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Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Perfect Winter Lawn

Lawn SprinklerYour Bermuda lawn will become fully dormant and brown with the first frost. Many people choose to simply let nature takes its course in this regard, however some homeowner’s associations regulate over seeding in front yards. So to stay “green” this winter, you have the option to over seed with a winter grass.   For optimum germination of your winter perennial rye seed, over seed when the night-time temperatures are in the 60s and daytime temperatures are in the mid to low 90s, making the “magic date” usually mid October. So, why think about this now? Usually, people get the urge to plant rye seed when daytime temperatures begin feeling like fall, and this can be as early as late September. Put out too early, rye seed will merely lie there, rot or feed the birds, and the seed can wither with too vigorous competition from the warm-weather Bermuda. Also, there are some maintenance steps and seed-purchase choices to take care of now. This will smooth the transition from a summer Bermuda lawn to a winter Rye lawn and keep your lawn looking its best throughout the process.

Begin transition maintenance on your Bermuda by mowing your lawn at increasingly lower mower deck heights. Each week from now until mid-October, lower your mower deck slightly when you mow. Then, just before over seeding with rye grass seed, de-thatch or scalp your lawn. This enables the seed to come in contact with the dirt and increases the germination and therefore the density of your resultant lawn.

Before you consider purchasing rye seed for this year’s winter lawn, educate yourself. The kind of rye you purchase–that is the varieties of rye in the seed blend–have a dramatic effect on how much you will spend initially on rye seed for the over-seeding project, not to mention water use for germination and long-term maintenance. The blend will also determine how the lawn will look and what maintenance issues you will encounter.

There are three types of rye seed: annual, perennial and intermediate. Annual rye is characterized by a wide blade, fast growing (four to six inchsed per week), high water use and content and sometimes can appears rangy. Perennial rye has a much finer blade, lower water use, is slower growing (half-inch per week if fertilized with slow-release fertilizer), more dense, has high disease and insect resistance, higher heat tolerance and lower moisture content. Intermediate rye is just that, an intermediate choice. It is somewhat courser than perennial, has a wider blade, but not as wide as annual and is faster growing than perennial. Intermediate rye is commonly seen on fairways at golf courses.

For home applications, either perennial or intermediate rye is advisable. My personal preference is perennial rye. Frankly it is a higher quality grass, looks better, uses less water, gives off less clippings, the lower moisture content means the kids’ clothes won’t have those huge mushy grass stains when they come in from playing, not to mention the grass won’t clog up the mower deck with huge, soggy, globs of grass. Intermediate grass is a good-looking alternative.

The primary objection people have to using perennial rye grass seed is the cost. This objection, however, is based on a myth that quality costs more. Not only will perennial rye grass cost you less in the long run with time and water, it only appears to cost more to use initially. When buying grass seed, look beyond the cost per pound. Annual grass seed may cost $0.45 per pound, while Perennial grass seed may cost $1.20 per pound, and Intermediate may cost $0.78 per pound. Here it appears that perennial rye grass will cost more because you will pay more for 10 pounds of perennial rye than you will for 10 pounds of annual rye. However, 10 pounds of perennial rye will cover a much larger area. So educate yourself: Read the seeding rate on the bag AND DO THE MATH. The seed count–number of seeds per poun– is almost double in perennial rye versus annual rye. You will be able to cover more area with 10 pounds of perennial rye than with 10 pounds of annual ryeand, invariably spend less overall using perennial rye. The same holds true with annual versus intermediate rye. When purchasing seed, look for a blend that is 100 percent perennial, 100 percent intermediate or a ratio of the two and you will love your lawn.

When you plant, sow seed in two directions to ensure even distribution. Spread half in one direction and the other half perpendicular to the first. We recommend applying seed with a broadcast spreader on a calm day. Seeding rates for perennial ryes vary so read how many pounds per 1,000 square feet of area are needed before you begin.

After sowing, pre-emergent herbicide may be applied to areas like flower and planter beds where you do not wish seed to germinate. There are some highly effective organic choices available now.

Consider using a starter fertilizer to give your new winter lawn a healthy start. Something like 6-24-24 is a great choice because it gives a strong boost of phosphate and potassium, which roots need to thrive and grow. To apply, spread five pounds of fertilizer over 1,000 square feet. If you have water penetration problems, apply First Step Soil Acidifier at a rate of five to eight pounds per 1,000 square feet. Applying First Step at the time you over seed will also deter birds that might otherwise feed on your seed (when wet it gives off a slight sulfurous smell that birds dislike). A follow-up fertilization should take place in four weeks, using a higher nitrogen fertilizer like 15-15-15.

To save water and seed, cover the seed with Top It mulch (a finely ground wood mulch) at a rate of one cubic yard per 1,500 square feet. For smaller areas, use at a rate of nine 1.5 cubic foot bags per 1,000 square feet. Top-dressing protects the seed from drying out and greatly aids germination. We do not recommend manure because of weed seeds, odor and high soluble salts content.

Water five to seven times per day, about one-eighth inch each time starting about 7 a.m. with the last watering about 6 p.m. Keep the lawn moist until germination is complete. After germination, the intervals between watering should be decreased until the lawn is being thoroughly watered once or twice per week.

September Gardening Checklist

  • Fertilize, acidify and mulch – citrus, roses, most trees and shrubs. Keep your yard looking its best with this trio of TLC, fertilizing, acidifying and mulching three times per year: Labor Day, Valentines Day and Memorial Day.
  • Treat the last of any pesky insects, like aphids, with an organic insecticide like Neem Oil.
  • Plant geraniums for big boosts of color that will last all winter.
  • Adjust watering schedules.       When temperatures cool, plants will need less frequent watering.
  • Circular patches of dead lawn could mean you have pearl scale. Check with a horticulture professional for an accurate diagnosis.
  • Prepare vegetable and flower beds for October planting by adding the trio fertilizer, acidifier and mulch.       TIP: water the bare ground and germinate any weeds before you plant. Then you can till them under and decrease the amount of time you will spend weeding later.

 

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