Everybody knows that lush, green grass is a winter staple here in Arizona. However, making sure that your winter rye transition goes smoothly is more than just mowing your lawn as short as your mower will go and throwing down some annual ryegrass seed you bought for as cheap as possible at Home Depot or Wal-Mart.
The first thing to remember when preparing for the transition from bermuda grass, which is our typical summer grass in the Valley, to the rich, deep, green rye grass that is present during the winter is that it is not a one Saturday job. Just like anything else, a little planning will go a long way in making your winter lawn look good all winter.
In order to get the Rye seed to germinate properly the bermuda needs to be in a state of dormancy. This is a natural occurance in bermuda grass and usually begins in late September to early October as Autumn begins to drop the high temperatures we experience throughout the summer months to range from 68 degrees at night to 100 degrees during the day. Don’t be tempted to try the changeover too early. By shutting off the water to your bermuda and scalping your lawn you can force the bermuda into dormancy. However, if the temps are still above the triple digits there is a good chance your bermuda will rebound as soon as the water is turned back on and your rye will burn out before establishing.
Avoid some common mistakes by following these tips for making the transition from summer bermuda to winter rye:
1. Only use perrenial rye seed. We recommend a 3, 5 or 7 seed blend. Our “go-to” seed is “Birdie” or “Eagle” and is found at Ewing Irrigation and Supply.
2. Get your seed and fertilizer from Ewing Irrigation and Supply. It is a fraction of the cost of Home Depot, Lowe’s, or hardware stores, and is a better blend with less than .01% of inert or weed material per 50lb bag.
3. Use granulated starter fertilizer.
4. Shut off the water to your lawns about the second week of September.
5. You do not need to scalp to the dirt, just go low enough to expose the soil for the seed to pass through the cut bermuda and make contact with the soil beneath.
6. Use a broadcast spreader as opposed to applying by hand or with a hand held spreader. The low delivery of the broadcast spreader distributes the seed and fertilizer in an even fashion.
7. Keep your seed wet. Water 3-4 times a day for 2-3 minutes each time. If the seed gets wet and dries before germinating it will not germinate.
8. Fertilize with general purpose fertilizer after the 3rd or 4th mow and continue to do so every 6-8 weeks.
9. Mow regularly. We recommend every 5-7 days at about 2-3 inches in height.
10. Call us for questions, concerns, advice, and help!