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Is Bahia a a paper tiger?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by brucec32, Jun 13, 2004.

  1. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    Since I've moved here I have read and heard a LOT about how terrible Bahiagrass is to mow. From "it grows 1" a day" to "it doesn't cut cleanly".

    So far, I have not experienced that kind of problem mowing it. BUT....it has not been very wet and growth has been only about 3-4" a week. Even on thick newly sodded Bahia under irrigation my Exmark and Toro mowers are cutting it pretty cleanly at moderate speeds. What's more, even with mulching kits on two of the mowers, it's giving a nice look after mowing. No clumps, no stringers, I was very surprised.

    It IS a cow pasture grass, at least all the examples of it I see. Mixed in with weeds and rarely in irrigated areas. And you're not going to get a dense carpet of the stuff usually, but as far as finished look vs. expectations, I haven't seen any problems yet.

    Am I about to find out differently when the afternoon rains become more regular and seedheads appear? Or is it only tough to mow compared to the excellent St. Augustine, which is the nicest mowing grass I've ever come accross?

    It'd be nice to hear from anyone with experience mowing other grasses like Fescue or Bermuda as well as Bahia to see how they compare. I don't want to make the mistake of underbidding on numerous large parcels of the stuff.

    I actually noticed more of a problem on a small patch of sparse common Bermuda on my own lawn when I was mowing it a 3.5" like the rest of the yard. The seedheads of it wouldn't cut cleanly with the 44" toro.

    I am getting really NICE results with a 48" lazer hp w/ 23hp kawai and their mulching kit. The only negative is quickly dulling blades from the sand on the sparse areas.

    So, someone with Bahia experience, fill me in.
  2. Avery

    Avery LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,389

    The seed heads are the problem. Seems like they grow more like 1" an hour to me! :) Not many mowers will give a clean first pass cut once you get a bunch of tall seed heads on bahia. With a flail you can forget it. Hardly touches them.
  3. mowerman90

    mowerman90 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,491

    Forget about this post now and revisit it in July though September. You will learn to hate Bahia and probably Bermuda too, especially if you mulch. At that time of year the Bahia grows ferociously and has a tendency to "ball up", kinda like loose clumps. The seedheads are tall, thin and hard, meaning that the front edge of your deck pushes them down but your mulching blades don't have enough lift to pull them back up which means that only half of them get cut. I stopped taking on Bahia lawns 12 years ago and only have 3 - 4 customers that have it in their backyards now. If anyone calls about a Bahia lawn I refer them to someone just starting out.
  4. DennisF

    DennisF LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 1,381

    I have several Bahia lawns and I mulch. I've found that if your blades aren't razor sharp you wind up with a lot of stringers. I'm changing blades after 3 or 4 lawns of Bahia and that seems to keep the stringers to a minimum. When July and August get here I'll let you know if it gets any worse.
  5. Mark McC

    Mark McC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,565

    When I was in business in Florida in the mid-Eighties, I had several bahiagrass lawns. Killed a blade edge faster than anything short of tree stumps.
  6. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    I have lots of Bermuda experience and always hated it. In fact, similar to mowerman, I quit taking it on the last several years when I was established and could afford to. When mulching mowers got better it wasn't as bad, but still very slow going compared to the Tall Fescue there in Atlanta.

    Well, it sounds like Bahia is a genuine pain. I live in an area of acre plus lots and also regular lawns with mostly St. Aug. The large lots usually have an area of st. aug around the house, then Bahia everywhere else where they can't afford to run sprinkler systems. So unless I want to concentrate on the lawns w/o Bahia I'll have to deal with it.

    I've noticed that most of the low quality Bahia lawns are mowed lower than "by the book". Maybe 2.5" or less. I am mowing my own back yard of Bahia at 3.75" and it looks pretty good and cuts clean so far. But the sparse stuff I let go a few weeks at a time in the field behind my house cuts cleaner at 2.5". It's tall enough, just not thick, so it's hard for me to know if that's a good example to go by.
  7. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    bahia originaly comes from brazil and was used as a hay grass. It is very fiberous and those seed heads are even worse.

    The great thing about it is it will look dead as rocks, like you sprayed it with round up, then the rain will come and pop grass again. Benefits of 8 ft deep roots. The bad news is heaven help you if it rains a lot and you fertilize it. Here in florida when we have a week or daily 1 in rain storms, you could easily see a foot or more of growth plus those seed heads. That is fast death for your mower and double, even triple cutting often will not break up the turf turds.

    Luckily most people around here who pay for maitenance also pay for sodding of floratam or plugging of floratam.
  8. Turf Technologies

    Turf Technologies LawnSite Senior Member
    from Florida
    Messages: 587

    It seems like Bahia draws more heat then Flortam. Also there dust pits.
  9. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    I am still hunting for a "bargain" on a 2nd ZTR or even stander so that I can have one set up for mulching the St. Augustine and the other reserved solely for cutting the Bahia. I figure it will save me time mowing, since discharging is faster and cleaner on it, plus I will spend less time changing dull blades, since my small experience seems to show that the mulching deck pulls more sand up than discharging, even with high lifts, or at least it swirls it around more inside, dulling the blades. Having a hard time finding a combination of good price, good power, and good blade tip speed, but I'm not giving up yet.
  10. allstar

    allstar LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 282

    Around here the bahia is just now starting to really grow.It doesn't seem to get real bad until the temps are consistently in the 90's.Now we have the bahia and dandelions.No matter how sharp my blades are I have to go back and get a bunch of "stragglers" after finishing a lawn.If you leave just ONE it makes the whole yard look bad.On nice,plush lawns I don't have any problems.

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