Over seeding – Winter Rye
In many parts of the South, it is not possible to have an attractive green lawn throughout the winter months, due to low temperature exposure. Permanent warm season lawn grasses (centipede, Bermuda, zoysia, St Augustine) go dormant in the late fall and winter when temperature drop to about 50° F. These grasses grow very slowly, lose color in the fall, then turn brown (dormancy) with the first frost. Brown lawns throughout the winter are unattractive to some and weeds are easily seen, so a practice called “over seeding” is often used to provide a green winter lawn.
Over seeding is the practice of using a temporary grass which is seeded into the permanent lawn to provide winter color. Over seeding is easy to achieve provided the proper steps are followed, which include (1) selection of a good grass, establishment and maintenance. Several cool season grasses can be used for over seeding. By far the most common temporary grass is “rye grass”. Annual or perennial grasses are popular because of rapid seed germination, fast growth, adaptability, and reasonably low cost. Rye grass is widely adapted, does well in either sun or shade and tolerates close, frequent mowing.
If seeded heavily and mowed closely, rye grass can provide a very dense and beautiful lawn throughout the winter months. By the time the rye grass dies, the permanent lawn grass should be actively growing again, and will provide color and ground cover, the rest of the growing season.