Bahia grass, also called highway grass, is a light green coarse textured warm season perennial grass. Its seeds take longer to germinate as they can take up to 28 days, making the young grass vulnerable to weeds. The grass spreads slowly through stolons and it will take longer before establishing a thick turf.
To grow a thicker lush Bahia lawn, you need to plant the grass in acidic soil with full sun exposure. Fertilize and water adequately but avoid overwatering as it will cause the grass to thin. Overseed the lawn in spring and mow often but high when the grass is actively growing.
There are six cultivars of Bahia grass. Below are the most popular.
- Pensacola bahiagrass – It is deep-rooted with more heat tolerance than any other variety.
- Argentine bahiagrass – its blades have a darker shade than other varieties, and it is loved for aesthetic reasons.
- Sand mountain bahiagrass – Has narrow blades with high cold tolerance.
Bahia grass is a hardy and easy-to-care-for type of grass that thrives in sandy soil that is acidic and low in nutrients. The grass grows well with full sun and high humidity, a condition most grass cannot tolerate.
How to Make Bahia Grass Thicker
Although Bahia grass is hardy and requires minimal maintenance when growing in its ideal conditions, growing a thick turf requires care. Below is how you can help your Bahia grass grow thicker and lush.
1. Provide Ideal Soil
Bahia grass thrives in infertile acidic sandy soil. When planted in neutral or alkaline soil, the grass will thin due to iron deficiency resulting in a pale yellow color.
Before you plant it, you should do a soil test to make sure the pH is between 5.5 and 6.5. Testing should also be done once every 3-4 years. If the soil pH is above 7.0, add iron in the form of ferrous sulfate.
Add 2 ounces of ferrous sulfate in 4 gallons of water for every 1000 square feet of lawn and spray. The process should be repeated after every two months through the growing season until the ideal pH is achieved.
2. Moderate Watering
Bahia grass is a highly drought-resistant grass due to its deep roots and therefore requires little water to thrive. Too much water will weaken the grass, making it susceptible to lawn diseases.
In southeastern areas, the rainfall is enough for the grass to thrive, but during an extended drought, the turf stops growing and fades. To grow a greener, thicker Bahia turf, water the lawn when the leaves start to wilt or when footsteps remain visible after walking on the grass.
Apply ½- ¾ inch of water per week during the dry season. Dormant lawns should be watered to prevent desiccation.
Bahia grass will thin out over time, and you need to overseed to make a thicker lawn. During winter, the grass will go dormant and will come out weaker.
The best time to overseed is during spring so that the grass will have germinated and started to establish before summer. You should not overseed Bahia grass during fall because the grass will be caught up by winter before establishing, and it will dry out.
Bahia seeds germinate at a soil temperature of 65 – 75°F. An overseeded Bahia lawn should be watered with 1 inch of water per week.
Although bahiagrass thrives in poor acidic soil, it still needs to be fertilized. Nitrogen and iron are very important as their lack causes the grass to turn yellow. Nitrogen deficiency also causes dollar spot fungal disease, which appears as large brown spots on the leaves.
To counter this, you need an annual fertilization schedule.
- Feb -March – Use a weed and feed before crabgrass germinates. Young Bahia grass is prone to weeds as the grass takes a long time to establish a thick turf that can choke weeds. It should be applied when the soil temperature is around 55°F.
- Late spring – Apply fertilizer and weed killer to counter emerging weeds and fuel the grass during the peak growing season. You can also feed the grass before the first frost strikes.
Bahia is a slow-growing grass and therefore has minimal mowing needs. However, due to its coarse textured blades, it should be mowed with a mower with very sharp blades to avoid tearing it.
During the peak growing season of spring to fall, mow once every two weeks, keeping it at a height of 3- 4 inches. When mowed below this height, it struggles to store water which will affect its seed production.
Also, mowing high improves its stress tolerance and encourages deep roots. You do not have to mow when the grass is dormant during winter.
Does Bahia Grass Spread?
Bahia grass is a warm-weather grass that thrives in full sun. It cannot tolerate cold or shade as it will thin and die.
Bahia grass spreads via root-like stems called stolons to form a dense turf. It does not spread aggressively, but once established, the thick turf has moderate tolerance to foot traffic. The turf is also tough to mow and requires a sharp mower blade, so you don’t damage the grass.
Bahia grass can be grown from seeds or sod. If left unmowed, it can reseed itself from its seed heads but will take some time before germinating and establishing.
To encourage the seed to germinate, kill weeds before the grass starts to drop seeds and till the bare patches. Although overseeding with seeds is cheaper, using sod will establish a lawn faster and have fewer chances of weed invading.
Although Bahia grass will still spread, its spreading rate is very slow compared to Bermuda and Kentucky bluegrass, so to establish a full, lush lawn, you will need to be patient. Overseeding can help fill the lawn faster.
Bahia cannot tolerate shade and, therefore, should not be planted on a lawn with trees or large vegetation. Growing in full sun will help the grass spread faster.
Bahia is a warm-season grass that spreads through stolons. The grass thrives in poor acidic sandy soil and has low maintenance requirements.
To make the grass thicker, you need to plant it in its ideal soil, water adequately, overseed, fertilize and mow it appropriately. Bahia grass grows slowly and can be established from seeds or sod.
- The University of Florida, BAHIAGRASS FOR FLORIDA LAWNS
- University of Georgia Ext, The Management and Use of Bahiagrass
- Clemson Cooperative Extension, BAHIAGRASS