Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
October, 2007
Regional Report

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The thinner blades of winter ryegrass are growing through the coarser Bermuda grass, which is going dormant.

Overseeding with Ryegrass

If you choose to have a green winter lawn in the low desert, it's necessary to overseed the established Bermuda grass with ryegrass in the fall. There's no grass variety that will thrive in both our warm and cool seasons. With regular mowings, gradually reduce the height of Bermuda grass to a half-inch before overseeding. The best time to overseed in the low desert is mid-October to mid-November when day temperatures are below 78 to 83 degrees F and night temperatures are below 65.

Annual or Perennial Ryegrass
Don't be fooled by the term "perennial" when it comes to grass varieties. Perennial ryegrass won't survive through our summer and will have to be overseeded yearly. It is usually a darker green than the annual, has a thinner blade, and grows taller. Annual ryegrass costs less, but more seed is required to cover the same space. As a guideline, use 10 to 20 pounds of annual ryegrass for 1,000 square feet of lawn, or 10 to 15 pounds of perennial. Don't mix the two types, which results in an uneven appearance.

How to Overseed
Divide the seed into two equal portions. Sow half in one direction and the remainder in the opposite direction to create a crisscross grid of even coverage. Rake lightly after spreading. Cover with 1/4 inch of mulch to maintain soil moisture. Water thoroughly. For the first two weeks, water three to four times daily for 5 to 10 minutes. The third week, water once daily every 3 to 7 days, depending on weather and your soil's ability to maintain moisture. Thereafter, water every 4 to 10 days, allowing water to soak 4 to 6 inches deep, which is how deep the roots grow. Grass will be stronger, healthier, and more drought tolerant if it is watered deeply and infrequently, rather than sprinkled lightly more often.

Wait to do the first mowing until ryegrass is 2 inches tall, then mow to 1 inch high. Fertilize after the first mowing, and then apply it monthly throughout the growing season.

Turf experts recommend not overseeding Bermuda that has been installed less than one year. It will establish more vigorously in the long run without being overseeded.

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