The word transition tends to conjure up some ugly thoughts in people’s minds. Transition is often used to describe moving from one stage to another or in the case of sports teams are often transitioning from one style of play to another. Fans of sports teams cringe when they hear the word transition and the same is true for most turf managers but with turf it is often an easy fix. My goal today is to answer some frequently asked questions on transition, sod install, fertilizer and watering for the summer. If you have another question that I didn’t list please let me know.

I overseeded my lawn last fall and I can’t get the ryegrass to die off. Can I turn the water off and kill it?

A. Yes and no. You can turn the water off and severely stunt or kill the ryegrass but you will also do some serious harm to your warm season turf. It is best to cut your water back 30-40% and let it fade away with the warmer temperatures.

Q.   When will my bermudagrass take over the ryegrass?

A.    Bermudagrass requires soil temperatures of 64 degrees before it will start growing. Coming out of the winter your lawn is slower to start growing but will begin to green up as the ryegrass thins out. As the ryegrass canopy thins out the bermudagrass will start to take it over.

Q.   My lawn looks perfect right now, why do I need to transition it?

A.    If you didn’t overseed your lawn for the winter then you can go to the next question. For anyone that overseeded you need to remember that your summer lawn needs at least 100 days without any competition to establish itself before you overseed in the fall. A good winter lawn is very dependent upon having a good summer base. I suggest mowing your lawn lower than normal and at least two times a week in the month of May until all the ryegrass is gone. Lush ryegrass is the equivalent of a shade tree to a warm season grass.

Q.   The golf course I play at was overseeded and now they have transitioned to bermudagrass. They said the ryegrass was chemically sprayed out to help transition. Is this something I can do to my home lawn?

A.    More and more chemicals are hitting the shelves that will help you chemically transition from ryegrass to bermudagrass. This is a process that still involves an extended “ugly” period but it can help you quickly eliminate competition with the ryegrass. These chemicals take about 7-14 days to produce results and after the ryegrass has been treated you will have brown turf until the underlying turf greens up. By eliminating the shade that the ryegrass produces it will allow to establish your summer lawn faster.

Q.   The trees in my backyard shade half of my lawn during the day. What can I do to get my lawn to grow in this area?

A.    Shade is the arch enemy of almost all living plants and turf is no different. If you’re not getting at least 5-6 hours of direct sunlight between 8 am and 3 pm it will be a large challenge to keep your turf alive. The grass may stay for a year but will gradually start to thin out leaving you will large dirt patches in your lawn.  Outside of cutting down the tree your best bet it to thin out the tree and try and allow sunlight to filter in during the day. Remember it is not the late afternoon sun that helps grass grow, it’s all about the morning sun.

Q.   I fertilized my lawn with a starter fertilizer when I purchased it, when is the next time I should fertilize?

A.    Your lawn should be fertilized once every four weeks throughout the year. Depending on the grass and soil type you may need to apply more or less. A typical bermudagrass lawn requires one pound of nitrogen per month per 1000 square feet of turf. A paspalum lawn uses only .33 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 SF during the growing months.

Q.   What type of fertilizer should I use on my lawn? I see a bag with numbers very similar to ones from previous blogs. Are they all pretty much the same?

A.    The numbers on a bag of fertilizer simply indicate how much nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are in a given bag of fertilizer. These numbers do not indicate what type of N-P-K and any of the micro nutrients. It is important to flip the bag over and read what type of fertilizer you are getting. A soil test is the best way to tell how much phosphorus and potassium are needed but nitrogen will be based on the look of the turf. Most warm season grasses outside of paspalum will use as much nitrogen as you will give them but you want to change the type of nitrogen depending on the time of the year. Deficiencies of nitrogen appear as pale green color in the plants and slow growth.

During the summer months you can use urea, ammonium sulphate, and ammonium nitrate with success. Since we have such high temperatures in the deserts in the summer months don’t be surprised if you lose 30-40% of the nitrogen you apply to volatilization. The products listed above can be used once per month or every other month at a rate of one pound of nitrogen per 1000 SF. A bag of 21-0-0 requires 5 pound of product to get 1 pound of nitrogen. Remember the number on the front of the bag is the percentage of N-P-K in a bag of fertilizer.

I highly suggest alternating with balanced fertilizers that will provide your turf will phosphorus and potassium to help the roots and shoots. Some great products on the market for the summer are starter fertilizers such as 6-20-20, 6-24-24, Soil Burst 5-15-10, ammonium sulfate 21-0-0, urea 46-0-0, Miloranite 5-0-0, or Turf Royale 21-7-14. Again these are just examples of products that have been proven successful for Arizona and California.

Q.   Spurge has started to invade my lawn. What product can I apply to take care of it?

A.    It is important to only apply herbicides according to the label and early in the morning before the heat of the day. For a bermudagrass lawn you can use an herbicide with 2, 4-D, dicamba, and mecoprop. There are several different trade names for products that contain this combination. If you have a paspalum lawn you can’t use a herbicide with dicamba. There are safe alternatives that only contain 2, 4-D and mecoprop.

Q.   How often should I water my lawn during the summer?

A.    Just like the trees and plants in your yard you need to heat train your lawn. Once your lawn has been established there is no need to water more than every other to every third day. The general rule of thumb is to water 12-15 minutes for every day of watering you skip. If you water every other day you would apply 24-30 minutes of water first thing in the morning. Most warm season lawns can handle three days without water. Too much water is just as detrimental as too little water.

Q.   Can I sod my yard during the summer months?

A.    The summer is the optimal time to put a new lawn in at your house. Warm season grasses are adapted for the high temperatures and quickly establish to our native soils.

Q.   When I put the sod down in my yard the lawn was green but it has started to turn yellow. I’m watering 3x a day trying to get it established but it is still losing color. What can I do?

A.    This is extremely common in grass because you’re cutting off the grasses root system when it is harvested and the plant goes into shock once it uses up its moisture in the root zone. The lawn will still develop roots and will green right back up after a week to ten days.

I hope these Q & A’s helped.  If you have any further questions please hit the “Ask Jay” button to the top right of this page.

Keep it real (real GREEN!),