Stop the Fertilizer

Temperatures are rising, weeds are growing like gangbusters, and your rye grass needs mowed more frequently.  That means spring is coming and it’s time to transition your lawn.
Your first step is to stop fertilizing.  You don’t want to encourage aggressive rye growth because it will compete with the awakening bermuda grass, which will need all the sun, water, air, and nutrients available to it to recharge itself from its winter dormancy.  If you allow the rye grass to grow too aggressively due to over-fertilization, you risk losing your bermuda grass when nighttime temperatures reach 65 degrees.

You won’t see the immediate impact of over-competing rye grass until the summer when it finally dies and you’re left with bare dirt instead of bermuda grass.  This will not be an issue if you stop fertilizing now.  Check back for subsequent steps in the spring transition process.

Monday’s Test Cut Results

The harvest crew has just returned from the fields with the results of the test cut for the overseeded sod.  They’ve informed me that the turf still needs a couple more days of growing time.  They said the turf looks great.  It has great color, but the roots are still a little immature. 

This causes the sod rolls to be weak and makes them difficult to handle during installation.
We’re going to do another test cut on Wednesday.  We believe with a few more days of growing the strength of the sod will improve drastically.  Stay tuned.  I’ll give another update on Wednesday. 

In the meantime, we do still have non-overseeded stock available. Thanks for your patience! 

If you have any questions, call our office at 602-271-4266.

Overseed Update: 10/20

I just walked the fields. We’re extremely close to opening up our overseeded stock for the winter season. We planted seed two weeks ago. Fertilizer has been applied and we continue to water efficiently to ensure strong germination. Our goal is to start harvesting overseeded sod next week (Oct. 24-28).  In the meantime, we will continue to ship non-overseeded sod.

Monday morning (Oct. 24), we’ll test cut the overseeded sod to see if the strength of the turf can withstand the harvesting process. If the sod is mature enough, we’ll begin shipping it to our customers, who have been waiting to order it. Thanks to everyone for being patient!

Check-in with us Monday via this blog, Facebook, or Twitter to find out how our test cut went and be one of the first to get your premium, overseeded sod for the 2011-2012 winter season.

Time to Plant-Go Get Your Seed!

The summer heat is finally breaking.  The nights are getting colder with temperatures constantly dropping under 65 degrees.  If you have plans to over seed your yard for winter green color, you need to stop by your local nursery and purchase your rye grass seed. Buy enough seed that will cover your lawn at a rate between 10-12 pounds per 1000 square feet. If your lawn’s area is 500 square feet and you want to plant at a rate of 12 pounds per 1000 square feet, you’ll need to purchase 6 pounds of seed to cover your lawn’s total area. I have seen nurseries selling bags of seed at 7, 10, 25, and 50-pound intervals. 

Be sure not to buy more seed than you need, unless you plan on storing it for next year’s planting. If you do end up buying too much seed and want to store it for next year, make sure to put it in a dry and dark place, free from intruders like rodents, insects, etc.

Now, it’s crucial for the overall health of your lawn to plant the correct rates of seed. Too little seed will result in poor coverage and traffic recovery during the winter months, creating a poor aesthetic appearance until spring. Planting too much seed will put undue stress on your bermuda grass during spring transition-the most critical time for a bermuda grass lawn-as it tries to come out of dormancy. The density of the rye grass will choke out the bermuda grass, and in June and July, you will start seeing dead spots in your yard. We don’t want dead spots!

Call our office at 602-271-4266 if you are unsure how much seed you’ll need for your yard. We have an eager staff waiting to assist you.

Overseeding is tough chore, but it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. In essence, you become a farmer, one who preps the ground, sows the seed, irrigates, and provides the necessary nutrients to produce a healthy crop, a beautiful, lush lawn. Enjoy the experience!  And remember, Southwest Sod is here to help!

Overseed Update-When Will It Be Ready?

Last week I offered you key steps to make certain that your overseeded lawn will have the best opportunity to thrive during the winter months.  Right now we’re receiving a lot of phone calls asking for overseeded sod.  So, I want to offer you a quick update as to what the farm is doing right now to get ready for fall overseed.

Our projected start date to begin seeding is October 1.  This date could be pushed back depending on weather conditions.  Ideally, we want to begin seeding when temperatures are consistently dropping below 65 degrees at night with daytime temperatures averaging around 80-85 degrees.

In the meantime, we will continue to do general maintenance-mowing and watering.  We have stopped fertilizing however, the fields that will be overseeded to stop the aggressive growth of the bermuda grass.  We don’t want the bermuda grass to out compete the rye grass after we plant.  About September 19, we will raise the height settings on our mowers, causing the stolons to grow more vertically than horizontally, so that when we verticut to open up the canopy of the grass, 1-2 days before planting, we will have an upright stolon with 1-2 leaf blades-perfect for the bermuda grass going into dormancy.

Once October 1 hits, we will then dispatch our Brillion®  planter to fields to begin planting the perennial rye grass.  This type of planter is a drill planter, commonly associated with planting alfalfa, wheat, oats, soybeans etc., that slices the ground open to  3/4″ creating a nice little seed bed in the soil for the planter to drop seed into.  The germination rate that results from using a drill planter as opposed to a broadcaster that slings seed on top of the ground is far higher, resulting in a stronger, more vibrant lawn earlier in the fall.  The last thing that you want from your winter lawn is to have brown spots appear (dormant bermuda grass) after the first freeze where the rye grass never really germinated.

The planting usually takes about 2 1/2 weeks to complete due to the amount of acres that need to be planted.  We will start seeing germination about a week after the seed has been planted.  Two weeks after our planting date, we will apply a starter fertilizer, ammonium phosphate (16-20-0) to get the rye grass to tiller out.  Then a week later (3 weeks from our planting date) we will begin our mowing schedule.  If we are able to follow this schedule, weather permitting, we will be able to start shipping you over-seeded sod by the first week of November.

Please follow our blog or call the office, 602-271-4266, to get the most updated information on when your overseeded lawn will be ready.

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 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.