For years the Dallas/Fort Worth market has been on the forefront of seeding ryegrass into dormant turf for the winter. Why seed ryegrass you ask? (Ok, so you didn’t ask…but I’ll tell you anyway) Well, in this market the warm season turf, predominately Bermuda and St. Augustine, goes dormant in the winter, leaving the turf naturally brown.
Years ago someone came up the idea of sowing ryegrass (a cool season turf) into dormant, warm-season lawns. Magically, the brown grass became green for the winter. Overnight this became the new property status symbol. The pressure was on. You couldn’t have your neighbor one-upping you by having green turf, while yours was brown, especially in Dallas! Soon almost every type of property, from retail to industrial, office to HOA joined the practice. It was a wintertime oasis.
Not so fast. It seems that not everything that looks good is actually good for you (or for your property). Just like those lead-based paint chips when I was a kid. Sure looked good, didn’t taste too bad, turns out not so good for you.
Although beautiful in the winter, the practice of over-seeding dormant turf has some drawbacks:
- It takes a lot of water to get the rye seed to germinate and even more to keep it looking good in the winter. Compared to almost no water required for dormant turf.
- Much of the grass that is removed during the scalping process finds its way to landfills …not good.
- The process is actually harmful to the warm season grass and, over time, will cause the turf to weaken significantly.
- It takes extra fertilizer and mowing, which requires additional labor, fuel and materials…..which costs more money.
Over-seeded, warm season turf may be green in the winter but it is certainly not a green practice. Just the significant increase in water consumption alone, is enough to make you question the practice.
Fortunately, the reality of on-going water restrictions, combined with the desire to become more environmentally friendly is reversing the trend. Fewer and fewer properties are over-seeding their dormant turf. Some to save some green, others to be more green. Whatever the motivation, it is the right thing to do.
So the next time you drive past that beautiful brown, winter-time lawn, just squint and I believe you will see it is really green.