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.

Butterfly Gardening

Suitable Conditions

ButterflyThe goal of butterfly gardening is to introduce plants and create suitable conditions that will attract and encourage more butterflies to live there. If conditions are right, butterflies will appear on flowering plants starting in late spring through the summer. With some simple planning, you can create a garden that provides for a butterfly’s entire life cycle. There are just a few basics required for a butterfly garden.

Required Basics

  1. Sunshine and Protection: Place the garden in a sunny location that is protected from the wind. Butterflies tend to be most active on sunny, calm days when temperatures range from 65 to 95 degrees. Planting trees or shrubs nearby provides the needed protection from the wind while butterflies are feeding. Butterflies also need to warm their bodies in order to fly. By placing some rocks around the garden, it provides added areas for the butterflies to heat themselves before flight.
  2. Moisture: Butterflies not only feed on nectar, but also on water provided by streams and morning dew. Create depressions in your garden where water can pool providing a water supply between irrigation cycles.
  3. Flowers: In a butterfly garden, you should provide both nectar sources and larval food plants. Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of certain flowers, while caterpillars feed on specific plants. Therefore, it is important to have an adequate mix of plants that will support larvae and other plants available for adults.

Listed below are just a few common plants that will attract butterflies in your garden. Make sure to refer to the approved plant list in your community’s residential design guidelines to see what specific plants are permitted in your landscape.

Recommended Plants

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

Wildflowers

When the winter and summer rains are done, the Sonoran Desert comes alive with bright and vibrant wildflowers. To achieve this natural looking landscape you will need to know when and how to plant your wildflower seeds.wildflowercombo

Soil

Before planting, it is best to loosen the soil in the area you want your wildflowers to bloom. This enhances soil aeration and increases water permeability.

Time To Plant

The optimum soil temperatures needed for seed germination vary depending on species. Spring-blooming annuals such as poppies, lupines and bluebells should be planted October through December. Summer-blooming annuals such as Arizona poppy and devil’s claw can be planted in late spring or early summer. Seed planting also varies for perennials. Penstemons, evening primroses and blackfoot daisy germinate more readily in the fall. Summer growers such as datura, desert senna and desert plumbago germinate in late spring to early summer.

Sowing

After you have prepared your soil, level the bed with a rake to create an even surface on which to sow your seeds. Your flowers will look more natural if the seed is broadcast randomly and evenly over the prepared beds rather than planted in rows. It also helps if you mix your seeds with sand or fine dirt for ease in broadcasting them more evenly. Read package instructions as some seeds may need treatment prior to sowing.

Watering

Dsc00043Water the seeds daily with a fine mist sprayer, keeping the soil evenly moist until they emerge from the ground. Once the seedlings emerge, water every other day, keeping a careful watch on the small plants and not allowing them to dry out. Once the plants are showing four to five leaves and are well established, a deep soaking once a week or less often will suffice.

For more information on wildflowers, please go to: http://www.dbg.org/gardening-horticulture/gardening-resources

Source: http://www.dbg.org

Dodder

IMG_6087Have you ever walked by a shrub that looked like it was covered with spaghetti? No, it’s not cloudy with a chance of meatballs – the plant is infected with a weed called Dodder. Dodder is a parasitic vine that is extremely difficult to eradicate. What is a parasitic vine? It’s a weed that depends on a host plant for all of its needs.

How to Identify Dodder

To spot Dodder, look for long, slender, thread like stems that kind of look like spaghetti. It may also have bell shaped flowers that are cream colored. Dodder is a tricky weed because it grows and branches out to nearby plants very easily. Because of this ability, it often looks like a matted mess covering up a whole plant. The more vines there are, the more energy that is removed from the host plant. The loss of nutrients to the Dodder combined with the loss of light from the matted weeds can cause major damage to the host plant.

IMG_6077Dodder Challenges

One of the biggest challenges with Dodder is its seeds. Dodder is a flowering plant and its flowers will produce thousands of seeds which, when mature, will fall to the soil below. The seeds have a very hard coat around them and stay dormant in the soil until the right conditions come around to sprout. When it comes to getting rid of a Dodder infestation, it is the seeds that cause the greatest headache, which is why prevention is so important.

Removal

At the first sign of Dodder, pull it off the plant and throw it away. Check the infestation site often because the weed may quickly regrow so it’s important to keep pulling. If you see Dodder soon after it has attached itself to a host, prune the infected portion of the host plant 1/8 to 1/4 inch below the point of the attachment, otherwise the dodder can regenerate. If the Dodder is attached to a shrub or tree, pruning is only helpful if it is confined to one or two branches. Removing any more than that will most likely cause major damage to the host shrub or tree.

Because Dodder is extremely difficult to destroy once it has taken over a plant, it is important to try to end the growth cycle. Use a pre-emergent herbicide like oryzaline that, when added to the soil under the infested plants, will kill the seed before it grows. Currently, there are no post-emergent herbicides that kill dodder without also killing the host plant. If the infestation is completely unmanageable, removal of the host plant with its attached dodder may be the easiest solution.

Artificial Turf

Is Artificial Turf Right for Your Lawn?

Natural LawnFirst seen in the 1960’s, artificial turf used to be installed only at football fields, putt-putt courses and tacky backyard patios. Synthetic grass has come a long way since then and is gaining more respect. When water bills are high and water conservation is top of mind, many homeowners are questioning whether artificial grass may be right for their yard. According to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Water Wise program, turf can be the most water intensive planting in a landscape. They suggest that if you don’t need turf, replace it with lower water use landscape options (such as natural desert landscaping). If you need turf, consider a synthetic lawn or a native grass turf. Let’s take an un-biased look at natural and artificial grass:

Natural Grass…

  • Improves air quality. The grass blades and extensive root systems capture pollutants such as dust, ozone and sulfur dioxide. Like other living plants, grass lawns absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
  • Acts as an evaporative cooler and lowers surrounding air temperatures. In 2004, Salt River Project (SRP) conducted an 18 month research exhibition on select grass varieties, synthetic turf and xeriscape. Natural grass was the coolest at 100 degrees.
  • Requires maintenance. Lawns need regular watering, mowing, fertilizing and weeding, as well as occasional aerating, dethatching and the optional overseeding.
  • Lower install costs. A natural lawn can cost about $1 per square foot to install, while artificial turf averages around $6 to $8 per square foot.

Artificial Grass…

  • Easy to maintain – artificial grass only requires an occasional hosing to remove dust and raking to maintain appearance. You can create grass where it would otherwise be difficult to grow and maintain.
  • Has a hot surface. In SRP’s temperature test, synthetic grass topped the charts at an unbearable 165 degrees. However, it did cool off quickly when shaded and did not radiate heat like asphalt. See the graph at the bottom of the page.
  • Synthetic grass is hypo-allergenic and won’t aggravate your allergies.
  • Long term water savings may outweigh the install costs. Most companies offer a 9-10 year manufacturer’s warranty and the average life span is 15-20 years. Dan Levy of XGrass® states, “Artificial grass can save a homeowner up to 60% on their yearly water bill. That’s a lot of water to conserve over the turf life span.”

Another Alternative…

XeriscapeIf you aren’t sure that grass – real or synthetic – is what you want, consider another alternative: xeriscaping. Xeriscape is a landscaping method that employs drought-resistant plants in an effort to conserve resources, especially water. According to SRP’s study, the xeriscape demonstration garden used 12 times less water than would have been needed to maintain a similar-sized area of turf. A xeriscape landscape also requires little maintenance compared to turf.

We encourage you to do your own research. Find out what your Community Association allows and if your city offers rebates for landscape conversion. Compare artificial turf companies, as each will have different costs, warranties and life spans. Your lawn is just that, yours. Make a decision that is best for your property and that has the most appeal for you.

Source:
SRP® Desert Wise Landscape Research Exhibit,
http://www.srpnet.com
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Water Wise, http://www.ag.arizona.edu/cochise/waterwise/

Source: SRP® DesertWise Landscape Research Exhibit

Source: SRP® DesertWise Landscape Research Exhibit