mixing types of seed

melvee(7)February 16, 2009

Hi all! Here's the skinny: I live in southeastern VA. It rarely gets colder than 20 or warmer than 100, but can be very humid. Front yard is average sized, back yard is large and very open. I have fescue, but not sure which type. Most of the yard, esp the back, is crabgrass and clover, etc. i'd like a lawn that stays green in the winter months. i can't afford a service but am willing to put in the work and some money to do it myself. if i mix fescue and ryegrass, and overseed what i have in the early spring and in the fall, will that do it? i already have a plan in place to dethatch, aerate, and slit seed in the fall if i can find the machines to rent. it'll have to wait until then b/c i'm due to deliver a baby in April and can't be out there with heavy machines. i have tried Scott's every year (for crabgrass and for other weeds) but it never seems to work that great for me. If i have tall fescue and plant fine fescue, or vice versa, will that cause a problem?

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andy10917(NY 6a)

I have to admit to being double-surprised.

First, that someone is expecting in two months is actually thinking about their lawn. ;-)

Second, I wondered why I haven't heard much about Tall Fescue/Fine Fescue mixes. I even researched it, and I didn't find much. I've heard of TTTF/PR mixes (low PR), and TTTF/KBG mixes, but no TTTF/FF mixes. I'm looking forward to learning something from whoever answers this one.

Can you tell us anything about how the current grass grows when you haven't mowed it for awhile? Or something about the width of the blades on the grass? TTTF and Fine Fescues look very different most of the time.

SE VA is a transitional zone between cool-season and warm-season grasses. Even at a minimum temperature of 20 though, I don't think you'd be able to keep a PR/FF lawn green year-round. Is that the most important item to you?

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 8:40PM
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I don't know that much about rye, but I think you'd probably be better off sticking with just fescue rather than adding the rye in the mix. Both rye and tall fescue are bunch grasses, so you wouldn't get the benefit of spreading that using KBG gives. Unfortunately, I don't think KBG will do as well where you are as it does a little farther north. There are some newer varieties of fescue that will spread rhizomatously (although they spread more slowly than KBG).

You're actually better off waiting until fall to seed anyway. If you seed a cool season grass in the spring, it doesn't have as much time to get established before the heat of the summer. I would think that would be even more of a problem in VA. If I were in your shoes, I'd try to get rid of as many weeds as possible between now and fall and concentrate on putting seed down in the fall.

As for keeping the grass green all winter, you may see it go dormant the first year, but once it gets established, your fescue should stay green all winter. The key is fertilizing at the right time. Never fertilize it during the summer. Fertilize once in the spring, then once in mid fall and once in late fall. For the last fertilization, wait until the top growth has stopped (or nearly stopped) but the grass is still green. Since it's still green, it can make sue of the nitrogen, but with the top growth stopped, it all goes to the root system. If it doesn't stay green all winter, it will certainly stay green longer and come out of dormancy sooner. However, if I fertilize with that approach, it stays green all winter for me, even though it's under a foot or more of snow for much of that time.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 9:08PM
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I would like to have a green (at least green-ish) lawn year round but getting rid of the weeds is definitely topping that. most of my yard is brown in the winter months - i guess maybe that is the crabgrass that is dormant. somewhere on this forum i saw a pix of crabgrass and tall fescue side by side; my grass looks a lot like that so i suppose tall fescue is what i have. the back is onion grass, clover, and other kinds of weeds iwth some grass scattered in. it gets really thin in the winter. i was thinking about kentucky blue grass but i read that it would take over the whole lawn and not sure i want that. do i?!?!?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 3:44PM
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andy10917(NY 6a)

Melvee, that's almost certainly not crabgrass that you're seeing dried up and brownish - you shouldn't be able to find crabgrass this time of year, even in VA. The first frosts are a full kill. That's either an unimproved tall fescue or nutsedge (guys help me - does Nutsedge go "dormant" in VA?)

As far as your KBG question, I have to laugh (sorry!). There are many of us on this forum that have spent tens of thousands of dollars over years just **trying** to get KBG to take over the whole lawn. KBG is actually gorgeous, but it sure likes its water and nitrogen (fertilizer). The serious answer is that you are in an area that is considered "transitional" and you have to be very careful about the variety that you use - many KBG's don't like the prolonged heat and humidity that you get. As far as staying green is concerned, even up here in New York my KBG lawn popped out from under 55 straight days of snow cover this week and was still pretty green. Of course, I could still face yet more snow cover this winter.

The best advice that I can offer is to chat with neighbors that have nice lawns that you'd like to have and ask them the varieties of grass that they use and whether they take care of it themselves. Avoid the "lawn crazies" and forget their perfect lawns unless you want to be one. That is a way of life, not a lawn ;-) C'mon back here when you have an idea of what you'd like to put down on your lawn, and see if you can't get one of the nicer people to identify a few of the major weeds and grass types that you have (there is nobody that won't help an expectant mom that asks for help!!) Or, post a few (close-up) pictures of both the grass and some of the major weeds.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 4:39PM
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I suspect that what you see now that is brown is bermuda grass. A lot of yards in the transition zone are a mix of bermuda and tall fescue and is pretty common in SE VA. While not a very pretty mix, it works surprisingly well as cover for the soil in our climate.

Cool season grasses (tall fescue, fine fescue, perennial rye, and kentucky bluegrass) are the grasses that will stay green during the winter if cultural practices are followed. If you want a green lawn in the winter that is what you'll have to plant and generally tall turf type fescue with a 5-10% mix of KBG is thought to be an ideal transition area cool season grass. There are other good choices too.

But, before you pick a grass type, make sure the correct cultural practices are being followed. You should mow at the highest setting on your mower. 3" is good, 4" is better. Water deeply and infrequently. Fertilize sparingly in the spring and summer and heavily in the fall. Spot spraying weeds is generally a healthier alternative to broadcasting herbicides. You may want to get a soil test done this spring so you know if you will need any amendments before seeding.

See the link for more help.

Here is a link that might be useful: VT Turf

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 10:20PM
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Thanks to those of you who answered already. Soccerdad, I do mow on my highest setting, but my DH does not :( as he wants to mow as infrequently as possible. (I try to do the yardwork) I could do better at watering and will focus on that this year. spot treating is out of the question as it would take years and more money than i have to 'spot treat' a yard like mine - it is one BIG spot that needs to be treated. i considered tearing the whole thing up and starting from scratch but that is more work than i can manage right now with 2 kids under 2. my neighbors all use TruGreen - toying with the idea of just having them treat it a few times to see how much that would help, and then taking over from there. i have taken a few photos of the yard. not sure how to upload them???

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 11:59AM
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garycinchicago(Z5 Chicago IL.)

"i have taken a few photos of the yard. not sure how to upload them???"

See link below

Here is a link that might be useful: How to post pictures

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 12:37PM
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Roundup and reseed with turf type tall fescue blend in late summer, early fall.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 9:50PM
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Okay, so i was wrong on the grass type. i had a free analysis done and they said i have a mix of tall fescue and bermudagrass. i'm guessing it's mostly bermuda b/c almost the whole lawn is brown. i would like it be somewhat green in the winter months. i have 3 kids and 2 large dogs that abuse my lawn. what mixture of grasses would you guys recommend?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 6:51PM
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I don't know very much about warm season grasses, but I think you'll find that if you're in an area where cool season grasses can live, the warm season grasses will turn brown in the winter. DCHall has found that watering St Augustine grass during the winter keeps it green for him, but I think his winters may be warmer than yours.

Tall fescue will likely stay green for you all winter, especially if you give it some high nitrogen fertilizer in the fall while it's still green, but after the top growth has stopped. I don't really do this anymore because I've switched to using organics pretty much exclusively. My lawn usually stays pretty green during the winter, but not as green as when I'd hit it with the jolt of N in late fall.

I think that fescue and bermuda make a poor mix. Fescue likes to be mowed tall and bermuda likes to be mowed high. Add to that the fact that bermuda is warm season and that means that it will be brown while the fescue is green. If you don't water enough in the summer, the fescue will turn brown and the bermuda will turn green.

Tall fescue can develop pretty deep roots, so it can stay green during a drought, but once it does go dormant, it tends to do poorly at coming out of dormancy so you may need to overseed periodically.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 2:24AM
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I think a better option for you would be to promote your bermuda grass and help it spread this summer. Maybe kill the areas of clover and stuff with Roundup while the bermuda is still somewhat dormant, and then you can sprig those bare areas from the rest of the bermuda in your yard. There are other threads on here that talk about sprigging your yard from your own existing turf. Hit it with a lot of water and Nitrogen through the summer months. If you have some shady areas, it might not do as well. Then when October rolls around, purchase an intermediate or perennial ryegrass for winter overseeding. This will keep the lawn green when your bermuda goes dormant. Then, when temps get hot again the following summer, the rye will die off and you will have a bermuda lawn again.

As far as the dogs, try buying a bag of gypsum and spreading that once in a while at 2 to 5 lbs per 1,000sqft. This will help with the dog urine. Also, I've heard that adding teabags to your dog's water helps keep their urine from damaging turf, but I'm not sure how that works.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 10:31AM
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Denverdude--The OP wants a lawn that will stay green during the winter. That's why I recommended the fescue. Bermuda will go dormant when it cools off but fescue won't.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 12:11PM
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Thats why you overseed with rye in the fall. Rye is inexpensive and easy to get going. Lots of people with bermuda do it, why shouldn't she?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 1:42PM
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