Myths and Mistakes

Ryegrass provides winter greenery and holds soil on ground that is bare due to shade during the growing season. That prevents erosion into a local reservoir.

“Neil, my city has regulations against overseeding our lawn with ryegrass in winter. They say it causes increased and unnecessary consumption of precious water.”

So here is my take on that, and I’ll admit that I’m a fan of overseeding my lawn. I’m in an area where it’s allowed. I’ll line out my thoughts in a sequence.

Overseeding gives a good cover in winter if you have children or pets that might otherwise be tracking mud.

Overseeding may even lessen erosion into our streams and eventually our reservoirs.

It looks good and it helps crowd out winter weeds.

Continued Below


Here’s how I rationalize my feelings…
Your permanent lawn (bermuda, St. Augustine or zoysia) will need a certain amount of water over the winter to keep its roots alive and vigorous.

If it doesn’t rain, then you’ll need to irrigate your permanent turf (assuming no water curtailments due to drought).

The water that is sufficient for your permanent lawn can be absolutely sufficient for your overseeded rye. It gets watered (or rained on) at the same time as your permanent turfgrass. No extra watering from late October until it dies out in May.

The only extra watering you might need to make to the ryegrass would be in late September or October should you hit hot, dry weather soon after you sow it. Plant it on a day when you were going to water your lawn anyway, then sow the rye and water the permanent turf and seed at the same time. It will germinate within 5 to 10 days, and for that week or so you’ll need to make sure the soil doesn’t dry out. But beyond that it can probably co-exist with the lawngrass without any more watering than you would give the lawn normally.

But my bigger point…
We Texans tend to water our lawns to excess anyway. That’s especially evident in winter. My opinion: By using “smart” controllers and managing irrigation more efficiently during the cool months, we could almost assuredly overseed with rye and still come out thousands of gallons of water per landscape ahead.

Lovely lawn of my friend Troy Lilly in Snyder, Texas, shows how much cheer ryegrass can bring to a landscape in winter.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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