What Type of Ryegrass Should I Plant?

Keeping with our fall transition theme, have you thought about what type of rye grass you’re going to plant-annual or perennial? There are a few things you should consider before you head to your local nursery and purchase your seed.

Annual Rye

Annual rye is bunch grass that produces a light green color and a wider leaf blade compared to perennial rye grass.  It germinates quickly-between 7-10 days, and its optimal mowing height is between 2″-3″. This grass does not do well when consistently mowed at lower heights like a perennial rye grass.

Annual rye has a one-year growth cycle and will die when the temperatures increase in the spring. Its heat tolerance is low compared to perennial; it will die off earlier than perennial rye. When it’s not well maintained and allowed to produce seed heads, the seed will germinate when temperatures decrease again and will act as a weed. Also, the wear tolerance is low, so it would be the wrong selection to use for such applications as ball fields, yards with children and pets, golf courses, etc.

Positives and Negatives of Annual Rye

Pros: low cost, less maintenance, easy spring transition

Cons: poor turf quality, low traffic tolerance, and will not tolerate sustained low mowing.


Rye Sod Grass

Perennial Rye

Perennial rye is a bunch grass that produces a deep green color with narrow leave blades. It produces more shoots per square inch than annual rye grass,  giving it a more plush, carpet like look. It can be mowed as low as 1/4″ but usually is maintained at heights between 3/4″ to 1 1/2″. Sometimes perennial rye comes in blends, multiple varieties within the species, to achieve different results. One variety may germinate quickly, while the other variety can handle heavy traffic conditions.  The idea is to promote optimal growth and appearance throughout the growing season. It’s not uncommon to see 3-4 different varieties in a blend.

Ask your local nursery about the benefits of each variety.

Perennial rye is more heat tolerant than annual rye, but the severe desert heat will eventually kill the perennial, so it’s not a true perennial in our region of the country and will need to be reseeded the following year. However, if you do live in higher elevations where the temperatures are more temperate, it’s not uncommon to see this species survive late into the summer months.

Positives and Negatives of Perennial Rye

Pros: high turf quality, high traffic tolerance, quick germination, tolerates low mowing, produces a very deep green color

Cons: higher initial cost, heat-tolerant making spring transition difficult, higher maintenance requirement


Sod Grass Picture

There are distinct qualities of annual and perennial rye grass, and they must be considered before you make your final decision on which grass you will select. We at Southwest Sod know your lawn is a huge investment, so remember, if you have any questions, please contact us at 602-271-4266. We have eager staff waiting to help you solve any of your turf grass needs.

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 to 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 additional assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us.  We have knowledgeable staff waiting to help with your turf needs.

March and the Miracle League

March is almost over having ushered out the last shred of winter. The seductive 70 degree weather is impossible to resist. Bookstores are bringing out the gardening books by the box-full, spring training games are sold out, and the Phoenix zoo is packed.

Everyone wants to be outside all day, so it’s the perfect time to start transitioning your lawn and getting it summer ready. We have a whole page on our website devoted to transitions. You can check that out here. You can also contact us any time via our online comment form, our Facebook page, or during office hours at 602-271-4266 with any questions about the process. Our expert staff will be happy to help.

All this sunshine and warm weather has kept us busy here at Southwest Sod. We are now on Twitter, where we’ll be keeping you up to date on places we’re greening up, the latest research on fertilizing and watering, and what’s going on in the residential and sports turf industries. You’ll find lots of great information and news, so become a follower today.

One of the things you’ll find there is our attendance last week at the Grand Opening of the Miracle League of Arizona’s Dan Haren Field in Scottsdale. This field is a labor of love from Arizona corporations and businesses to children with disabilities or impairments who have always dreamed of playing baseball on a real ball field. The facility is a beautiful replication of a big-league facility and will be a huge blessing to Arizona children and their families. The field itself is a synthetic material so that it is wheel-chair accessible, but Southwest Sod was honored to contribute the outlying turf areas. The Grand Opening on March 22 was a wonderful event and we were thrilled to participate. For more information on the Miracle League of Arizona, you can go to their website mlaz.org. Here are some pictures of the day-

The Cutting Edge

Last week, yours truly and three other Southwest Sod Turf Specialists attended the University of Arizona’s Desert Turf School, where we were exposed to cutting edge technology in Arizona home and sports turf management, learning the latest research results of the professors and researchers at the Karsten Turfgrass facility in Tucson. I’ll be passing that information on to you in the next weeks and months so you can make your lawn the best in the neighborhood.

Applying iron during the cold winter months is a simple way to do that. Iron is present in soil but becomes less available to the plant when the soil is cold and wet, causing turf to yellow, beginning with the youngest leaves first. Spraying the lawn with iron or ferrous sulphate will help “green it up” for your Super Bowl party or the weekly backyard football game. Iron sulphate should be applied at a rate of 4 ounces per 1000 square feet with a hand sprayer. Make sure that no herbicide residue is in the sprayer by washing it a few times with warm soapy water. It is best to apply the iron mid-morning, allowing the plant to absorb the nutrients for about 24 hours before irrigating or mowing. It will take a few days for the iron to take effect, but when it does you will notice a marked difference.

Don’t Tread on Me

The frost cloths are out. Snow is on Four Peaks. Winter is finally here. With the thermometer plummeting and frost covering the lawn, make a New Year’s resolution to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER walk on frozen or frost covered turf (Yes, golfers, there is a reason for frost delays). Frozen turf blades have no elasticity and will split or shatter easily under foot or vehicle traffic. The grass will wilt once the ice melts, producing what is sometimes called “frost printing.” This picture, take by William M. Brown, Jr., Bugwood.org, is a good example. It can take weeks for the grass to recover and grow upright again.


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As you celebrate the New Year at home or with family and friends, remember to stay off that frozen turf. Your lawn will thank you and will look 10 times better as a result. Have a safe and happy New Year’s Day!

I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas

Christmas songs play non-stop on the radio, Bing Crosby crooning about snow and white and all those cold things we Arizonans know nothing about, particularly in the last few weeks. Night time temperatures are generally much cooler this time of year with averages in the mid to high 30s. December is usually one of the coldest months in the low desert. Not this year: the 70 degree days and 40 degree nights seem to be here for awhile. Though bad for those dreaming of a white Christmas, it’s perfect for those of us who want an attractive lawn when the relatives come.

The warm weather is ordered and in transit, so there are only a few things left to make the lawn family-picture-perfect. For those who decided not to overseed, the list is even shorter. Non-overseeded bermuda grass requires a minimal amount of water. Dr. Davic Kopec of the University of Arizona Turfgrass Research Center advises homeowners in Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma to water non-overseeded turf once every few weeks to protect the grass from dehydration. He suggests watering every 21 days, though that is discretionary based on the weather.

Hybrid bermuda overseeded with winter ryegrass requires a little more attention but the visually stunning results are entirely worth the effort. Watering every 3-5 days for 15-20 minutes is sufficient this time of year, though after a good rain you can reduce the frequency slightly. The grass is getting plenty of water if you can penetrate the soil 4-6 inches with a screwdriver or other sharp object.

Since winter growth is slower, mowing once or twice a week is usually adequate. Keep the ryegrass at a height of 3/4 to 1 inch so that the dormant hybrid transitions properly in the spring. If you fertilize, do so every four to six weeks, using a 16-20-0 or similar analysis that is high in phosphorus, which is most commonly found in granular form. Water immediately and thoroughly for a few cycles before mowing again, which will dissolve the fertilizer and prevent it from burning the turf.

Merry Christmas!