Changing seasons bring with them different conditions of temperature. If you do not understand this science, you may face those seasonal surprises where your lawn freezes and remains unattractively dormant, whereas a neighbor’s backyard is booming green. The difference between your yard and that all-year lovely one belonging to your homie is most probably one type of grass! You heard that right- Ryegrass. Let’s learn a little more about this.
What is ryegrass?
Ryegrass, annual or perennial, is a vital grass for soil stabilization during the winter. The most common need for ryegrass is in winter, a season during which other attractive lawn grasses like St. Augustine and Bermuda become dormant.
Most homeowners in Texas prefer overseeding with ryegrass to keep their lawns alive during the Fall. Ryegrass is planted throughout the US, though the reasons for growing it differ from place to place. One of the most attractive characteristics of ryegrass is its fast germination and establishment rates. It is thus common to find this grass on both temporary and permanent lawns.
Ryegrass, especially the perennial species, forms a luxurious and fine-bladed lawn that keeps all the vibrancy through winter fall. This is subject to suitable growing conditions and where you live. Texas is one of the places where this winter grass does magnificently.
Advantages to seed ryegrass in the Fall in Texas
Ryegrass is mostly useful for the winter season when other grasses do not do well in frozen ground. To protect your other grass species, you need to plant your rye at an ideal time. This way, you reap all the benefits of the grass, and at the appropriate time.
So, what are these benefits?
- Lawn structure
Ryegrass remains vibrant through winter. Unlike other grasses, rye maintains the continuous green cover on your lawn, protecting it (the lawn), and preserving the structure. If the grass on your lawn is dormant for too long (as long as the Fall lasts), you should expect structural degradation on the lawn in the form of patches of dried grass. Ryegrass is your lawn’s companion through this cold season.
- Taking deep root
We all know how good weeds are at suffocating our precious grown plants, including grasses. As the summer ends and temperatures begin dwindling, weeds start attacking dormant grass. Fortunately, ryegrass can thwart the growth of weeds. You ask how- and this is how-
The trick is usually with the time that you overseed. Overseeding at the right time allows the ryegrass to take deep root in the soil. This has two main advantages: aerating the soil and overtaking the weeds during the dormancy period.
When the temperatures rise above 83-85�F, the rye dies, and the organic matter thereof decomposes. The decomposing organic matter is good food for your other lawn grasses. Similarly, when the temperature drops like in a winter frost, your lawn grass already has the nourishment it needs to make through the cold season.
The majority of Texas homeowners have used ryegrass for only this purpose. Ryegrass protects your other grass varieties in three ways. First, when seeded at the right time, ryegrass layers the ground really fast, covering and protecting your lawn. When the Fall begins, your other grasses are protected from freezing.
Secondly, ryegrass is thick and robust. If your lawn experiences heavy foot traffic, or your kid is kind of obsessed with their ride-on car, the grass hardly takes a beating. It’ll remain green and full of life, even with the two elements working together.
Thirdly, ryegrass is known to contain allelochemicals that, once released into the soil, discourages the growth of weeds by a big deal.
The Ideal Time to Plant Ryegrass
The process of planting ryegrass onto an existing turf to protect the latter from harsh winter temperatures is called overseeing. If you want to reap from a plant at a specific time in the future, you need to plant at a particular time, ideal for the plant. This is also the case with winter grass.
The seeding time for ryegrass is a little bit of a risky affair. If you plant the winter grass too early, it competes with the existing grasses for nutrients and space. On the other hand, if you plant rye too late to winter, the grass hardly has enough time to sufficiently grow before the temperatures drop.
It is best to wait until other grasses, probably Bermuda or St. Augustine, have become dormant. The rye won’t be competing for sunlight and nutrients at this time. At approximately 30 days before the first frost, the night temperatures are usually well above 50�F, while the diurnal temperatures do not exceed 70�F. this is the ideal time to overseed ryegrass. In Texas, this period falls between October and early November.
How to overseed your lawn in Texas
As seen above, it is recommended to overseed about 30 days before the first frost. Additionally, lawn grass experts recommend aerifying the sites 30 days before overseeding. For most homeowners, this could be too hard to do or just impossible. If your summer grass is not St. Augustine, you need to scalp the lawn down to as low as your mower can achieve. This is akin to allowing the seeds better depth into the soil.
The overseeded lawn should be fertilized with a complete fertilizer. One of the best to use would be 18-6-12, applied at a rate of five pounds per 1000 ft2. The fertilizer must also be applied immediately after seeding to avoid burning the germinating seedlings.
After about three weeks, the seedlings will have emerged, ready for the second round of fertilizer application. Again, apply a complete fertilizer such as 18-6-12 at a rate of two pounds per 1000 ft2. This promotes a dense and healthy stand of grass.
As soon as you plant your winter grass seed, you should start watering lightly a few times a day until germination. You should, however, be cautious with the amount of water you use. Too much water on germinating ryegrass seeds causes them to rot.
Challenges associated with overseeding
Overseeding isn’t always an excellent idea. In some situations, it creates challenges for your summer grasses. The most common challenges include:
- Spring weather
Competition for nutrients and sunlight intensifies during the spring break. This is when the warm season grasses are re-growing after the dormancy period. Should the Spring be chilly and wet, the overseeded grass will be favored at the warm season grass’s detriment.
- Scalping down
It is necessary to scalp down the warm season grass before overseeding. Scalped down grass will not be able to store the essential food for the winter months. This is intensified because, during the Fall, the overseeded grass competes for nutrients, sending the summer grass to malnourished winter dormancy.
Studies have revealed that ryegrass produces allelopathic chemicals. These chemicals inhibit not only the growth of weeds but also other grasses. This, combined with the other two factors above, may cause your Bermuda grass serious harm.
How to counter the challenges
The above challenges may render your Bermuda grass non-existent in three years, if not addressed timely and adequately. Whereas it’s impossible to ultimately work around the situation, a few things can be done to save your summer grass from early degradation.
Do these to have your lawn in good shape for long:
- Use improved ryegrass
Improved turf-type annual ryegrass has a better spring transition as compared to the perennial type. Annual ryegrass is better suppressed in the Spring break.
One variety that’s good for Texas homeowners is Pantera. Pantera is magnificent low-maintenance ryegrass that grows pretty much like the perennial types, but one that quickly dies out during Spring.
- Lower the mowing height
Regularly lowering the mowing height just before Spring tends to thin out the ryegrass, giving more room for the warm-season grass that’s re-growing.
Working with a Professional Lawn Maintenance
Most Texas homeowners are unable to carry out the extensive lawn maintenance by themselves. They thus prefer working with professional lawn maintenance companies or individuals. There are some good reasons why you should hire an expert to have your lawn overseeded. These include;
- Saves you time
Insect and weed control, regular mowing, fertilizing, and watering are essentials to a fair lawn. These are tedious activities, however, and you may not have the necessary time to do them. Lawn maintenance professional will get the job done, as you attend to your rather tight schedule.
- Quality work
having a beautiful lawn throughout the year is subject to skill. You may not have the skill, but the lawn maintenance professional has the necessary knowledge and experience to ensure your lawn is top-notch, year-round.
- There’s more than just mowing.
Lawn maintenance is not about the grass only. Your lawn would look much better if things like gardening, renovations, brush removal, and tree pruning is done alongside mowing. Professional lawn care companies offer these services too, so you do not have to worry about them.
The benefits of annual ryegrass on your lawn are certainly worth the cost. Or who doesn’t want to admire their lawn for 365 days in a year? The process of achieving the best winter grass and afterward being able to re-grow the summer grass entirely can be daunting. If the guidelines given here are not that sufficient, do not hesitate to hire a local professional to get the job done for you.