I live in Brownsville and have clay soil in my backyard where I have been growing Bermuda Grass. I do have some brown patches where there is no grass growing. I was wondering if I needed to amend the soil and raise the pH a bit. Do you have any suggestions? Ruben P, Brownsville
Dr. Enrique Perez, Cameron County Extension agent, wrote that this maybe be a regular hot spot in which this area is so compact that there maybe no aeration or moisture for the roots. High clay turf areas have this symptom. "I recommend some aeration, and providing organic matter to the area. This will help in forming a more porous soil to improve filtration for both air, water and nutrients needed for plant growth and development. You may want to have a soil test done for the problem areas. This will give you the nutritional values of the area."
A local turf specialist, Jimmy Wilson, MS in turf management from Texas A&M, states that Bermuda Grass is extremely hardy and should be able to withstand most soil and environmental conditions in the Valley. Amending the soil to change the ph would only be a temporary solution and would be a constant job. Most often problems with grass in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are due to cultural practices of grass selection for that particular site. If the rest of the lawn looks healthy, shade or water are the most likely culprits. To check water, the pros use a soil probe (but you could use a hand trowel) to dig down and sample the soil. If the soil is dry below a 1/4 of an inch or so, it's too dry. Try watering deeply - an inch of water in the early morning hours every week in the summer months. If the spots are in shady areas, try trimming back nearby trees to let in some more light. Bermuda needs FULL sun to really thrive. That said, whether your soil has clay or sand, topdressing with compost over the entire yard would be beneficial and is recommended.
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