Winter Grass

Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.

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News article for November 6, 2017

Lawn grasses are slowing their growth greatly. The days are getting shorter, with less sunlight and the temperatures are trying to cool down. All of this makes for slower growth on all plants and that includes our warm season lawn grasses.

Many people are interested in keeping a green lawn all year. They may have had green grass into the winter with different grass species in other regions of the country. Our warm season perennial grasses such as St. Augustine, centipede, Bermuda, carpet and zoysia will frost out and turn brown during the winter.

The desire for winter grass may be because you are just completing a construction project and need to plant grass this time of year to hold your soil in place during the winter.

The only way you can have green grass during the winter here is to plant cool season grass species such as ryegrass. There are two different types, annual and perennial. Annual ryegrass is the same type that we plant for livestock whereas perennial is what most athletic fields and golf courses use. Annual ryegrass is typically wider bladed, grows taller and is less expensive. Perennial is not perennial here and will not come back next year unless you plant it again. It is a finer texture and grows shorter and usually is considerably higher in cost. Both grasses need to be cut during winter so height is really not a huge difference.

Late October and early November are normal times for overseeding ryegrass. You want to wait for the warm season grasses to slow down and hope that a frost is getting close. (If you got up early enough you might have seen frost on the last Sunday in October, all the way to the ground around me.)

If you will be seeding over existing sod, mow the grass just before spreading seed and maybe just a little lower than normal, but do not scalp the lawn. After mowing, broadcast seed at a rate of 5-10 pounds of ryegrass seed per 1000 ft². This is a higher rate than we use for livestock pastures, but this rate will give you a denser sod that will look smooth after mowing.

Apply half of your seed going back and forth in one direction, say east and west. Then come back and apply the other half going north and south. This will give you a more even seed distribution. If you just go in one direction, any misses will be apparent and you will have to look at them all winter long, and yes your neighbors will comment.

Once you are finished broadcasting seed, it would be a help to pull a drag over the lawn to shake the seed down to the soil. You could use a riding lawnmower or ATV to pull a piece of chain link fence or a landscape timber over the lawn. You could also use a rake or lawn broom. Next, apply water for fast germination.

If all goes well, you should see small ryegrass plants that look like green hairs emerging in about a week. That will be the time to fertilize the lawn to get the ryegrass growing. Broadcast 6 pounds of 13-13-13 fertilizer or 12 pounds of 8-8-8 fertilizer per 1000 ft².

In about 6 weeks your ryegrass will start to run out of nitrogen and will start to turn yellow in color. This will be your clue to apply more fertilizer but now you only need nitrogen, not a complete fertilizer. Apply 3 pounds of the urea/ammonium sulfate blend that has the analysis of 33-0-0-12 or 2 pounds of Urea (46-0-0) per 1000 ft².

Be sure to mow your ryegrass lawn, particularly when you get to spring, so the warm season grasses can emerge normally. Ryegrass will usually fade away in the heat of May.

For more information on these or related topics contact Kenny at 225-686-3020 or visit our website at

5/9/2018 4:22:17 PM
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