I know it has been a different year with the cooler than normal spring and our grass is slower to transition than normal, but it’s never too early to start thinking ahead and have a plan for the future of your lawn.

Many of you probably decide if you are going to overseed your lawn or let it go dormant on a whim, while others are required to do so by their HOA’s or really like the winter grass look.  The truth is that even though we have not transitioned out from last year’s ryegrass, we need to be thinking about next year’s ryegrass.    In order to get to that point we must first focus on the warm season grass that we have planted.  Did you know that your warm season grass needs a minimum of 100 days of growth with no competition to thrive and hold onto its form year after year when you overseed?  Since the average lawn area is overseeded the first week of October, that means we need to have a 100 percent warm season lawn by the first day of summer.

Our warm season grasses are very finicky when it comes to growth because we are stuck in an area with excessive heat, but very little humidity.  If you have been reading my blog you know that the best way to get your summer lawn to thrive is with nice warm temperatures and high humidity.  It makes it difficult when we live in a desert and a high humidity day is around 40 percent, but we still are able to grow a solid stand of grass.  I am sure that many of you have noticed that your lawn grows the best during monsoon season and often needs to be cut a couple times per week during July and August.  So the question is what do we do when we don’t have heat and humidity to get our lawns growing?  We can begin to accomplish this by taking away the competition for sunlight, water, and nutrients.  Ryegrass serves as a shade and as too many people have noticed warm season grasses don’t take to kindly to the shade.  I am sure there are more people than I can count that have that lovely ring  of dirt underneath the large tree in their yard.  Ryegrass has the same exact effect on the bermuda or paspalum grasses and that a large tree does except it may actually be more detrimental over time.

If we don’t eliminate the ryegrass in a timely fashion and allow our grass to grow free and clear for at least 100 days we will start to see it thin out.  It starts at the newest leaf tips and works its way down to the oldest leaf when finally we are stuck with dead grass.  This is a common problem on homes and parks that keep their ryegrass too long in the spring and then quickly find out they have no grass left underneath as soon as monsoon season comes roaring in.  The heat and humidity will quickly take out your ryegrass over night and if your underlying grass isn’t well established by then you will be looking at some big yellow areas or dirt.

I realize that many people find it undesirable to go through a month of transitioning their grass and expect it to just happen naturally, but anyone that has ever had a lawn in California or Arizona knows it  doesn’t happen that way.  I am going to keep giving you some pointers to get you going in the right direction and make sure there are no bumps in the road come summer.

I suggest right now you go to the calendar and start to think about what you are going to be doing this fall.  Will you overseed or will you let your lawn rest and go dormant?  If you already know you will be overseeding then it is time to find the approximate day you will be scalping and dropping seed so you can count back 100 days.  Remember this is the day you must be fully transitioned by in order to ensure you have a healthy lawn next summer.  We all the love the green color of overseeding, but it is single handily the worst agronomic thing we do to our grass each year.  Grass was not designed to be scalped down and seeded into every fall so in order for it to adapt, we must make it adapt.  The best way to do this is to give it a fighting chance now.  Make sure your mowing heights are currently no longer than 1 inch and if you can get your mower to ¾” or lower without scalping the lawn then you should be there.  As I have spoken about many times, you never want to cut off more than 1/3rd of the leaf at a time so if you are currently mowing at 2” you have some work to do in the next couple weeks.  When your lawn gets too long and the ryegrass roots are taking up warm season space you are limiting your spring growth.

One of the best ways to start getting rid of the rye is to lightly verticut the lawn with a Ren-o-thin.  Do not set the machine down to the roots but instead just lightly tickle the grass and start to thin it out.  Even on a very high height setting you will remove loads of grass and give your warm season grass space to breathe and receive much needed sunlight and water.  The Ren-o-thin will also allow you to mow your lawn a little shorter without scalping and causing injury to the grass below.

So not to be annoying and continue to repeat myself on transition tips I will say them one last time.  Your watering should be 15-25 minutes 2-3 times per week for an established lawn and when we see temperatures on the rise for a good week cut the water back 40 percent and allow some of the ryegrass to die off.  After you have succeeded and removed some of the unwanted winter grass, apply fertilizer either by spoon feeding small amounts of slow release fertilizer (21-7-14) or applying heavier amounts of quick release fertilizers such as 21-0-0 (ammonium sulfate).

If you have followed these steps you will have no problem having a 100 percent warm season lawn come June 21st.  If you are having trouble still removing your ryegrass after June 21st or want to get rid of it now there are chemicals on the market that will kill your cool season grasses.  Now these chemicals take 7-10 days to work and then there is a grow-in period for your warm season grass so don’t think it is the magical cure.  They are the answer if you don’t mind looking at a brown lawn for a couple weeks and you don’t mind removing any dead material from the lawn with a dethatcher or verticutter.  With these chemicals it is extremely important to follow the directions to the T as any over application will burn your warm season grasses.  A typical rate of these products is .4 oz/1000 SF so you don’t need much.  In order to get the correct rate out it is important to calibrate the sprayer before applying any chemicals.

Since I don’t endorse any products, I am not going to give any product brand names, but there are several “sulfonyureas” on the market and they can be found at the larger landscape stores in your area.  Don’t expect to find a product like this at the big box stores.

What else should you know about applying these?  Let’s just say that if you miss, you sure will know in 10 days when you see that lovely green streak down the middle of your lawn.  These should only be done as a last resort if you cannot remove the grass.  Many golf courses use these chemicals early in the year because time is not on their side.  Most club owners and managers want to see revenue and that is why you often see golf courses seeding in September.  The quicker the grass is up the more money they make, but agronomically they are doing nothing but hurting the grass.  So in order to combat this problem they know they need to have the ryegrass history by mid May to early June.  Thankfully we are not in that situation at our homes and we can seed as late as we like before it frosts.

So what did we learn today besides that I have a big tendency to ramble and get off subject when I type these blogs?  “100 days” is the minimum amount of time a summer lawn needs without competition in order to survive and maintain its vigor year after year.  If you cannot dedicate yourself to a good transitioning program, I highly suggest you don’t overseed your lawn, or use one of the paspalums so you have a shorter dormancy period.  Letting your lawn go dormant is with a doubt the best thing you can do for it, but if you do overseed then follow the simple steps to ensure you are happy every spring when it is bermudagrass or paspalum weather.

Please e-mail me with your questions and ideas for future blogs.