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.

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.

SRP® Desert Wise Landscape Research Exhibit,
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Water Wise,

Source: SRP® DesertWise Landscape Research Exhibit

Source: SRP® DesertWise Landscape Research Exhibit