View Full Version : Enter only if you mow bermuda

Mean Green Machine
01-26-2001, 01:09 PM
How many of you prefer to mulch bermuda instead of discharge? Or do you bag it? Why or why not?

01-26-2001, 01:41 PM
All of the above! Depends on the condition of the grass, how much debris gets sucked up by the deck, how good it can be hid, how I feel, the humidity, the temp., the customer, my personal life...............all these play into my decision. Whatever it takes to leave that yard looking perfect is what I do. Never do I do one thing and stick to it, never have.

01-26-2001, 02:44 PM
We always bag clippings - I use a Tru-Cut 21" push mower, most lawns are small (under 1/10 acre) but frankly, I have never tried putting on a mulching blade.

When using a deck mower (vs a reel), do you ever use a dethatching blade? Or mow in the spring REAL low?

Mean Green Machine
01-26-2001, 02:48 PM
I have never heard of a dethatching blade but i do scalp the lawn in the spring. And what makes a mulching blade so much more effective than a regular blade?

01-26-2001, 03:24 PM
For the best cut, I bag. But this is only for customers who pay for it. The rest of the time I discharge. I have tried mulching but I have to go too slow, especially during fast growing periods. Using double blades helps a lot when discharging.

01-26-2001, 03:38 PM
I mulch with exmarks. Side discharge leaves to much on top to look bad in a day or two. If I am there at regular intervals then I go over it once and you can't tell if it was bagged or not. If pretty tall, go over once and then run over 2 time very quickly and its gone. I always cut at 3.25 inches.

The idea of scalping a lawn in spring is an old wives tale. It is not healthy to the lawn to cut it that low. You cut more off than the 1/3 and it weakens the grass.

I don't bag anything anymore. Why add to the landfill problems when the clippings are one of the healthiest things you can do for the lawn. Mother nature can take care of herself. Plus, as much trouble as it is to change from mulching kit to side discharge is way to much trouble. Here in the midsouth, we had one of the worst droughts ever, and I mulched all year, and when everyone else was sitting back looking at dead lawns, I was still cutting green grass. Clippings are 85% water (think thats correct #) and nitrogen.

Mean Green Machine
01-26-2001, 03:51 PM
By scalping i mean that i cut most of the leafy part off so that the new grass will grow above the dead part and cover it up. The lawn is much greener this way (i think) and it seems to be perfectly healthy. Is that fine? Maybe this is not actualy scalping. I dont know all that much about this.

Mueller Landscape Inc
01-26-2001, 04:03 PM
Mean Machine,

Common Bermuda is a warm season grass and should be cut low. Two inches or less. Finer Bermuda lawns are cut even lower. You are correct that cutting it down in the fall will produce a greener more lush lawn in the spring. This is for warm season grass only. Cool season grasses should be cut higher for more water content.

If you have ever been to a sod farm you will see that after the sod is cut, it grows back. It's a crop.


Mean Green Machine
01-26-2001, 04:07 PM
Thank you. thats what i thought but i wasn't sure.

01-26-2001, 04:19 PM
2" or less is what they write in books, but a lot of the new scientific info says that you should be cutting higher. Cutting low doesn't give the grass a dark green color. If you cut lower you must increase the nutrients, Sod farms feed their grass every 2 to 3 weeks. Golf courses also work constantly to get the dark green color and keep it healthy because of the lower cutting. Under perfect conditions, 2" would be fine, but in a residential lawn you never get that kind of dedication from the homeowner. When you cut the lawn short in the fall, you take away its insulation from the extremes of winter. When you cut it at those heights during the summer, the sun will burn it up, no shade for ground which makes it dry out quicker.

cutting edge
01-26-2001, 04:32 PM
For bermuda my book says:

0.5" - 1.0" cutting height for general use areas
0.25" for golf greens.

I don't know if "scalping" is the correct word, but when you cut the crown of a grass plant it stimulates new shoot growth and makes it more dense.

Mueller Landscape Inc
01-26-2001, 04:36 PM

It depends on where you live and the severity of the weather. In So. California we cut Bermuda down to 1/2 inch and overseed with rhy for green grass during the winter. In the summer here if you cut Bermuda at 3 inches it will not do well. In fact it will require more water because the water doesn't reach the roots. It simply evaporates. The reason for this is because the grass is so thick. Tiff-green Bermuda is cut at 1/2" all year with reel mowers. It is a fine Bermuda made popular in the 80's.

Perhaps it's differant in TN.


01-26-2001, 04:45 PM
In the south, if you cut heigher, the grass gets throught the droughts better. The heat and humidity do not effect it as negatively. Heck, even the fescue is brown now, we have the 3rd coldest winter in history. Usually, the fescue is still green during the winter.

01-26-2001, 04:55 PM
The "De-thatching Blade" is a dull blade ~20"long that has a spring "tine" that hangs down about 2". As it goes around it rips down into the dry crowns & aboveground stolons. You get a LOT of grass to bag. Then core aerate. It leaves the lawn looking bare, but when it grows back (esp when cut with a sharp 7-blade reel) it looks like a putting green.
I used to do this at my house in early spring when the grass started really growing again(when I had a house with a lawn).

A follow-up Question:

How low can you cut with a 21" deck? I have been thinking of buying a used 20" reel mower (Trimmer / McLane) for my Bermuda & StAugustine lawns. I only have a few of those - almost all my accounts have Fescue.

cutting edge
01-26-2001, 05:01 PM
Bermuda is heat and drought tolerent and is supposed to be cut low.

[Edited by cutting edge on 01-26-2001 at 05:24 PM]

01-26-2001, 10:55 PM
I will probably receive alot of flack about this but here goes. Scalping allows the weed seeds the sunlight they need to germinate making more work later. I have never had nor ever will have to use a dethatcher. Why? Because I don't use high nitrogen fertilizers. Therefore the microbial activity is much higher in my lawns. The high microbial activity breaks down the clippings and feeds the soil. Healthy soil = healthy grass. If you would like more information and a better explination check out http://www.dirtdoctor.com I hope some one finds this info helpful as I have learned something every time I come to Lawnsite.
You guys are great!

Garry S. Smith

lee b
01-26-2001, 11:21 PM
I never cut higher than 2.25". Everybody in south Georgia mows bermuda real short, and if I didn't, customers would think that I don't know what I'm doing. Unless it's real dry bermuda grows so fast that it would look real shaggy by the next time you mow. I also mow that low because it's the only way to cut bahia and make it look good, and bahia grass is everywhere.

01-26-2001, 11:31 PM
When any grass is in the growth stage, I don't think scalping is a desirable function -- it's a mistake!

I have Bermudagrass myself, and I DO SCALP IT, but only in the spring when it is still dormant. The left over dead grass is DEAD, so it won't hurt anything. Taking it down lessens the sunlight barrier.

Bermudagrass needs lots of sunlight to grow properly. If it is mowed high (over 2"), the growth underneath will turn brown from the lack of sunlight and it will thin out. I mow mine at 1 ½" and fertilize it every 30 days and it gets nice and thick. I understand that some golf courses fertilize their Bermudagrass even more often. Bermudagrass loves nitrogen and sunlight, and I love my turf!

Mueller Landscape Inc
01-27-2001, 11:35 AM

You are correct about the nitrogen. However, Bermuda does need to be taken down in the dormant stage. We do it in the fall. If it is not taken down and you mowed it at the same highth all year, you would start to notice that it would look scalped after every mow. That's because of the physical structure of the plant. It has rhizomes and stolons. It doesn't bush out from the crown as a cool season grass would, it gets thick from growing from the rhizomes and stolons. Also, when an older leaf matures and dies, it is replaced by a new leaf. The new leaf develops within the sheath of the next oldest leaf and emerges at the top of the plant. It does not emerge from the crown.

And yes, being a warm season grass, it needs that sunlight.

The weeds will always have to be delt with.

Thatchy turf is often produced by grasses that are vigorous and fast growers, have extensive root systems and have higher concentrations of lignin in their tissue. Lignin is a compound in plant tissue that makes cell walls strong, hard and rigid. It decomposes at a very slow rate. Bermudagrass is in this category.

Proper fertilizing techniques will curb this problem but will not rid you of this problem.


01-27-2001, 01:34 PM

Your responses are always so well thought out and scientific that they are a joy to read. I'll make an extra point to follow all your responses. I seem to learn from every one.

Quick question: Where does all this information come from? Formal education or years of experience? I'm currently trying to soak up all the knowledge I can from LawnSite, Trade Magazines, and a home study course but my blocks of information are still insufficient and replete with holes. Where/how have you learned so much?


Mueller Landscape Inc
01-29-2001, 07:10 PM

Thanks for the compliment. I went to a jr. college that has a really good horticulture program in the early 80's. I kept all my books and refer to them often. The rest I picked up from experience. I regard my trade as a "practice", similar to a doctor who has a "medical practice". If I don't know something, I will look it up. I really never stop learning. I saw a post of yours about the program that you are taking via the internet. I was interested and I went to their web-site and ordered some information.

One thing that I do is put out a bi-monthly newsletter to all my clients. It is a great marketing tool and brings in a lot of business. I write a detailed article in each one about something that pertains to the garden. I really get detailed. It forces me to research the topic and really "know" what I am writing about. It's like putting out an edited term paper every two months.

I also have a vast library of books about horticulture as well as some software. I buy a lot of this stuff at bookstores and home improvement centers.

I also train my employees. Again this is a teaching opportunity. It forces me to get detailed and research what I am talking about.

I think it really comes down to desire and priorities.

Those that have the desire will be successful.

I bet you will be very successful. :)


Lee Homan
01-29-2001, 09:21 PM
Mueller Landscaping Co. Wrote:

However, Bermuda does need to be taken down in the dormant stage. We do it in the fall. If it is not taken down and you mowed it at the same highth all year, you would start to notice that it would look scalped after every mow. That's because of the physical structure of the plant. It has rhizomes and stolons.

AAHHHHHH.....That explains it than. I've been scratching my head for a long time trying to figure that out. Could an uneven yard cause those brown spots too? Say like when the mower drops down into a low spot?

[Edited by Lee Homan on 01-29-2001 at 09:24 PM]

03-07-2002, 11:15 AM
Wow this is a very old thread but here goes anyway, I only "scalp" as it is being called in the fall for overseeding with rye. I mow at 2" during the growing season with a mulching blade. I do not have any problems at all. I suppose it could be cut shorter but any longer and it would look very shaggy and then to correct the height it would look brown. I stay with the same height until the fall.