The ryegrass from last winter still hasn’t completely died out; I have a mixture of Bermuda and ryegrass so my lawn looks like a mess. I want a consistent and neat look. What should I do to encourage the Bermuda and get rid of the leftover survivors of last winter’s rye?
Q: The ryegrass from last winter still hasn’t completely died out; I have a mixture of Bermuda and ryegrass so my lawn looks like a mess. I want a consistent and neat look. What should I do to encourage the Bermuda and get rid of the leftover survivors of last winter’s rye?
A: The transition to total and completely Bermuda should be completed by the first of July if the correct procedures are followed. You were unaware of this, so you still have the transition to do. (No worries, there’s still time.)
Ryegrass and Bermuda grow differently, and we can take advantage of those differences to accomplish our objective. Ryegrass grows up from a center crown, which is stressed by summer heat and sun. Bermuda, by comparison, loves the sun and grows from runners parallel to the ground. The rye grows upward, shading the Bermuda — thus inhibiting it. Bermuda slows its growth in light shade to completely dying out in dense shade. Ryegrass can tolerate shade much better than Bermuda.
When the weather gets extremely hot, the sun shining directly on the ryegrass crown will kill it. So keep the grass mowed short and goodbye ryegrass. Usually starting about mid–May, we lower the mower one notch for three consecutive mowings, then keep it at the lowest height during most of June until the ryegrass dies. We don’t want to scalp the grass, just keep it very short so it will “stress out” and the Bermuda can get re-established. Even though you didn’t get it done then, follow that procedure now and it will still work.
Withholding water until the ryegrass died used to be to the recommendation, but the Bermuda was also stressed. The recommendation to lower the mower height has shown much better results.
We again take advantage of those growth characteristics when we overseed Bermuda with rye during the third week of October. We scalp by extremely close mowing or remove the entire Bermuda grass canopy so the rye seed will make contact with the soil, germinate and start growing before the Bermuda can recover and grow a new grass canopy. The new upward-growing ryegrass will then outgrow and shield the Bermuda, putting it to sleep for the season. Then we will mow the ryegrass taller.
In the late spring and early summer we will mow the grass shorter, letting the sun do the transition for us and allow the Bermuda to outgrow the rye. Close mowing favors the Bermuda, tall mowing favors the rye. Understanding the growth characteristics of each helps us select the outcome.
By the way, if you think your Bermuda seems to jump up overnight, you’re right — it does. Grasses and palm trees are monocots and do much of their growing at night.
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