After a long, cold winter, I know it is tempting to go out on a warm sunny weekend and scalp your bermudagrass lawn now. Or, your mower may want to scalp your lawn. After all, they want to get going and get busy also. While it is just fine to cut off the rough edges from the winter and mow the dormant turf some, just don’t go overboard. And if you have some weeds that were sprayed, it’s important to top off those dying weeds by mowing down to remove dying vegetation and to speed up the weed control.
It is early April now, but the chance for a damaging freeze is not past until about April 15th, my favorite day of the year, when I settle up with Uncle Sam at my accountants office. The good news is that I have seen some green bermudagrass shooting up in the turf, and it appears we may have dodged a bullet with bad winterkill. However, I’ve experienced years in which the bermudagrass was turning green, too green, only to have a temperature drop into the high 20’s in early April. In those cases, the bermudagrass was whacked, and not necessarily killed, but was really damaged and set back many weeks by even a light freeze.
By scalping the turf down too short, you’ll be removing the valuable insulation of the dead leaf blades, and exposing the crown of the plant to cold air temperatures. Plus, by warming the soil with scalping and stimulating new green grass growth too soon, that new growth will be damaged if we were to have a significant freeze over the next week to ten days. We are not out of the woods yet, so I’d just concentrate on getting your mower clean, sharpen the blades, and get it ready to go in a few weeks.
After April 15th or so, then it is a good thing to scalp, or just mow your turf down short. Picking up the dead grass blades and stems would be good, if not it could lead to thatch development. This will warm the soil quicker leading to an earlier green-up for the bermudagrass, or even zoysiagrass. Never scalp a cool-season turf like tall fescue. Mowing it too short will damage, if not kill it.