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September Landscapes – Installing Winter Rye!


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If you're thinking of having winter rye this year, start planning now!

September is the month you would want to either install or prepare to install a winter rye turf for the cold season. Such an adventure requires some planning in advance, which is why this column will address it a month in advance.

Winter rye is a grass that is a deep green and looks exceptional. It grows and thrives in cold weather and can withstand any winter weather event we will see in North Texas.

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It is green and lush when everybody else’s turf is brown and dormant. It makes a homeplace look alive and active, especially during the holiday season. Your lawn/landscape will be the envy of the neighborhood. Installing rye will help keep out those nasty winter weeds, too.

What do you need to do to make a winter rye lawn happen?

• First, plan it. Obtain your winter rye seed and 21-0-0 fertilizer during mid-September if possible. You will want to install during the last week of September or the first week of October.

I will warn you folks with St Augustine or Zoysia turf . . . I do not recommend that you overseed your lawn with winter rye. While yes, it can be done, I discourage it because it will takes it toll on the St Augustine because of having to scalp when the growing season is still going and because of how early St Augustine comes out of winter dormancy.

If you have Bermuda turf, overseeing with winter rye is perfectly fine and poses no real threat to your Bermuda turf.

• Scalp your lawn on your pre-planned installation date. Your seed will need to have seed-to-soil contact, so scalping is necessary.

* Remove ALL of the grass debris from the lawn. This is important as again, we’re looking to achieve seed-to-soil contact. You’ll need a rake and several large trash bags.

• Once you have the debris removed, walk through the bare lawn, looking for any low spots in the lawn where the grass may not have been scalped. Remove the grass in these ruts if any (or cut it) and fill with topsoil to make level.

• Using a walk-behind spreader, spread your seed over the lawn. You may make two passes if you like. The more the better. When you purchase your seed, you will want to know the square footage of your lawn. For example, one bag of seed will cover 5,000 square feet, in most cases.

I advise folks to purchase the “winter rye mix” instead of the straight winter rye. The mix has some other winter grasses mixed in that are not as delicate as true winter rye. This helps maintain the beautiful look you’re wanting, more easily, throughout the cold months.

 

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• Once your seed has been applied, you’re now ready to apply a 21-0-0 (or a ratio that’s close) fertilizer to your lawn, which is now seed. The fertilizer will help the germination process speed up. One pass should suffice.

• Now you’re ready to flip the sprinklers on. Water in immediately after application as this will help the seed stay put and begin the germination process.

You will need to water twice daily for two weeks, perhaps a few days longer if germination is slow. Rain showers (moderate) followed by sunshiny weather are ideal during this two week period as natural rainfall and sun speed everything up.

The reason we want to have this done by last week of September or first week of October is because we want the root system to grow before the cooler weather sets in. With warm weather, you get more rapid root growth, setting the table for the winter rye season when done in early fall.

Once you have established your winter rye, you will want to mow it once every two weeks. The more rainfall we get, the faster it will grow so there may be times when you must mow every week. You will want to apply another round of fertilizer in late December. Do not apply in January or February as it will interfere with how you feed your regular turf.

You can purchase winter rye seed at most feed stores, nurseries and landscape supply.

 

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LABOR DAY SPRINKLER CHANGE

To this point in our growing season, I’ve asked you to maintain an evening watering of your lawn and landscape, due to the severe heat we get in the middle of our Texas summer. We are now past that for 2020 and need to change our sprinkler start times from evening starts to early morning starts.

So if your sprinkler control panel is set to start at 11 p.m. each evening, you will want to change that to a 5 am or 6 am start time. This will help prevent the formation of fungus in both lawn and landscape. Nights are now getting longer and cooler while our days are getting shorter, so the conditions can come together very easily for the formation of fungus. This change in start time reduces that risk.

This is a very important, but simple move. Failing to make the change can cause a very problematic and frustrating fall season.

You will also want to reduce your run times accordingly. Where you’ve had 20 min or 15 min run times to now, you’ll want to reduce to 15 or 10 minute run times.

Tree Trimming Time!

September is here and fall is on the horizon, so there is a limited amount of time to trim trees left this season. You want to trim them when leaves are still on the tree so dead growth can be easily distinguished from living growth.

Additionally, this will help your trees in the event of a winter storm event (ice, snow) which can cause limbs to break due to heavy canopies that were not maintained properly. We’ve now seen 3-4 winters where winter really didn’t show up for us. This means trees have grown more rapidly or thoroughly during that time, and also could indicate that a real winter is likely upon us this year.

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If you're thinking of having winter rye this year, start planning now! September is the month you would want to either install or prepare to install a winter rye turf for the cold season. Such an

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I have what may seem like a strange question.  if I let my buffalo grass grow to about 6 inches (and I love how it looks when it grows to 6-8" and lays over) it will produce a small female flower on top of the stem and then turns into a hardened husk.  Every summer I look and cant seem to find any male flowers that fertilize the plant.  I get a lot of honey bees over the lawn that seem to like the female flowers but I dont see them going down to where the male flowers should be closer to the ground.  Are there versions of buffalo grass that are genetically modified to not produce male flowers?  If so, can I buy male buffalo grass seed or a version that produces both male and female flowers? 

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55 minutes ago, Soldierhorn said:

How do you scalp a well established hybrid bermuda & buffalo grass lawn without destroying it?  Buffalo grass is pretty hearty and will survive a low cut. Does the same go for bermuda?  I suppose deer would LOVE the fresh rye grass -  right?

Bermuda doesn't mind a low cut at all. Very resilient turf. But you're doing during a time of year when grow-back will be minimal. Just don't be alarmed by that.

Yes, deer absolutely love rye grass.

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27 minutes ago, Soldierhorn said:

I have what may seem like a strange question.  if I let my buffalo grass grow to about 6 inches (and I love how it looks when it grows to 6-8" and lays over) it will produce a small flower and then turns into a hardened husk.  Every summer I look and cant seem to find any male flowers that fertilize the plant.  I get a lot of honey bees over the lawn that seem to like the female flowers but I dont see them going down to where the male flowers should be closer to the ground.  Are there versions of buffalo grass that are genetically modified to not produce male flowers?  If so, can I buy male buffalo grass seed or a version that produces both male and female flowers? 

I don't know of a source that sells male/female seeds separately, honestly. And there seems to be a concerted effort for the non-GMO things these days, so most of what I see says "Non-GMO" in big fat letters across the bottom of the bag.

I would think that simple foot traffic and wind would get those male flowers pollinating. Its not like they have to go far. lol

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24 minutes ago, Soldierhorn said:

Another off the wall question: 

You mention 21-0-0 fertilizer; are you a fan of horticulture cornmeal as a slow release fertilizer (nitrogen) with anti-fungal and (slightly) anti-germination properties?  I've been using it for years and it seems to work ok

We use the horticultural cornmeal as a lawn fertilizer for our organic customers. 

But with rye, you need faster release nitrogen and more nitrogen than the cornmeal will offer. It would be fine to use once the rye is established though.

However, know that cornmeal only has a 9 on the nitrogen. Thats not a lot.

Another item, nitrogen to fungus is like gas to a fire. So a combo that has anti-fungal AND nitrogen properties is little at odds with itself. This is why, on the chemical side, I recommend backing that ratio down during Fall application. Fall is when fungus happens, if its going to happen.

In your case, Bermuda and Buffalo grass hardly ever get fungus. They are sun-loving grasses that will only grow in spaces where full sun or almost full sun is available. So odds are not good for fungus in that environment anyway.

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1 minute ago, Sirhornsalot said:

I don't know of a source that sells male/female seeds separately, honestly. And there seems to be a concerted effort for the non-GMO things these days, so most of what I see says "Non-GMO" in big fat letters across the bottom of the bag.

I would think that simple foot traffic and wind would get those male flowers pollinating. Its not like they have to go far. lol

interesting.  Ok, I'll have to do some research to find a good buffalo grass seed.  And, you would think dogs would stir it up enough to get it to produce male flowers.  The dogs love playing in the buffalo grass for some reason.  

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7 minutes ago, Soldierhorn said:

ok, do I need to wait until the bermuda starts to change color or is it ok to cut it low now while it's still green?  My bermuda generally doesnt change color until mid-to late November and isnt fully dormant until the first hard freeze, which is usually in December sometime.

It's okay to do it now. Bermuda is already slowing down for dormancy. Getting the rye in early is good, you will have a rye turf with good root structure by the time the cold stuff gets here.

Bermuda is a native turf. So its going to be there one way or another. If you walked away from your house for five years and no one cared or watered your turf, Bermuda would be there when you got back.

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2 minutes ago, Sirhornsalot said:

We use the horticultural cornmeal as a lawn fertilizer for our organic customers. 

But with rye, you need faster release nitrogen and more nitrogen than the cornmeal will offer. It would be fine to use once the rye is established though.

However, know that cornmeal only has a 9 on the nitrogen. Thats not a lot.

Another item, nitrogen to fungus is like gas to a fire. So a combo that has anti-fungal AND nitrogen properties is little at odds with itself. This is why, on the chemical side, I recommend backing that ratio down during Fall application. Fall is when fungus happens, if its going to happen.

In your case, Bermuda and Buffalo grass hardly ever get fungus. They are sun-loving grasses that will only grow in spaces where full sun or almost full sun is available. So odds are not good for fungus in that environment anyway.

yeah. I use horticultural cornmeal with the low nitrogen for bermuda and buffalo because they dont have high nitrogen need.  So, if I overlay the bermuda/buffalo mix with rye for the winter, I'm assuming I should then use 21-0-0 for the fall fertilization and still use the horticultural cornmeal for post frost/early spring fertilization for the bermuda/buffalo. does that make sense?

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4 minutes ago, Sirhornsalot said:

It's okay to do it now. Bermuda is already slowing down for dormancy. Getting the rye in early is good, you will have a rye turf with good root structure by the time the cold stuff gets here.

Bermuda is a native turf. So its going to be there one way or another. If you walked away from your house for five years and no one cared or watered your turf, Bermuda would be there when you got back.

sounds good. I'll give it a shot cutting the bermuda short in about a week and seeding with rye. 

I generally have a people stop and ask why my grass is so green in Juy-August when most of the lawns dont water a ton are yellowish-brown.  I tell them that I only water a little once a week and that's mainly for my pecan and bur oak trees.  When my bur oak stresses, it tends to get a sticky sugary coating on the leaves and the bees are all over it.  just something I've noticed over the years.  I tell my neighbors to plant native plants and it will look better throughout the year and maintenance cost is FAR less. 

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2 minutes ago, Soldierhorn said:

sounds good. I'll give it a shot cutting the bermuda short in about a week and seeding with rye. 

I generally have a people stop and ask why my grass is so green in Juy-August when most of the lawns dont water a ton are yellowish-brown.  I tell them that I only water a little once a week and that's mainly for my pecan and bur oak trees.  When my bur oak stresses, it tends to get a sticky sugary coating on the leaves and the bees are all over it.  just something I've noticed over the years.  I tell my neighbors to plant native plants and it will look better throughout the year and maintenance cost is FAR less. 

You're a great neighbor!

Next time your burr oak stresses, take a look on the underside of the leaves. You may have aphids there. Insects will attack a tree in stress. Aphids and Scale both secrete a sugary substance which draws other insects in, namely ants, bees, wasps.

There are many varieties of Scale and Aphids. So the type you have on your Oak may not be the same type that attacks Crape Myrtles so much. Any time you see a Crape Myrtle with glossy leaves, its an insect infestation.

If you find insects on yours, Malathion/water mix spray will knock them out. Your trees may be too large for a practical spray application. An arborists will be able to treat though.

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4 hours ago, Sirhornsalot said:

You're a great neighbor!

Next time your burr oak stresses, take a look on the underside of the leaves. You may have aphids there. Insects will attack a tree in stress. Aphids and Scale both secrete a sugary substance which draws other insects in, namely ants, bees, wasps.

There are many varieties of Scale and Aphids. So the type you have on your Oak may not be the same type that attacks Crape Myrtles so much. Any time you see a Crape Myrtle with glossy leaves, its an insect infestation.

If you find insects on yours, Malathion/water mix spray will knock them out. Your trees may be too large for a practical spray application. An arborists will be able to treat though.

yes, I also noticed some yellowish/cream/brownish colored nodules underneath the leaves and some leaves even curled underneath. Is this something to worry about?  will Malathion penetrate these nodules and kill the insect? I was going to try some dish soap mixtures with maybe orange oil or something else. 

On a side note, my next door neighbor had the insect guy over their house (again).  I was out at my truck and he came over and asked if I had ant problems after the rain and if I need his services.  I told him no, I dont have any ant problems.  He asked what insect guy I use and I told him I dont have an insect guy; I deal with it myself.  I told him that a couple of times a year I will water with nematodes and sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the house (at different times of course).  But I told him the most effective thing I do is hit all the ant mounds with a orange oil mixture with water (approx 2tble/gal) right after a good rain.  It's really not hard and I dont have to have a "Dale Gribble" guy

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1 hour ago, Soldierhorn said:

yes, I also noticed some yellowish/cream/brownish colored nodules underneath the leaves and some leaves even curled underneath. Is this something to worry about?  will Malathion penetrate these nodules and kill the insect? I was going to try some dish soap mixtures with maybe orange oil or something else. 

On a side note, my next door neighbor had the insect guy over their house (again).  I was out at my truck and he came over and asked if I had ant problems after the rain and if I need his services.  I told him no, I dont have any ant problems.  He asked what insect guy I use and I told him I dont have an insect guy; I deal with it myself.  I told him that a couple of times a year I will water with nematodes and sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the house (at different times of course).  But I told him the most effective thing I do is hit all the ant mounds with a orange oil mixture with water (approx 2tble/gal) right after a good rain.  It's really not hard and I dont have to have a "Dale Gribble" guy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Those aren't nodules, those are the Scale and Aphids.

Scale is an insect, but looks like some sort of crust or crusty substance. If you mash it with your fingers, it will release a red substance that looks like blood. Its not blood though.

Once you spray, you can return a week or so later and mash those crusty things again. This time, it will turn to powder from your finger's force because it's dead.

 

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17 hours ago, Sirhornsalot said:

Bermuda doesn't mind a low cut at all. Very resilient turf. But you're doing during a time of year when grow-back will be minimal. Just don't be alarmed by that.

Yes, deer absolutely love rye grass.

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I'm going to have to clear a field and get some good grasses growing on my property in the hill country.  My deer look like skinny goats by comparison. What is a good summer grass to use in the hill country for deer to eat?  I would think it would be something that grows 8-24".  Besides buffalo grass, is there a good native prairie grass that I can plan to put in for the critters that doesnt require maintenance?  

Thanks for all the info

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Native grasses are what deer eat when there isn't much else to eat. They are unable to digest most grasses very well (exception being the winter weeds, grasses).

When it comes to deer, there are three categories of food that they will eat. They are listed by importance/significance.

1. Forbs – these are annual and perennial flowers, clovers and weeds. These plants offer the most protein to deer and are the deer's preferred diet. If they are available, this is what deer will eat.

2. Browse – deer will shift their diet to "browse" foliage, things like brushy shrubs, when Forbs are not available or are scarce. These have less protein but are more readily available throughout the year.

3. Grass – usually only eaten by deer when the grass is young and tender.

So my answer to you would be to stock up on wildflower seeds. Some you'll need to sow now while others you'd need to put down in early spring. The more protein you can get these deer, the better size they will be. Particularly the first year deer.

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41 minutes ago, Sirhornsalot said:

Native grasses are what deer eat when there isn't much else to eat. They are unable to digest most grasses very well (exception being the winter weeds, grasses).

When it comes to deer, there are three categories of food that they will eat. They are listed by importance/significance.

1. Forbs – these are annual and perennial flowers, clovers and weeds. These plants offer the most protein to deer and are the deer's preferred diet. If they are available, this is what deer will eat.

2. Browse – deer will shift their diet to "browse" foliage, things like brushy shrubs, when Forbs are not available or are scarce. These have less protein but are more readily available throughout the year.

3. Grass – usually only eaten by deer when the grass is young and tender.

So my answer to you would be to stock up on wildflower seeds. Some you'll need to sow now while others you'd need to put down in early spring. The more protein you can get these deer, the better size they will be. Particularly the first year deer.

Plant a patch of clover and oats

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1 hour ago, DMAC said:

My neighbor has winter rye and their yard looks good in fall and winter.

We replaced our Bermuda with St Augustine a few years back.  Much better

There's something about walking barefoot in a St Augustine yard. You take your chances in a Bermuda yard.

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1 hour ago, DMAC said:

My neighbor has winter rye and their yard looks good in fall and winter.

We replaced our Bermuda with St Augustine a few years back.  Much better

Don't overseed that St Augustine with winter rye. You may get away with it the first year, but the summer lawn gets worse each year you do it.

If your neighbor asks why you don't have winter rye, just use the St Augustine excuse. :)

 

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9 minutes ago, Baron said:

There's something about walking barefoot in a St Augustine yard. You take your chances in a Bermuda yard.

 

I will see your St Augustine with Palisades Zoysia. Walking barefoot in that is even nicer than St Augustine. I have one customer with that Palisades and its just like carpet, without the issues that St Augustine has (fungus, insects).

Most insects won't touch Zoysia. Something about it they don't like. Army worms won't touch it.

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8 minutes ago, Sirhornsalot said:

 

I will see your St Augustine with Palisades Zoysia. Walking barefoot in that is even nicer than St Augustine. I have one customer with that Palisades and its just like carpet, without the issues that St Augustine has (fungus, insects).

Most insects won't touch Zoysia. Something about it they don't like. Army worms won't touch it.

I fold. I always heard Zoysia is pricey. Is that the stuff that you can mow really low to the ground?

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16 minutes ago, Baron said:

I fold. I always heard Zoysia is pricey. Is that the stuff that you can mow really low to the ground?

Its a little more expensive on the front end, but its not nearly the water hog that St Augustine is. So you get that back pretty quickly.

No, you don't want to mow Zoysia too short. Its like St Augustine that way. Its better off at about 3 inches.

Hybrid Bermuda, Bermuda Tiff 419 you can cut short, low to the ground. This is the turf that was developed for golf course greens.

 

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