Green Grass in the Winter – Overseeding

front-yardGreen Grass in Winter

Late September to mid-October marks a major milestone for turf landscapes in the desert. At this time, those who want to maintain green parks and lawns through the winter need to overseed Bermuda grass with winter Ryegrass.

Bermuda grass, which grows well in the summer, turns brown and goes dormant with the first frost and remains that way until spring.  Ryegrass however, stays green and vibrant through the cooler months, with the exception of heavily shaded areas, and will die out with the return of triple-digit temperatures.

Steps for Overseeding Your Lawn

1. Timing is critical. The ideal time to overseed is when nighttime temperatures are regularly below 65 degrees (typically mid-October). About 2 weeks prior to overseeding, reduce the amount of irrigation water to the Bermuda by about half. This will signal the Bermuda to slow its growth and store energy for the winter.

2. In order to successfully spread the Ryegrass seed, you need to prepare the seedbed for planting. Lower the mowing height on your lawn mower in several passes, taking off about ¼ inch each mow cycle until the grass is approximately ¾ inch in height. Make sure to remove the clippings by mowing with a bag-catcher or by raking them up. The goal for this process is to make sure the Ryegrass seed comes into direct contact with the soil.

3. Now you are ready for seeding. For the best results, use perennial Ryegrass seed. Use a rotary spreader or drop spreader to evenly distribute the seed at a rate of 8 to 10 pounds per thousand square feet. To maximize germination, lightly rake and then cover the lawn with ¼ inch of mulch. Apply a starter fertilizer (6-20-20 or 6-24-24) after the seed is down. Water the area after spreading the Ryegrass seed, and set your irrigation clock to water 3 to 4 times a day at approximately 2 to 5 minute cycles. This schedule ensures the soil and mulch remain moist, and not overly wet, until germination. This step should take 7 to 10 days.

4. After the seedlings emerge, reduce watering to once daily. When the grass reaches about 2 inches in height, it is time for the first mow. Cut the grass to about 1½ inch in height and fertilize with a 21-7-14 fertilizer. Make sure to water immediately following the fertilizer application. Depending on temperatures and rainfall, you can then reduce the watering schedule to once every 2 or 3 days. To keep your lawn from turning yellow, fertilize every 3 to 6 weeks with ammonium nitrate (34-0-0) or calcium nitrate. Apply all fertilizers according to the directions on the package.

Hand Spreader

Use a rotary spreader to distribute seed.

By following these steps, you should achieve a lush, green lawn through the winter months and into spring. When triple-digit temperatures return, it will be time to transition from the Ryegrass back to the Bermuda grass.

Greener Pastures Ahead

It’s TraTurfnsition Time

As nighttime temperatures in the Southwest start to creep up into the 60s, the Bermuda grass, which has been dormant all winter, begins to wake up and grow. As daytime temperatures exceed 90 degrees, the winter Rye grass should begin to recede. It is during this transition period where both types of grass compete for space and water.
Transitioning from Ryegrass to Bermuda grass is, ideally, a gradual process that typically lasts from the beginning of April through the end of May.

What To Expect

Subtle changes occur in turf areas throughout the transition period. Irrigation Technicians monitor watering times in the common areas to encourage Bermuda grass growth. Through this process, less water is used, not more. To suppress the Ryegrass growth, we gradually lower mower heights from 2 inches down to 1-1.25 inches.
As Ryegrass dies off, turf may appear off-color or yellow and there may even be some areas that appear dry. This is a temporary condition that improves as the Bermuda grass fills in. Sometimes when the Ryegrass dies, it forms a thick mat which is easily removed with a verticutting machine. Once Bermuda grass is actively growing, ideally by early May, Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer (21-0-0) is applied to enhance color and growth and promote healthy turf.

Try It At Home

Transition will take place on a large scale in your Community over several weeks and the same process can be applied to your yard. Gradually lower the height of your lawn mower over the course of a few weeks and reduce the amount of water to approximately 6-8 minutes every 2 or 3 days. If you encounter some dead spots, use a hard rake to remove the matted Ryegrass. Apply Ammonium Sulfate fertilizer (21-0-0) at a rate of 5 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. of turf. By the 1st of June, your Bermuda grass will be ready for the summer months.

Turf Aeration

Beautiful, Healthy Turf

aerated turfTurf is an integral component of common area landscape. Its aesthetic qualities and value as a recreation surface make it a desirable part of many communities. Beautiful, healthy turf is always the goal in any maintenance plan, and this goal can only be attained with an intelligent approach to horticultural practices. Turf areas that are utilized frequently often suffer from soil compaction. Prolonged physical compaction of the soil results in a hard surface that does not allow efficient water penetration, oxygen absorption by the roots and movement of nutrients from the surface into the root system, which are needed for healthy turf. The effects of compaction can be mitigated by aeration, a valuable but often overlooked, horticultural practice that is a very effective tool for maintaining healthy turf.

Aeration Methods

Aerated TurfThe aeration process is achieved by different methods; all of them involve creating holes (3 to 6 inches deep) in the turf soil.  One common method of aeration involves forcing a solid tine into the soil through the use of gravity (weight), hydraulic down-pressure or vibration.  This is a fast, clean process in that no soil cores are removed and litter the turf.  Another method of aeration involves driving a hollow core tine into the soil and removing a small cylindrical-shaped soil “plug”.  These plugs are left on the turf surface and are broken up by subsequent mowing.  Golf course greens are aerated utilizing this method several times each summer.

The best time to apply soil amendments and fertilizer is immediately after aeration while the holes are fresh.  Amendments fill the holes and are quickly absorbed and distributed to the turf’s root zone.  Through aeration, water and oxygen penetrate the soil and roots and promote healthy turf. At home, apply a turf fertilizer after aeration to achieve the same nutrient balance in your soil.

Did You Know?

Compacted soils offer an ideal environment for a fungus known as Fairy Ring.

Fairy Ring

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Nutsedge

Is It Grass?

turf_nutsedgePossibly one of the worst turf weeds to infest your lawn, Nutsedge spreads quickly and is extremely hard to eradicate. Nutsedge is the common name for Cyperus esculentus (yellow) and Cyperus rotundus (purple), a weed type that germinates well in warm moist soils and spreads through tubers (referred to as “nuts” or “nutlets”) under the soil. The tubers, or nuts, are grown on underground stems known as rhizomes that can grow as deep as 12 to 16 inches under the surface of the soil bed. Buds sprout on the tubers and grow new plants, this process eventually leads to a patch of Nutsedge.

nutsedge_shootsNutsedge looks similar to grass, but the blades are thicker and stiffer than most grasses. They grow straighter and in sets of 3 stems at the base (as opposed to 2 in grasses).

An infestation of Nutsedge is problematic because it grows twice as fast as turf grass requiring more frequent mowing and it is lighter green resulting in non-uniform turf appearance.

Fighting Nutsedge

Nutsedge is nearly impossible to get rid of, but it can be controlled. If you are lucky and catch the Nutsedge early you can limit the production of tubers, which will suppress it from spreading. To limit tuber production continually remove the shoots and as much of the plant as possible by hand every 2 weeks. This will cause the plant to put all of its energy into growing new shoots instead of new tubers. Mature tubers can re-grow their shoots up to 12 times, so you will need to be consistent.Nutsedge TubersSince Nutsedge looks similar to grass it is difficult to recognize early. If it has already taken over a small portion of your lawn you may want to consider chemical treatment. The best herbicide to treat Nutsedge is called Sedge Hammer, which is very expensive and can only be applied by a Certified Spray Technician (AZ SPCC Certified). The chemical should be applied during the growing season every 3 weeks; it will take as many as 3 or more applications to fully control the Nutsedge. To find a company with Certified Spray Technicians visit http://www.sb.state.az.us/CompanyDirectory.php.

Nary a Worry…With The Right Program, Weeds Are a Non-Issue

As great as the rains have been for plants and turf, they’ve also been good for one other thing. Weeds love rain! It’s during springtime that weeds grow the fastest and, without control, can dominate decomposed granite (DG) and other areas.

Weed Control

THE GOOD NEWS?

If we’re at your Community, we’ve got you covered. DLC already has a comprehensive weed control program in place, using pre and post emergent products. For those few weeds that do pop up, we treat them in their early stages so they’re a non-issue.

QUICK TIP: If you’re currently battling with weeds in your Community, you might review your landscape providers’ plan.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: To learn more about weed control for homeowners, click here.

Weeds Are Among Us

main-weed_imgSoaking rains bring much needed water to our desert environment, including plants. Rainwater is especially beneficial to plant material as rainwater is less alkaline than our irrigation water. While rain is a positive thing for our plants and irrigation water bills, it also helps weeds grow. For effective weed control in your yard, manual removal is the easiest way to get rid of a small number of weeds. To control weeds over a large area, herbicides are the most efficient tools available. There are two categories of herbicides for weed control: Pre-emergent and Post-emergent.

Pre-emergent herbicides:

Pre-emergent herbicides are designed to prevent seeds from germinating in the soil. They are most effective when applied during the rainy season. In Arizona, that means either before the summer monsoon in June & July and from October through January to take advantage of the winter rains. A timely application of pre-emergent can greatly reduce the number of weeds that germinate since it inhibits the weeds’ roots and does not allow them to grow.

Pre-emergent

Post-emergent for winter and spring weeds:

Post-emergent herbicides kill weeds that have germinated and are visible in the landscape. To kill weeds in winter months, you need to use a herbicide containing Diquat.

Spectracide products, which contain Diquat, are available for personal use at most home improvement stores or nurseries.

Post-emergent winter

Post-emergent for summer weeds:

Spring and summer are the best times to use Roundup concentrate. Be careful not to spray weed killer on plants or turf as the weed chemical is absorbed by the leaves and travels through the plant. These products cannot differentiate between plants and weeds. Additionally, this type of weed killer does not instantly kill the plant.  If you spray the weed and then remove it, any remaining roots may not have time to absorb the weed control spray.

Post-emergent summer

*Product label design and prices may vary. These products are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved and have been deemed safe and reliable. No license is needed to apply most herbicides on your own property. DLC trains and maintains a crew of applicators to safely transport and apply these herbicides in your common areas. Our spray applicators are Licensed Pest Applicators by the State of Arizona Office of Pest Management. When dealing with any chemical, make sure to read the label and follow instructions carefully.

Weed_Indentification

Dormant Bermuda

Improved Turf Health

beautiful dormant bermudaRegular overseeding can cause your warm season, hybrid Bermuda grass to be sparse, weak or prone to problems. The overseeding process inhibits the buildup of the reserves that Bermuda grass needs to make it through the winter, which means there will be less energy for re-growth in the spring. When warm weather arrives, the strong Ryegrass competes with the dormant Bermuda for sunlight, water, nutrients and even oxygen. This competition keeps Bermuda from gaining strength through the summer and by the time the Ryegrass finally recedes, the weak Bermuda may not have spread as much as it should have.

Suspending the overseeding process for at least one season restores the root system of the Bermuda that would otherwise be damaged during the cooler months. Suspending overseeding also allows the Bermuda to store the necessary nutrients needed for vigorous growth in the warm season. There are some simple steps you can take to care for your dormant Bermuda that will help it grow back stronger and thicker in the next growing season while saving you money, time and frustration.

First, in October, begin reducing the irrigation water amount by 50%. Before your grass goes dormant, in mid-November, put down an 11-52-0 winterizing fertilizer to prepare for the next season of Bermuda. After the first frost of the season, stop watering your plant material altogether. Not only does not overseeding help improve the health of your Bermuda grass, for every season you forgo overseeding, you save over 8,000 gallons of water per 1,000 square feet of grass.

Your New Winter Routine

While Bermuda is dormant, it only needs to be mowed twice a month to achieve a clean and even appearance. During the two weeks you do not mow, fill ruts and indentions with screened fill dirt to eliminate hazards and prepare your lawn to look its springtime best. Controlling weeds with a post-emergent herbicide during Bermuda’s dormant months takes advantage of the natural cycle of the Bermuda to combat the weeds. We recommend using Triple Strike, a product commonly found at your local home improvement store, for grassy or broad leaf weeds growing in dormant Bermuda lawns. If you overseeded your lawn and have weeds growing in your winter Ryegrass, you may wish to consult a Certified Pest Applicator; find one at http://www.sb.state.az.us/PCProfSearch.php

When the soil temperature reaches 70 degrees, typically when daytime temperatures are consistently in the 90s, your Bermuda will come out of hibernation and begin showing the results of your winter labor. Just before or as that happens, put down a 21-0-0 fertilizer to stimulate growth and enhance color. Also, begin watering again two to three days a week, adjusting your schedule for temperature and rainfall.