David M. Kopec, Extension Turfgrass Specialist
Bermudagrass still proves to be the best over all adapted grass for lawns in the low desert valleys of Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma. It can also be used for lawns that are actively used in the months of May to October at higher elevation locations in the state (3500-4800 feet elevation).
As a species, bermudagrass deals with many hardships in Arizona's climates, which often include:
· High sunlight conditions
· High air temperatures
· Salty water, salty soil conditions
· Shallow soil conditions
· Heavy use patterns
Bermudagrass is not adapted to conditions of:
· Constant shade
· Summer seasons where temperatures are 80oF or below
Bermudagrass varieties for home lawns are often marketed as non-pollen producing sterile vegetative hybrids. These varieties all have the same features in common.
· Have underground shoots (rhizomes)
· Have above ground runners (stolons)
· Have non-seed producing seed heads
· Produce no allergenic pollen
· Must be reproduced and established in new lawns by planting vegetative plant stock (sod, plugs, stolons, sprigs)
There are several commercially available sterile hybrid bermudagrasses for use in Arizona for lawns. These include the following varieties: E-Z Turf Midiron, Tifway, Tifway II, Santa Ana, Bob-Sod, (Bank One ballpark turf) and TifSport. All of these are single plant varieties.
E-Z Turf Midiron
E-Z Turf Midiron is an excellent grass for general-purpose homeowner use. It produces a medium-dense turf with a bright medium green color. E-Z Turf Midiron is unique in that it can be mowed on a regular basis with either a rotary mower, or a reel-type mower. The rotary mower is used on E-Z Turf Midiron when selecting a base height anywhere within the range of 1.5 to 2.0 inches. A reel mower is used on E-Z Turf Midiron when a base height anywhere from ½ to 1.5 inches is selected. E-Z Turf Midiron can be overseeded with ryegrass in the late summer/early fall to provide year round green turf in Phoenix, Yuma, and Tucson. AT higher elevations (3500-4800 feet elevations) it should be not overseeded. It will enter a dormant state (leaves turn brown) as nighttime conditions favor frost development. E-Z Turf Midiron produces large robust underground rhizomes, which allow it to survive cold winter temperatures, more so than must other varieties of hybrid bermudagrass lawns. E-Z Turf Midiron will enter winter dormancy sooner than most other cultivars, which is also part of its winter survival strategy. E-Z Turf Midiron is available from garden retail nursery shops and is most commonly available as sod.
Tifway and Tifway II
Tifway 419 and Tifway II sod bermudagrass are again single plant varieties. Compared to Midiron, these varieties have a finer leaf texture (narrow leaves), a slightly darker color, and more shoots per square foot than E-Z Turf Midiron. Because of this specific growth habit, these two varieties can tolerate a lower mowing height than E-Z Turf Midiron. This means that it will look the best when they are mowed at close mowing heights (1/2-1.0 inch) with a reel-type mower. Thus, during the summer, these varieties require mowing a minimum of 2-3 mowing events per week. There are many lawns, commercial properties, and multiple residential home sites in Arizona that have Tifway or Tifway II being mowed at higher mowing heights with rotary mowers. In these cases, the turfs are mowed at heights between 1.5-2.0 inches (and even up to 2.5 inches). While these varieties may look adequate in the spring and fall at the above elevated mowing heights, they may become "stringy" and scalp during the monsoon. This occurs because the tall turf do not maintain leaves at the lower end of the stolons and removal of 1/3 of less of the lawn height ends up removing a large portion of the existing leaves.
The University of California developed Santa Ana bermudagrass in the 1970's. It produces a thick lawn, with many shoots per square foot (like the Tifway's), but the leaves are slightly broader. It makes an excellent turf when managed properly. Santa Ana requires frequent mowings with a reel-type (only) mower. Base heights range from 7/16-1.0 inches in height. This variety will become puffy at heights above 1.25 inches. Because of its low mowing requirement, it should not be mowed taller at heights above 1.25 inches, essentially eliminating the effective use of a rotary mower for regular maintenance.
Bob-Sod (Bulls –Eye- ) (Bank One Ballpark Sod)
Mississippi State University developed ‘Bob-Sod' Bank One Ballpark's sod in the 1980's as the variety MS-30. It is a moderately dense forming sod, similar to that of Tifway and Santa Ana. Because of the low growing habit, Bob-Sod performs best when mowed at heights of 5/8-1.5 inches with a reel-type mower. Its high shoot density allows it to withstand traffic at these suggested mowing heights. Its color is slightly bluer in cast compared to Tifway.
TifSport is also a newly released vegetative sod developed by the Tifton Experiment Station in Georgia. TifSport has a dark green blue color and performs well when mowed with a reel-type mower at heights of 0.5-1.25 inches
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