Landscape Tip: Overseeding Cool-Weather Lawns May Not Be Necessary


Hand Holding Grass Seeds

In some parts of the country, recent rains have re-invigorated apartment property lawns that were stricken during one of the worst droughts on record. Lawns are showing more signs of life with new, green growth or just a healthier appearance while winding down to dormancy.

Normally about this time of year, property owners and managers begin making preparations to ready their landscape for fall (curb appeal is a year-round process). That plan often includes overseeding with winter ryegrass to maintain a lush, green appearance through cooler temperatures.

But there is a, pardon me, catch in the rye.

Overseeding Can Damage the Landscape but not Curb Appeal

Overseeding when a warm season turf is damaged from drought or other adverse conditions can go a long way toward weakening existing turf. During germination, ryegrass establishes a root system that competes for moisture and nutrients that a damaged existing turf badly needs.

The gain in winter attractiveness and possible curb appeal could be at the expense of a healthy lawn the next summer. This is especially true with St. Augustine lawns that are predominant in warmer, wetter climates.

Also, because winter ryegrass takes a significant amount of water to get established, overseeding in water-restricted communities could be a waste of time and resources. From a horticultural standpoint, it’s the worst thing an apartment property owner could do to the landscape.

More and more apartment properties are beginning to realize the toll that overseeding takes even with normal moisture levels.

One Dallas/Fort Worth-area property management company experimented with a couple of its A-plus properties a few years ago and chose not to overseed. Rather than having a lush, green lawn that certainly enhances curb appeal, the properties settled for that golden dormant look.

Because there was no difference in traffic or closing ratios, the company chose to drop overseeding practices at the rest of its apartment properties. There has been no looking back.

A Dormant Lawn is a Healthy Lawn

Property managers are finding that the benefits of a healthier, dormant lawn that can be properly prepared for the next growing season far outweigh the extra color and potential curb appeal.

From a spring preparation standpoint, overseeding with ryegrass or any other cool-weather grass delays the pre-emergent process. Applying granules or sprays that contain weed control products will impede germination that could destroy cool-weather grass before it hits its full growth cycle.

Also, ryegrass is only temporary, so if it’s being used to cover bare spots under trees or heavily shaded areas, it will eventually die when warmer temperatures set in. Get a permanent fix with zoysia grass for those areas

If overseeding is a must, do so during September and October. The ground temperature needs to be 65 or higher for the grass to establish. Waiting later in the year when the mercury is lower usually results in sporadic germination and a patchwork lawn.

Remember, cool-weather grass seed requires a lot of water–up to three times per day to keep the seeds wet–during germination. Avoid fall color installations while trying to establish a winter lawn. Too much water could drown newly planted colors and create a battle with fungus.

A property with cool-weather grass is eye-catching and can be beneficial, as long as the temporary lawn doesn’t adversely affect an established turf. A dormant lawn, though, better ensures that next summer’s grass will be healthier and provide better curb appeal.

Consult with an experienced lawn care and landscape specialist to determine if overseeding is the right option for your apartment property.

What are your experiences with overseeding? How has it affected your lawn and landscape?



President, Earthworks

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Chris Lee is President of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. He is a contributing author to Landscape Management magazine, licensed irrigation specialist and a Toro Intellisense certified technician. Chris studied business at the University of Arkansas from 1990-94 and horticulture and landscape design at Tarrant County College from 1999-01. He has been employed at Earthworks since 1998.

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