Everyone seems to be asking the same questions about their lawns about now.  Here are the questions, and my answers.  I’ll do my best to help you have the healthiest lawn in the neighborhood!

  •  When will my lawn be fully transitioned out?

We have had a much cooler than normal spring and it has allowed the perennial ryegrasses to stick around longer than normal.  We have now reached optimal soil temperatures for a few weeks and the warm season grasses are starting to push their way to sunlight.  Remember you need to encourage your grass to do so by gradually lowering your mowing heights and not letting the ryegrass stick around because it looks perfect.  The longer it sticks around, the more shade you will provide and that can lead to thinning and loss of your underlying warm season grass.

  •  What is the best fertilizer to use on grass that is not overseeded bermudagrass?

 Your grass needs a balance of nutrients and that includes nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  It is ideal to stick with fertilizers that have a 3-1-2 ratio such as 21-7-14 and occasionally mix it up with 21-0-0 (ammonium sulfate) during the summer months.  These fertilizers are not okay for paspalum growers so stick to the paspalum section.

  • What is the best fertilizer to use to help aid in transition of bermudagrass?

You have a few options, including spoon feeding your lawn every 2-3 weeks with low rates of nitrogen to encourage growth–or you can apply a heavier rate of ammonium sulfate to really push the growth.  A heavy rate is 5 pounds per 1000 SF and doubling or tripling the rate does not speed up the process any.  You can spoon feed the ammonium sulfate every two weeks at .25 pounds of nitrogen which is 1.25 pounds of product per 1000 SF until the warm season grass pushes its way through the ryegrass. 

Recent studies have shown that granular managanese sulfate and zinc sulfate applied at 2-3 pounds of product each per 1000 SF will help the warm season grass in transition by sending available nutrients down to the roots for a healthier plant.  Please note that these must be “granular” products.  You can often find these at a nursery in the section with palm tree fertilizers.

  •  What is the best fertilizer for paspalum in the summer?

These are all loaded questions and can have several answers but here are a few good choices for the next few months…..

Granular manganese and zinc sulfate applied at 1 pound of product per 1000 SF.  Again these can be found at most nurseries in the palm tree fertilizer section.  Paspalums do not need nitrogen in the summer months and are best left mean and lean.  Some fertilizers to help keep the color are Ironite, Milorganite at a ¼ rate, and sea weed extracts which help the root system.

  •  What height should you maintain bermudagrass? Paspalum?

Once you have eliminated all of your ryegrass and are growing a warm season grass, you want to grow the lawn at a height that is manageable for your mower without scalping.  It also needs to be in line with the type of grass you have. 

Here are some general guidelines:

  • BOBSod –  ½” to 1 ½”                                                 
  • EZ-Turf (Midiron) – ¾” to 2”
  • Tifway 419 – ¼” to 1”
  • Tifgreen 328 – 1/8” to ¾”
  • Paspalum – ¼” to 2″
  • Tifway II – ½” to 1 ¼”

You never want to mow more than 1/3rd of the blade when you mow the grass.  You will always be able to mow lower with reel mowers than rotary mowers.  Don’t set the mower to the ground expecting to achieve a ½ inch with a rotary mower.  You can get most rotary mowers as low as ¾” when the grass is properly maintained and thatch is at a minimum.

  • How much should I water right now?  I have been told to turn off the water and let the ryegrass die, is this okay?

There is not a set amount of water I can tell you that your lawn will need each week because it will vary depending on your soil type, temperature, and environmental conditions.  What I can tell you is that the general rule of thumb during this time of the year and throughout the summer for pop up sprinklers is to water 10 minutes for every day that you don’t water.  So what this means is to water 20 minutes every other morning or 30 minutes every third morning.  You do not want to water every day or you will eliminate your root system entirely.  One of the best ways I can describe this scenario would be a tree and that if you watered the tree daily the roots would never get any water and it would naturally fall over.  The best determination if you need water is the footprint test.  Walk on the grass and if it doesn’t stand back up and shows signs of wilt you know it is time to water.

As far as the second question is concerned you all know my answer to this by now and that is NO.  If you turn off the water for two weeks you will not give the warm season grass any water and it cannot emerge from dormancy.  You will actually shock the grass and put it in a sleep mode where it doesn’t react again until you turn the water back on.

  • Which grass uses the least amount of water and fertilizer? 

Paspalum.  It uses 2/3rds the nitrogen of bermudagrass and can thrive on low water inputs.  Much evidence has been shown of the negative reactions to overwatering paspalum and since it has such a short dormancy period you don’t have to overseed it and get the ultimate in savings but not wasting water in the winter. 

  • What is the best grass in the shade?

The best grass for a shaded area is St. Augustine, but you still need to get at least 3 hours of direct sunlight on the grass between 10 am and 3 pm for it to hold its vigor.  The only option for bermudagrass in the shade is BOBSod, and this needs 4 hours of sunlight between 10am and 3 pm. This is the reason the Diamondbacks have used it with their limited light situation.  There have been a few grasses that have promoted their shade tolerance lately, but as we all know, living things need sunlight and nothing is going to be perfect in the shade.  Don’t believe the hype.

I hope I have answered your questions.  If you have more, or have an idea for a blog topic, please click on the “Ask Jay” button to the top right of this page.  I will do my best to help you out.  Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter www.twitter.com/westernsod for all of the latest news.  Thanks for reading, and for all of the great feedback.  It’s much appreciated!

Until next time,