Ryegrass is one of the grasses that stay green in winter. It grows best in cooler temperatures and it can be used as a permanent lawn choice in northern climates. Overseeding dormant warm-season lawns in the southern with ryegrass allows you to enjoy a greener color during the cold season. So, does ryegrass spread?
Ryegrass does not spread through rhizomes or stolons, it naturally forms clumps and fills in slowly through vertical shoots known as tillers. However, this grass germinates quickly and it can offer a thick lawn within a short period of time.
Does Ryegrass Spread?
In the right conditions of temperature and soil moisture, ryegrass seed germinates within 1-2 weeks after sowing. This definitely gives you an opportunity to enjoy a lawn within a short period of time. Unfortunately, soon after germinating ryegrass starts forming clumps and will spread slowly through tillers.
Before you purchase ryegrass for overseeding or starting a new lawn, it is important to decide whether you want it for short-term or long-term growth. This will be determined by the type of ryegrass you choose. Accordingly, you can opt for annual ryegrass or perennial ryegrass.
There are quite many differences between annual and perennial ryegrass. Annual ryegrass, as the name suggests, is a short-lived grass used to provide quick color in dormant warm season lawns, erosion control, and as a temporary cover crop. The life cycle of this annual plant gets completed in one year’s growing season.
Perennial ryegrass on the other hand can be used in the same capacity as the former but it comes back year after year in the right climate conditions. Turf-type perennial ryegrass is widely used to establish permanent lawns in northern climates.
Ryegrass, like other cool-season grasses, thrives during the fall and cool spring months. This grass has limited tolerance to drought and heat and will die or go dormant during the summer season.
How to Make Ryegrass Thicker and Spread Faster
Ryegrass can thin out or slow down in growth due to improper soil conditions, lack of nutrients, drought, diseases, and poor lawn maintenance practices. The good news is that you can make ryegrass thicker and spread faster as follows:
1. Seed or overseed at the right time
Soil temperature is a very important factor for the successful germination of ryegrass. Both annual and perennial ryegrass seed germinates best when soil temperatures are between 50°F and 65°F. By planting in this temperature condition, you help the grass to germinate faster, establish faster and spread faster.
Early fall is the best time to plant ryegrass. If you come from the northern regains of the country, seed your lawn approximately 40 days before you expect your area’s first fall frost. Overseed your southern lawn for winter color as soon as the warm season grass starts going dormant.
2. Apply fertilizer on your ryegrass
When planting ryegrass, it is important to use a high phosphorus quick-release starter fertilizer. Once established, a slow-release nitrogen fertilizer leads to improved turf density, color, above ground vegetative growth.
However, before using any fertilizer, it is always a good idea to conduct a soil test to determine what nutrients are needed the most and if the soil has the correct pH level for the grass. Proper amendments will be recommended in the soil test results.
3. Weed your ryegrass
Weeds usually grow and compete with your grass for nutrients, light, and water. Lawns with thinning grass or bare patches encourage the growth of weeds. To start with, you have to ensure that your grass is healthy by watering it, fertilizing, and overseeding it to repair the bare spots.
To get rid of weeds growing in your lawn, you can use a post-emergent herbicide. You may as well stop weeds from growing by using a pre-emergent herbicide. Be sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the product label.
4. Aerate your lawn
Aerating your lawn will relieve soil compaction and enhance healthy grass growth. If you have high-traffic areas on your lawn or heavy clay soil, you will want to aerate every year. A lawn can only benefit from aeration when it’s timed well and done properly.
Aerate your ryegrass lawn in early spring or fall. This is when cool season grasses are actively growing and make it the right time for ryegrass to recover faster. Aerating a lawn increases the flow of oxygen, water, and nutrients to roots which makes grass spread faster.
5. Mow your lawn often
Mowing plays an important role in the spreading and thickening of grass. Ryegrass grows more quickly and you should mow it often. Remember the one-third rule – never remove more than one-third of the blade at any one time.
When mowing, ensure your lawn mower blades are sharp. You can decide to bag the clippings or leave them to decompose on the lawn and provide more nitrogen to the grass.
6. Water your grass frequently
After planting ryegrass, water your lawn two to three times a week until the grass form roots. Sod takes as little as three days to root while seed takes two weeks to germinate. Thereafter, gradually reduce watering your lawn to 1 inch of water every 10 to 14 days to keep soil moist and not saturated.
You should also supplement rainfall with watering so that your grass gets 1 to 1 1/4 inches of water per week.
7. Control pests and diseases
Pests and diseases can also be a reason for low quality and a thinning-out lawn. The most common types of fungal diseases that affect ryegrass are dollar spot, brown patch, pythium blight, and rust. Pests such as white grubs, sod webworms, and armyworms can also affect the health of your grass.
Pest and disease treatment typically ranges from cultural control to chemical approaches with the use of pesticides and fungicides. You may also need to contact a turf specialist for a well-thought-about fix.
Ryegrass does not disappoint when you need a fast-establishing turf grass for short-term applications in southern regions or permanent ones in northern. With the right care, this grass germinates and spreads faster to provide the color and strength you need.
- Duble, R.L., “Ryegrass, Temporary Sports Turf for the South,” Texas A&M Agrilife Extension.
- The University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Annual Ryegrass,” UW-Madison Extension.
- University of California Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, “Grass Seed Germination Rates,