“Ryegrass” Pros and Cons of Overseeding Lawns“Ryegrass” Pros and Cons of Overseeding Lawns
Many homeowners and green industry personnel have begun inquiring about overseeding lawns with cool-season grasses that will ensure green grass throughout the winter. I must say that we are spoiled here on the Gulf Coast. It is not uncommon to see green St. Augustine or centipede grass deep into the winter season during mild winters. I will admit I did not see many green lawns this past winter season except for those overseeded with a cool-season grass.
Sure, everyone likes a lush, green lawn all year long. It is, however, a natural occurrence for warm-season grasses like St. Augustine and centipede to enter dormancy as the weather cools. Overseeding your lawn with ryegrass can give you that green color during the winter season, but cool-season grasses need maintenance just like the warm-season grasses.
It is now too late in the year to expect warm-season grasses to firmly establish and grow well. As a result, some people prefer to plant ryegrass. If you are just starting or renovating a lawn, consider planting ryegrass this winter. If you have an established lawn, you may consider overseeding it with ryegrass for green color this winter.
There are many types of ryegrasses grown for lawns in the United States. Annual ryegrass (Lollium multiflorium) is commonly grown in USA as forage for winter grazing. You may here this grass referred to as Italian ryegrass. It is quick to germinate and is often used to overseed the warm-season grasses. The warm-season turf is sometimes mowed one last time to allow the ryegrass seed to get good soil contact. Sometimes the seed is simply spread on top of the established turf and watered in.
Annual ryegrass is lighter green and slightly coarser than perennial ryegrass. It also is less heat tolerant than the perennial ryegrass. This is one advantage since cool-season grasses can interfere with warm-season grasses as they begin to grow in the spring.
Perennial ryegrass (Lollium perenne) is another ryegrass that is used for overseeding. It is used extensively in the Northern areas of the United States as a warm-season grass. It does not act like a perennial in USA and cannot grow during the spring and summer. It must be replanted every year because it cannot survive our hot weather from year to year. Like annual ryegrass, it is used to
establish temporary lawns or overseed warm-season grasses. Perennial ryegrass has finer leaves and is darker green than annual ryegrass. Have you ever noticed the green grass in athletic fields in the winter? Chances are the grass you are seeing is perennial ryegrass. It is the preferred cool-season grass for athletic fields during this time of the year.
Planting time is important in ryegrass establishment. We are just entering the preferred time for overseeding in our area. Rye may be used to overseed warm-season turf now through the end of November. Seed planted after this time period may not have time to grow into plants that can survive freezing temperatures.
Seeding rates are important for a uniform stand of grass. Ryegrasses are bunch grasses, and seeding too lightly will produce a thin turf. Perennial ryegrass should be seeded at the rate of 8 to 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Annual ryegrass should be seeded at 10 to 12 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Ryegrass is a living turf just like warm-season turf. Yes, even during the winter, cool-season grasses require fertilizing, watering, mowing, and other care to produce the desired effect. A soil test is the only way to know exactly what fertilizer you need to use.
Proper management of cool-season turf is essential to the overall health of your turf. Unless you overseed with certified, weed-free seed, you do run the risk of introducing weeds into your yard. In addition, improper overseeding can interfere with your warm-season turf next spring leaving thin spots that rapidly fill up with an assortment of weeds.
If you decide to overseed your turf, consider the time and effort needed to properly establish a cool-season grass. There is certainly no “dormant” season for the gardener who wishes to keep it green all year long.