Fall has finally made its way to the valley and with the onset of shorter days are cooler temperatures. We’re right in the middle of the overseed season and with a few weeks left to get seed down I wanted to address what to do if you haven’t seeded yet and the next step for those of you that have overseeded. The window of opportunity to overseed is actually quite large but optimally it is done between October 1st and the second week of November. That is not to say you won’t have great success if you go a little earlier or later but historically this is when the weather is on your side.

Let’s start with those of you who haven’t overseeded yet. There is no need to worry or get out there this afternoon and do it; but you should have a plan. Part of your plan should include purchasing ten pounds of perennial ryegrass seed for every 1000 SF of lawn area, a starter fertilizer, and doing a full irrigation check. I have received a lot of questions about using a seed cover or mulch to protect the seed. This is completely up to you but it isn’t necessary during this time window. The seed cover or mulch will keep the plant moist and allow heat to stay in the ground but unless we really dip down in temperature the conditions are already favorable for growth. Birds seem to be another concern but you can rest assured that you’re putting down more than enough seed to get your lawn established even if the birds throw a party on your lawn. I know many people have always covered their lawn to speed up the growth of the ryegrass. I can’t say scientifically if this works or not but I do know that we don’t cover our seed here on the sod farm and golf courses do not cover the courses wall to wall to prevent birds or to help speed up growth. A cover is typically only necessary if you’ll be applying seed to an area after a frost has occurred.

Before you begin to seed your lawn it is important to run through all of your sprinkler heads to make sure nothing was damaged while scalping or verticutting. I have personally mowed the tops off many sprinkler heads and not realized they were broken until I saw the geyser shooting out of the ground. All of your sprinklers should be adjusted to compensate for the wind by opening up the arch’s 10-15 degrees further than normal. These can be adjusted back down once the grow-in of the lawn occurs but you want to make sure everything is getting wet for the first few weeks.

The seed and starter fertilizer can be applied at the same time after the lawn is verticut and scalped. You can plant the seed at a half rate in two directions or all ten pounds in one direction but for the most accuracy you should go two ways. I seed all my edges with a drop spreader to begin with and then use a rotary spreader for the middle of the lawn. This is more of a precaution to keep the seed out of the rocks and to make sure everything has been covered.

The first month of irrigation is very important to the success of your overseeded lawn. My suggestion for watering is as follows:

Week 1 and 2: 3-4 times per day for 5-7 minutes per cycle. Keep the seed moist during the day. I would suggest watering times between 8-9am, 11am-12:00pm, and 2:00pm-3:00pm

Week 3: Lower the water to one cycle per day for 10-15 minutes. It is ideal to water first thing in the morning between 6am-9am. This will ensure there is no environmental impact.

Week 4: Cut water to every other day for 15-20 minutes. Water between 6am and 9am.

Week 5+: Water every 3-7 days depending on temperature and weather. Water should be deep and infrequent between 25-45 minutes per application. If you have a sandy soil you can water the roots deeper.

Once your grass has been in for a month it is important to put down a second application of fertilizer. The timing of this application will determine whether or not to use a granular or foliar fertilizer. If you seeded in November and we’ve had a few significant frosts it is best to use a foliar fertilizer such as Soil Burst, ironite, ferrous sulfate, or calcium nitrate. If you will be making the application here in the next couple weeks you have the option of using a foliar fertilizer such as Soil Burst or making an additional granular application of 6-20-20, 5-15-10, or 15-15-15. Either application will yield you excellent results on your ryegrass as it continues to jump out of the ground.  Once our soil receives a few hard freezes the granular fertilizers become virtually unavailable to the plant and foliars are best utilized. Once we hit a prolonged cold spell the ryegrass will begin to lose its color and slow its growth during the day. At this time of the year to maintain color continue to foliar feed monthly until March when the weather warms back up.

The last topic I will touch on is non overseeded turf. If you will be letting your lawn go dormant for the winter I suggest lowering the height of cut and making one last fertilizer application. You want a solid root base for the winter so products like 6-20-20, 0-0-50 or 4-0-6 will help your grass stay strong. You don’t need to water your lawn more than once every three to four weeks after it goes completely dormant until February. If we receive significant precipitation you can skip an irrigation cycle. At this point you get to sit back and enjoy not mowing your lawn for a few months. If you have any questions please let me know.