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Time to Start Planning Your Winter Lawn

September is here.  The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are going to start decreasing (thank goodness).  So it’s time to start planning for your winter lawn.  First off you’re going to have to pick a target date to plant your perennial rye grass.   Everything you do will be predicated on this date.  Ideally, you want to pick a date when nighttime temperatures reach about 55° F and daytime temperatures are between 80-85°F.  This usually occurs around the third week of October.  Check our The Arizona Meteorological Network to find out historical seasonal temperatures for your area.  You need to plant your rye grass at the optimal time because if you don’t and plant either too early or too late, you risk poor performance from your rye grass, costing you money and headaches as you wonder why the lawn looks so weak.

So once you’ve selected your planting date follow these steps to give you the peace of mind that your winter lawn will be healthy and strong throughout the winter months:

  1. 25 days before your planting date, stop applying fertilizer (especially ones high in nitrogen).  We don’t want to encourage any more plant growth.  Your bermuda grass should be strong and healthy from the summer growth.  However, to maintain color you can still apply iron (liquid form is recommended).
  2. 10 days from your planting date, decrease watering.  Either skip every third day of irrigation or cut each watering cycle by 2/3.  If grass shows signs of heat stress, increase water.
  3. Again, at 10 days before planting, increase mowing height by 35% and maintain regular mowing schedule at this new height.  For example, if you regularly maintain your lawn 1”, you need to raise your new mowing height to about 1 1/3″.
  4. 3 days before planting, verticut your lawn by removing between 40-50% of your grass height.  You may need to do this in multiple cuttings by lowering your mower height after each pass.  Doing this should leave an upright shoot (stolon) with two lower leaves on it.  Remove all the clippings and shut off the water.
  5. 1 day before planting, take a spring tine rake and lightly rake the ground to stand up the stolons and scratch up the little thatch you may have.  You need the rye seed to be able to reach the soil.
  6. Planting Day:  broadcast your rye grass at a rate of 10-15 lbs per 1000 square feet of yard.  For good coverage divide your seed in two lots and apply them in perpendicular directions.  After application, it’s wise to rake the ground to ensure seed to soil contact.  Applying a 1/4 inch of mulch is advised to protect the new seedlings from adverse moisture and temperature conditions.  Set your sprinklers to run 3-4 times a day at 10-12 minutes.  Maintain this water cycle until grass has germinated and has grown to about an inch.  Then you can reduce the watering to once a day.  Don’t let the soil dry out.  Maintain soil moisture!
  7. 14 days after planting, apply a starter fertilizer such as ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) at rate of 7-10 lbs per 1000 sq/ft.  Don’t apply it too early because you don’t want the bermuda grass to out compete the rye.  Make sure to water in the fertilizer.

Now, a word of caution, if you have just recently installed a new lawn within 100 days of your planting date, it’s advised that you don’t overseed your new lawn.  You want to encourage unimpeded growth to ensure strong root (rhizome) development.  You don’t want the new bermuda grass to compete for the sun light, air, water, and nutrients it needs to grow to maturity.  But if you do decide to overseed, you will need to take extra care during spring transition to get rid of the rye grass and encourage strong regrowth from the bermuda grass.

Thomas Edison once said, “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”  You have the opportunity to achieve a beautiful winter lawn, so let your planning guide you.  If you need added assistance, don’t hesitate to call our office.  We have a knowledgeable staff waiting to help with your turf needs.

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