How to Grow Rye Grass

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Rye grass is used in mild winter climates where the heat-tolerant summer grasses become dormant in the winter. Plant rye grass in autumn and be rewarded with a lush, green lawn all winter long. Growing rye grass requires watering and mowing through the winter months, but being the envy of all your neighbors is often worth the extra expense and effort.

  • Prepare to plant rye grass anytime mid-September to late October. Timing is important to ensure the rye grass doesn't compete with the permanent lawn or it becomes too cool for the rye grass to quickly germinate.

  • Stop watering the Bermuda or other summer grass at least 10 days before planting the rye grass seed.

  • Cut the summer grass at the lowest setting on the lawn mower (often called scalping). Cutting the permanent lawn short ensures the rye grass seed settles down to the soil.

  • Spread rye grass seed over the lawn. Use a hand or push spreader, or even toss handfuls of seed over the lawn.

  • Water the lawn immediately. You should see the beginnings of a green lawn within a week. Continue watering throughout the winter months.

  • Mow rye grass at a higher setting on your lawn mower. Mowing more than once a week may be required in the spring when the rye grass is growing rapidly.

  • Stop watering around May and let the rye grass die out. This usually occurs when temperatures reach 90 degrees F. Then start watering again to bring the summer grass out of a dormant state.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use rye grass for erosion control until a permanent lawn can be planted or to cover dirt areas.
  • Rye grass must be replanted each year unless you are using a perennial variety as a permanent lawn in a colder climate.
  • Rye grass may not be very dense and mowing it too short will result in an uneven appearance.

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