduce the risk of these potential pests,

Aside from that, scalping is also beneficial before overseeding. Removing the excessive thatch from the top layer of your lawn grass will make it easy for the new growth and seed to contact the soil and start the development process.

A good rule of thumb is to wait until your Bermuda grass has gone completely dormant and then overseed the next variety.

Tips For Scalping Bermuda Grass

  1. Do not scalp the lawn if a frost is forecasted
  2. Set the mower setting at its lowest
  3. The recommended mowing height for Bermuda grass is 1.5-2.5 inches throughout the growing season
  4. Always bag the clippings
  5. Bermuda and zoysia lawns should only be scalped in spring
  6. Mid-March to early April is a good time to scalp
  7. A general rule is to water the grass deeply several times a week after scalping 
  8. Use a quality fertilizer on scalped lawn to ensure fast growth

When To Scalp Bermuda Grass? 

The first thing you must remember regarding scalping is that only Bermuda and zoysia grass can be scalped annually. Any other type of grass can get easily damaged by this practice.

Now for the question at hand. As you must know, Bermuda grass goes into a state of dormancy during winter months when it is completely deprived of necessary heat, so the best time to scalp this grass is right before it comes out of its dormancy period. As soon as early spring approaches, you’ll notice green foliage appearing among the brown patches.

The temperature will start warming, and grass will gradually recover from environmental stress. These early signs of transition are your signal to scalp the Bermuda grass, but make sure that you don’t delay it.

The time in terms of months may vary based on your location, but generally, this period lasts from early March to the end of April. You need to scalp the Bermuda grass down to 1.5 inches so that it can have a vibrant spring green-up and you can enjoy the growth of thicker and healthier turf grass.

Spring is undoubtedly the most ideal time, but if your lawn looks too messy from tall grass, then scalping in summer months (late summer, to be particular) isn’t a bad idea.

You can also scalp the Bermuda grass in early fall, but only do it if you’re planning to overseed a variety of cool-season grass such as perennial ryegrass or annual ryegrass. As mentioned above, scalping will make it easier for the seed to contact the soil.

Tip: if the thatch layer is too thick for your mower to work through, you might need to use a proper dethatcher to clean out the compacted stems and foliage first.

Does Scalped Bermuda Grow Back?

Another common thing that people often wonder is whether scalped Bermuda will grow back. To give you a simple answer, yes. Bermuda grass is aggressive. growth and scalping won’t stand in the way. This grass has a double growth rate because of underground roots (rhizomes) and above-ground roots (stolons); the only thing scalping will do is ensure an even growth.

Since the grass is more exposed to sunlight after scalping, the soil temperature will also rise, and Bermuda will establish deeper roots. Remember that dormant grass stops growing regardless of your actions, so if you have scalped Bermuda grass during fall, the slow growth isn’t a result of scalping, and there is nothing to worry about.

Unlikely as it may be, if scalping damages the above-ground stems, your Bermuda grass can bounce back quickly and recover the damage; meanwhile, rhizomes will keep on producing. 

Factors To Consider While Scalping Bermuda Grass

Height of the grass

As said above, scalping is a delicate process. You risk damaging the grass if you don’t set your mower in the right setting. Scalping or mowing lower than the advised height can affect a grass’s photosynthetic rate and affect its growth.

Your grass needs at least ⅔ of its height to perform properly, and a lack of green stem will reduce its abilities. The number of carbohydrates stored in grass deposits will be focused on growth and recovery, and this will cause the roots to loosen their strength on the ground. Thus becoming more vulnerable to annual weeds.

Remember that you don’t want to cut more than ⅓ of the grass blade’s length.

Direction of mowing

Another thing to remember while mowing your Bermuda grass is to never mow in the same direction twice in a row. This won’t have any catastrophic effects on grass’s growth, but your lawn will have “mower lines.”

Once you complete a phase, start mowing from the opposite end of the lawn.

How To Scalp Bermuda Grass Summary

We hope this article helped you understand the scalping process properly. You can follow the step-by-step guide explained above, and hopefully, you won’t encounter any problems. Remember that scalping makes a huge difference in your Bermuda grass lawn, and even though the exposed stems may look unsightly, it is not a good enough reason to delay the process.

Lawn scalping is for the well-being of the grass, and it significantly improves the growth process. Just remember that when sunlight is delivered more efficiently, your Bermuda lawn will enjoy benefits soon enough. 

Other than that, we also discussed other common queries, such as why scalping is beneficial, when is the best time to do it, factors to consider, good tips to follow, etc.

A healthy lawn is not just pleasant for the eye but also good for the environment. If you found this article helpful, share it with your friends and family as well.

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