When to Kill Overseeded Rye and Begin Leveling New Bermuda Sod

cansariMarch 28, 2013

I had about 3000 SF of new Celebration bermuda sod installed last Fall. The bermuda never grew after it was installed (I assume due to cool temperatures in Dallas), and was very thin. I decided to overseed it with Rye about 3 weeks after it was installed. When the bermuda was installed I requested that it be installed perfectly smooth without bumps, but that didn't happen and its bumby and unlevel. Now that the growing season is approaching, I would like to get the Bermuda in good shape and the lawn level. My questions:

1. When should I kill of the overseed Rye to allow the Bermuda to grow and recover?
2. Should I use Celsious to aid in killing the rye?
3. When should I scalp and level the lawn with sand?
4 Should I do that now, or wait until the bermuda is actively growing?
5. If I have to wait until the bermuda is growing before I scalp and level, I am concerned that scalping the lawn at that time might kill the Bermuda - is that a valid concern?

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I see this problem frequently with new construction, usually because rye is often used for soil retention prior to sodding, but the scenario is still very similar. It is also one of the reasons I've developed a disdain for rye.

1) Don't use an herbicide right now. This may be hard to swallow as I imagine you used Annual Rye and it is growing like the weed it is, but your lawn is not established enough to use an herbicide strong enough to kill the rye. For now, keep it mowed down short, and keep it watered until it roots.
2) Again, no herbicide. I love Celsius WG and have used it since it hit the market. It is a great product, and will be useful for you at some point, but under the label restrictions it clearly warns to "use this product on established turf only," and this isn't just to skirt damage claims, the warning is there for good reason.
3&4) "Scalping" is done during dormancy and topdressing is done during active growth. Keep in mind a scalping is just the pruning off of last season's dead growth, so if your sod didn't grow the scalping need should be fairly light. Also, consider rolling the lawn with a water filled drum to smooth it and insure that the roots are making good contact. The fact that it didn't grow after being put down concerns me, as sod is vulnerable to dehydration until it roots.
5) Yes, to an extent. Bermuda is one of the more hardy grasses so I've never seen it killed by scalping it. However, I have seen it stunted by scalping it during the growing season. So again, cut it down now and top-dress later. When it's actively growing, the root system pulls water primarily through a process call Transpirational Pull, which is the release of water through the leaves that creates a pull through the capillaries that reach all the way to the root system. When an actively growing leaf is removed, it interrupts this process and reduces the root systems draw on the soil moisture.

Also, make sure to apply a good starter fertilizer this Spring to encourage the root system to root as quickly as possible. Once it is established and you're mowing regularly, you can go after any lingering ryegrass or other weeds without worry. Just remember to always check label restrictions.

Here is a link that might be useful: .

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 1:22AM
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Thanks serenitylawnservice for all the good advice, answers and information - I really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 10:22AM
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If you can find Revolver that can be used now. Just used it last week myself. Be warned it is much $, if you can find it.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Update: I have not used Celcius or Revolver or any other herbicide on the Rye. Instead, I have been mowing it at about 1.5 inches every 3 to 4 days. The Rye is growing extremely fast (after only 3 days, it has grown so much that after I mow, the lawn is covered in clumps of grass clippings that I have to disperse with a blower). The Bermuda is no where to be seen (completely obscured and covered by the Rye). Yesterday evening, I fertilized it for the first time. Should I just stay the course? Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 10:43AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

serenity, the OP is referring to the many topics here on leveling a bermuda lawn. Those that have done it successfully scalp the lawn all the way down as low as possible, topdress with sand, and drag the sand around to level it. You're relatively new here so you might search for 'leveling and bermuda.' After reading how it has been done, if you have any suggestions, we're all ears.

To the OP, early to mid summer is the time to scalp and level. The grass has to be growing furiously or you can bury it.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2013 at 8:42PM
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Sorry for the delay. Neilaz recommendation for Revolver is accurate, as Revolver doesn't have the same cautionary statements concerning stunting the growth during transition, or for non-established turf. However, as he also indicated, it is very pricey costing around $280 per quart. Also, the Celsius (made by Bayer as well) won't give you control of Annual Rye.

I recommend using a Starter fertilizer to make sure your Bermuda has the nutrients necessary to take off. If you're in Texas, the soil temperatures should be high enough for the Bermuda to have started transitioning, so again the fact that it was put down in late fall and never grew is a concern. Check to see if it has rooted at all by trying to lift a piece out. If you still can't tell, you may want to contact your local extension agency to see if they can assist you in determining if the sod survived the winter.

As for my answer to question 5. I stand by the point that scalping is a dormant season practice and scalping in the growing season is very likely to stunt the growth. In training managers and technicians in the green industry, I used to ask the question "how does the root system draw water?" It was rare that the thought had crossed the mind of people I asked. We tend to just accept certain things in life; the sky is blue, leaves are green, etc. but we seldom stop to think about the mechanics of something as basic as how a root pulls in water. To the point of scalping; approximately 80% of the force that pulls water into the root occurs from transpirational pull, which is created by the release of water through the leaf. So when you scalp the lawn while it is actively growing, you immediately reduce the roots ability to draw in water. Now there are circumstances where this has to be done, but these are the exception and not the rule. Now in the circumstance of a new lawn, that hasn't rooted and was planted late in the season, scalping it during the growing season before it's able to root would be very damaging. Whereas for an established lawn that has a strong root system, I would expect a mild shock, that would barely be noticed by most homeowners.

Also, I don't know what "OP" is referring to.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 3:22AM
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OP is Original Poster. I prefer to 'thin' rather than scalp. Rent a machine that thins the lawn instead of scalping.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2013 at 12:29PM
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