It’s been one of those transition years that make us in the turf industry want to get back to the drawing board and find that magical year round grass. Will there ever be a grass like this? It is doubtful, but at least in the mean time there is paspalum!

If you are a bermudagrass grower or going through a tough transition this summer I am going to give you a few tips and try to alleviate some of the panic that may be setting in as you see your beautiful ryegrass start to turn brown. I want to explain just a few things in today’s blog that will help everyone understand the different phases of growing grass and how to get through the growing pains. I have attached several pictures that will make everyone see just how normal it is to have a few minor issues during transition.

The most common question I am seeing in the last week is that one day they had a beautiful lawn and the next day the lawn seemed to be completely wiped out. Our warm season grasses love the heat and humidity and ryegrass can handle heat to a certain point, but as soon as humidity rises that ryegrass folds. The plant has enough stored energy and drought tolerance to get through some minor heat spells, but the combination of heat and humidity to the ryegrass is deadly.

What exactly happened this year? This has been a strange one that we see every few years. It can cause a loss of grass, but most likely it just means we need to work a little harder to get the grass perfect. We experienced one of the most pleasant springs on record keeping the temperatures very mild which made that heat tolerant ryegrass grow stronger. Remember, all the grass breeders out there are trying to develop a year round grass and the ryegrasses improve just a little bit every few years so their heat tolerance keeps building up.

We almost made it through June with temperatures right around 105 degrees with no humidity, which caused some loss of ryegrass but we never had the slow die off we are used to. Two weeks ago we had our first bout of 115 degree temps, throw in a little humidity and then ryegrass didn’t slowly fade away, it completely died off leaving lots of material preventing growth. All of the ryegrass that has died and is occupying leaf space between your warm season leaf blades is preventing it from growing. We have all seen the bermudagrass and paspalum runners move across our driveways and rock beds and wonder why it won’t fill in the bare grass areas. Those areas have no competition for the horizontal growing grass where as your lawn has dead ryegrass taking up space between the leaf blades. For areas like this it is important to get out there and rake up the dead grass or lightly verticut to open up the grass plant. Don’t be surprised if you take a couple garbage cans full of material out of a 1000 SF lawn. When this material is removed you are giving your warm season lawn space to grow and fill in the weak areas.

We have approached the best growing time of the year for warm season grasses and now is the time to push them. We don’t want to push paspalums at this time of the year, but we do want to be pretty aggressive with our bermudagrasses and St Augustine. I often have people ask if they are going to burn their lawn if they fertilize in the summer months. The answer is no–as long as you don’t over apply fertilizer and water it in when you are done.

So what should you be using right now? If you lawn is in really bad shape and the stolons need to move more than 8-10 inches to fill in weak areas, an application of ammonium sulfate 21-0-0 at 5 pounds per 1000 SF will give your lawn a quick boost. This is not a monthly use fertilizer, but a product to push the lawn during the humidity.

If you have 60-70 percent coverage in your lawn you can go the healthier route and use the Soil Burst 5-15-10 and 20 pounds per 1000 SF, followed by applications of Soil Burst 7-7-7 or 16-0-4 every three weeks. These products will help balance of the nutrients in your lawn and will keep it from getting too puffy resulting in excessive scalping. It is always better to use a balanced fertilizer, but sometimes we need to work with the little bit of weather we are getting and give the lawn a push.

Remember that the rule of thumb is that your lawn needs 100 growing days without any competition before you should even consider overseeding in the fall. If you are looking at a lawn that is less than 30-40 percent bermudagrass it is in your best interest to give your lawn a break this winter and let it go dormant. I know some of us don’t have a choice because of various HOA situations and if that is what you are facing than I would lean towards a late fall overseed. You can seed successfully through mid November even though it will be a little slower coming up than if you seeded in October.

Now the bermudagrass will pretty well shut itself down in late October, you can ease it to sleep by letting it harden off before overseeding. Why am I talking about overseeding when it is 115 degrees outside? We need a plan now for growing the grass so we know how to fertilize, water, and maintain it through the summer months.

I have also had a lot of people ask if they should increase their watering during the hot summer months. While we do need to compensate for the dry air in June with a little extra water, as soon as the humidity arrives the plant holds more moisture and needs less water. You should be watering your lawn with an 1” to an 1 ½” of water weekly, whether it is from rain, or irrigation. It would be lovely if it all came from the sky, but let’s face it, we live in a desert–but we can still water wisely! Be sure to make sure that all your watering is done first thing in the morning to eliminate evaporation and also so the water has a chance to dry off the leaf blades. Water left on the leaf blades over night can give our turf a little bit of disease pressure. For the most part it is very difficult to get a disease in your lawn here unless it is being severely over watered.

I have put in some pictures so you can see what is actually normal for this time of the year. Don’t panic, remember that this is the optimal growing season and your grass will grow. If you have ever had a common bermudagrass lawn you know just how hard it is to kill the grass, keep that in mind when you think all hope is lost.

This photo above shows a common problem caused by pop up sprinklers. The spray pattern shoots over the grass right in front of the head and doesn’t have head to head coverage from another direction. This problem can be solved by putting a dual spray nozzle in or making sure your nozzles cover sprinkler to sprinkler.

The picture above shows dead ryegrass that needs to be raked up so the bermudagrass can thrive. The one issue in this area is the amount of shade doesn’t allow the bermudagrass to grow well so the ryegrass was held onto longer. My options for this area are to increase the sunlight by reducing the tree canopy, resodding, or trying to push the bermudagrass that is still around. I will rake it up and see if I can get another season of growth out of it.

This last picture shows what a typical transition looks like at this time of year. The lawn was 40 percent green 2 weeks ago prior to being verticut and now is 70 percent. There’s still some areas that need to be raked up, but the majority now has open space for the grass to grow. I will apply the Soil Burst 5-15-10 this week and get the grass to fill in over the next couple weeks.

Check out my past blogs for more information. We want to make sure your lawn is looking as green as possible!

ALSO, if you happen to catch the 2011 MLB All-Star game tonight, notice that it is on our very own BOBSod! Grant Trenbeath and the crew has worked hard to make sure it is the best field possible for the big week. It shows!