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Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

Posted by uglylawn 5 (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 4, 07 at 18:05

I am planning on overseeding my lawn this year. I would like suggestions on seed blends (and where to buy them) with the following criterion in mind.

I would like to get a blend where the lawn stays green with little water & fertilizer throughout all growing seasons (spring,summer&fall).

I have read a little about Utah Native grass (buffalo, etc) and the new blends that resulsts in greener grass than the original native buffalo grass. The things I have read about this grass seems like an attractive blend.

Does anyone have experience/pictures that they could share with this kind of grass?

Does the buffalo grass take longer to green up in the spring?

Will it grow well in clay soil?

I currently have KBG.

Thanks to all who offer their expert advice.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

Apologies in advance for a long post. I'm going to discuss buffalo grass (along with blue grama) first, then some other options.

When you say Davis, I assume you mean Davis county. Is that right?

If so, we're neighbors (I also live in Davis county).

Buffalo grass has a pretty short growing season here. It will probably not start to turn green until about mid May, and will start to go dormant in October. It's sort of a grey green in color and spreads via stolons (above ground shoots).

If you're considering a buffalo grass lawn, I would suggest that you consider a mixture of buffalo grass and blue grama. They are often found together in native prairie stands. Blue grama tends to be green a little longer than buffalo grass.

Buffalo grass should do well in clay soil (same for blue grama).

If you want to establish buffalo grass and/or blue grama, you'll want to completely kill your existing lawn first. The buffalo grass is green when the KBG is brown and vice versa. If you don't kill the existing lawn, you'll have a lawn that is always "splotchy" because of when the different grasses are green.

It's almost too late to plant buffalo grass and/or blue grama now, especially since it sounds like you have a living lawn now. So, if you go with buffalo grass, you'll want to wait until next year, probably late May, to plant the seed (or plugs--faster and better if you have allergies).

If you want a lawn that is green earlier in the spring and later in the fall, you want to use a cool season grass.

As with the buffalo grass and blue grama, you'll have best results if you kill your existing lawn first. If you don't kill the existing lawn, you won't get the splotchy look, but it will take a long time for the new grasses to out compete the KBG.

There are several options for cool season "water wise" turf grasses.

Crested wheatgrass is one option. It's a non native grass, imported from Siberia. Newer varieties such as Ephraim and Roadcrest are weakly rhizomatous, but most others are bunch grasses. The advantages of crested wheatgrass are that the seed tends to be inexpensive, and it tends to be easy to germinate (compared with native grasses). Disadvantages are that it is a much lighter green and it deals with drought by entering and leaving dormancy very quickly based on moisture.

My preference is for native grasses. My version of the "Magnificent 3" is a combination of western wheatgrass, streambank wheatgrass and sheep fescue. The two wheatgrasses are both rhizomatous. The sheep fescue is a bunch grass. All of the wheatgrasses are soft to walk on (softer than KBG, I think). I don't know about the sheep fescue.

This is the first year I'm trying sheep fescue, so I don't know much about it, but my understanding is that it can stay green (ok, blue green) during summer with no irrigation water (yes, even here).

Streambank wheatgrass is relatively easy to establish and is a pretty attractive grass. It's a light green in color. It deals with drought by entering and leaving dormancy quickly.

My favorite is actually the western wheatgrass. It deals with drought by having an amazing root system, so it often stays green even during the summer with no additional water. It is somewhat blue in color.

I'm seeding a small section of my heck strip with blue grama, and I'm overseeding my lawn with a mixture of western and streambank wheatgrass and sheep fescue.

If you go with a native wheatgrass lawn, you should probably seed at about 3-5 lbs per 1000 sq ft (much less for crested wheatgrass since seeds are smaller, but I don't know the rates). Most places that give seeding rates for these are for pastures, since they're only recently being considered for lawns.

In the past, I've seeded into my existing lawn, but I think I'm going to try to get permission to kill the lawn this year.

I had the option of adding unmetered water a few years back, but I actually spend less than I would if I paid the flat rate. If I can get the natives to take over, I think my water bill will go down even further.

There are many sources of seeds, so do your own due diligence. But I'll let you know where I bought my seed.

Western wheatgrass and blue grama Southwest Seed These people are really helpful and responsive, but they can't take orders on their website.

Streambank wheatgrass Mountain Valley Seed If you get into SLC during the week, you can save shipping by calling the order in and picking it up.

Sheep Fescue (I think this is alwo where I got crested wheatgrass several years ago. Rounde Butte Seed Site is down as I post.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

Yes Davis is for Davis county. Does your soil have high clay content?
I looked a few places on the web and couldn't find any of the wheatgrass used for lawns, just pics of the full grown stuff @ 3-4 ft tall.

Once I decide which kind of seed should I follow your reccomendations from a previous post to overseed? I would rather try overseeding first as opposed to killing the lawn entirely, I manage to kill parts of my lawn without the round up (previous post). I assume that the wheatgrass is more resistant to insects (grubs, sod webworms, etc), is that correct?

Does this kind of grass still require the fertilizer 1-2 times a year to stay green?

Power rake, core aerate, plant in mid-late sept. and keep ground moist so seeds can germinate. Any other reccomendations?

I noted on another post a year or so ago that you liked the western grass best but harder to grow. Do you still find that to be true?


RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I've got the clay. Since I moved here, I've always thought that all the soil here was clay, but I've been told that there are two extremes--the really heavy clay, or almost pure sand.

I used to have some links to pictures of wheatgrass lawns, but none of them seem to work anymore. I tried searching and can't seem to find any, either. I can't provide good pictures of my lawn because I've been chicken and have been overseeding into the existing lawn, so it can sometimes be difficult to show how the natives differ (I think that's a good thing). I seeded a couple of places in specific grasses so I'd be able to identify them and learned to id them, and if I look closely, I can find individual plants, but I can't provide a picture of a lawn with one of these grasses.

Here is a link to a page with conservation gardens. I think some of them may have wheatgrass lawns, but most of the wheatgrass lawns I've seen have been crested wheatgrass. I couldn't find good pictures online at any of these, but you could probably go to one and see their lawns with alternative turfs.

There are some people on the Rocky Mountain forum who have wheatgrass lawns. Perhaps if you posted a request there, somebody would post a picture.

I'm not sure how resistant the wheatgrass is to insects.

The natives can probably do just fine without any fertilizer, but will probably do better with a little.

You need to be sure you understand that the green of the natives is different from the green of a KBG lawn. All the wheatgrasses I've mentioned have very fine leaves--even finer than KBG. The color is a bit different. I would describe streambank as very fine bladed, sort of a pale green that goes in and out of dormancy fairly easily. Crested wheatgrass is also very fine bladed, sort of a yellow green, and goes in and out of dormancy readily. Western wheatgrass is a little coarser and more of a blue green.

Based on some things I've learned recently, I think I would plant the seed as soon as you get it, if you can water it a couple of times a day. Don't wait until September.

Right now, your KBG lawn is about as stressed as it can get, and the wheatgrasses will germinate at these temperatures, so they'll have an edge. I planted a small amount of wheatgrass on Saturday in a portion of my "heckstrip" that doesn't seem to get reached by the sprinklers. I'm planning to mow the rest of the lawn as short as possible this coming weekend and plant more.

I may plant half now and wait until after a freeze to dormant seed the rest.

I've found western wheatgrass more difficult to get started. Native grasses have a number of "survival tactics" that they use. One of these is to have a high percentage of seeds that are dormant and will not germinate when planted. The contact at MV Seed told me that their seed has a very low dormant percentage. Once it germinates, it is probably the easiest to grow, and as time goes on, it should begin to dominate, since it is aggressively rhizomatous. I may have a better handle on how difficult western wheatgrass is to start after this seeding. I'm afraid that may be a bit late for you.

I have a spot in my lawn that has both streambank and western wheatgrass in it and is apparently just outside the reach of the sprinkler system. The streambank wheatgrass is dormant, but the western wheatgrass is green (or blue).

I haven't planted any of the sheep fescue yet, but I've read that it can stay green without any irrigation (but it's a bunchgrass).

I think one of the biggest problems I've had is that I seeded at rates that were far too low. I used seeding rates that were based on pasture seeding, so I was using something like 2 lbs each of western and streambank whetgrass. This year, I'm using 10 lbs of streambank and 5 lbs of western. And that's on top of the sheep fescue (4 lbs) and Palestine clover (2 lbs).

If you don't want to water at all and you don't want it to go brown, I think you want to get the western wheatgrass and sheep clover.

The rbseed site still seems to be down, but the phone number still works. 541-385-7001.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

So would I need to aerate and/or power rake before seeding. I have some thatch that makes it harder for seeds and stuff to get to the soil. Would it drastically affect the mortality of the grass if I were to plant in September?

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I think aeration is probably the best bet. The clay soil could probably use it, and it'll punch through the thatch. I didn't aerate because my soil is so dry, it would be like trying to aerate a brick.

September is a good time to plant. Are you going to go with one or more of the native grasses? Somebody at Southwest Seed suggested seeding now to take advantage of any "monsoon" rains, but I haven't seen any rain in the forecast, so it must all be going to Colorado.

I asked the question on a USU extension site, and they said the best time is between August 15 and September 5.

I seeded most of the lawn today (seeded a small section last weekend) so I'm a little earlier than their recommendation. Partly I seeded now because I know I'll be home all next week and will probably be home the following week as well, so I'll be better able to hand water the spots that the sprinklers aren't reaching. I checked them at the beginning of July and all were working. Three of the rotating heads are now stuck and watering in a straight line. That explains several very dry spots. I suspect the grass is dead rather than dormant, since highs were close to 100 the whole time.

The western wheatgrass and blue grama that I planted last Saturday evening had already started to germinate by Wednesday afternoon, which really surprised me, since most of what I've seen says they take at least two weeks (some places said 10 days). Maybe the heat along with watering two to three times a day accelerated it. I'm hoping for the same from the grass I planted today, but I'm expecting it to take a couple of weeks.

One advantage to seeding a little on the early side is that the KBG is still stressed. In the past, I seeded later and the KBG had recovered more and was more competitive.

The only other suggestion I'd make is that you should make sure to get enough seed to make a difference. I have about 4000 sq ft of lawn. I bought two pounds each of western and streambank wheatgrass last year.

This year I bought 10 lbs of Streambank wheatgrass (partly because there's a price cut for 10 lbs at Mountain Valley Seeds). Then after discussing it on the Rocky Mountain forum, I decided to get 5 lbs of Western wheatgrass. Part of the reason I got less western is that it's about twice as expensive as streambank. But I've also read that once it gets started, it spreads much faster than other natives, so I figure that in the long run, it should work out ok.

The western wheatgrass is sprouting fine for me this year. Maybe a big part of my problem in the past was that I was out of town a lot so I couldn't take care of it properly. I also bought 4 lbs of sheep fescue. When I calculated the total number of seeds I have this year compared with last year, I've got 10 times as many seeds this year.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

Yes I think I will go with the wheatgrass, I like the western the best, thanks for the link with pics from the seed store. I also like sheep fescue but I don't like the clump grass, although one site had a full lawn from it and you couldn't tell it was bunch grass. I need to get the lawn aerated then i will plant in a few weeks. Are the tips on USU extensions web site good to follow as far as watering, fertilizing etc and specifically for this type of grass?

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I think you can get a full lawn using sheep fescue, but you'd need to overseed regularly. It's not used as a lawn grass very often, but you may find some info on it as a lawn grass.

You probably won't find much about using western wheatgrass as a lawn grass. In fact, if you google western wheatgrass lawn, this thread is currently at the top of the list.

I found out about western wheatgrass by posting a question to the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum on GW.

If you can bring yourself to do it kill your existing lawn before starting. I haven't been able to do it, but I think I may eventually do it, and then I'll just regret not doing it sooner.

If you haven't already, I would order seeds now. Arriba and Rosana are probably the best choices for western wheatgrass for us.

I would seed soon after aerating (I assume you mean core aerating, right?). That way you'll get better seed-to-soil contact.

You'll see a lot of different rates for wheatgrass seeding, but they're all low. Most of them are aimed at pasture, forage or reclamation seeding rather than turf. The PDF for low maintenance lawns in Montana below gives turf seeding rates, but I think I would double or even triple those rates.

If you like the way the fescue looks, but don't like the clumping, planting it along with western wheatgrass may help with filling in. I'm not sure whether that'll look ok or not, but I'm trying it. I've been using streambank wheatgrass in my mixes, but I think I'll stop after this year. It probably looks the most like a traditional lawn grass, and is very drought tolerant, but it requires more water to stay green (it deals with drought by going into dormancy).

Here are some links I found. The last one doesn't have anything about using Western Wheatgrass for lawns, but is a good resource for many different kinds of grasses that are adapted to the intermountain west.


Fact Sheet: Lawn and Turf Grasses

Pawnee Butte Seed's Guide to grasses

Keep us posted on your progress.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I ordered the seeds today. I went with 10#'s of Streambank and 2 #'s sheep fescue and 2#'s of western. I have a couple of small spots that go dormant (maybe dead this year with the 100F heat) and will try sheep fescue on one and western on the other. I can then see which one does well the next year in the heat and which looks more appealing to the family. Any planting tips other than keep the seeds wet, water lightly 2-3 times a day. Would that be instead of or addition to the normal deeper watering?

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

Anything you can do to improve seed to soil contact will help. Core aeration, renting a slit seeder, etc.

You're temporarily switching from deep watering, so it's instead of and not in addition to the deep watering.

You ordered the same weight of sheep fescue and western wheatgrass. One thing to remember is that you've ordered about 5 times as many sheep fescue seeds as western wheatgrass seeds (on a per seed basis, that probably makes the western wheatgrass about 10 times as expensive as the sheep fescue). The big difference, though, is that the sheep fescue doesn't spread and the western wheatgrass does. So it may take a few years to get a true picture.

Just out of curiosity, where did you get your seed?

One more thing

I was hoping for more germination by now, but so far, I've seen very little. So another word of advice is to make sure you mow as low as you possibly can before seeding. Otherwise your existing lawn is going to be pretty high by the time your seed starts to germinate. And you really can't mow until it's a couple of inches tall, so the existing lawn could be very tall by then. I probably should have mowed one more time.

The more I get into this, the more I think I regret not killing my entire lawn and starting from scratch. I think I'm going to aerate and overseed in the early spring and if I'm not getting a good stand by fall, I'll kill the lawn and start over.

On an unrelated note, USU's Utah Botanical Center is having a Garden Fair this coming Saturday from 8 AM to 2 PM at the Utah House at 920 South 50 West in Kaysville.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I got my streambank at Mountain Valley seed,
the sheep fescue and western at rounde butte seed. the pics on RBS has turfgrass from sheep fescue, I think it looks closest to KBG. I didn't see any bunching in it. The pic that I saw of an entire lawn from the wheatgrass and sheep fescue didn't look so hot, but it also looked like it was not a home in the burbs where a thick green lawn is traditional ( I don't remember where I saw the pic now, I think it is through one of the links here).
Another question, I am battling grubs, mostly the sod webworm and bilbug should I hold off overseeding or should I plant and treat the soil aggressively (use Sevin, although it kills worms it is the best defense for continual grubs...USU extension). Also should I fertilize like the schedule posted on another post which is the same as USU extensions schedule (spring, fall, just before grass goes dormant late fall/winter)? Should I put the human compost "Man fertilizer" as a topdressing after seeding? Would this replace the first fall fertilizing?

Thanks for all the info.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I really don't know the answer on the grub issue. If you have a chance to get to the Botanical garden on Saturday, they'll have some people there who can answer questions like that.

The native grasses need much less fertilizer than traditional lawn grasses. You may not need to add any fertilizer at all. If you do add fertilizer, you should be sparing with it. I think that may be one more way to favor the natives over the KBG. The KBG wants more fertilizer to thrive, but the native grasses will thrive with little to no fertilizer.

Compost is more of an amendment than a fertilizer.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I got all the seeds. The people at the garden show weren't so helpful with the grub issue. I did see some blue gramma, not so sure I like the bunch grass but will have to see when the sheep fescue comes in (shoud aerate on monday and plant there after). I also found a post on overseeding and grubs on USU extensions site, the expert that responded referred to the grub id page. The page has treatment options as well but they did not reply on holding off on overseeding. Since I have billbugs i will treat earlier, mid spring and then see if i need a reactive treatment later in the summer.

A couple of other things I found:

1. a KBG/TBG blend that is supposed to require much less water than traditional KBG. I may try it if I don't like the results from this years native grass experiment (sounds like a 60's movie title).
2. From another post; you suggested using Revive. I used it once and saw a small difference earlier in the year. I used it again last week on my severely heat stressed lawn and in 1 week it made a night and day difference.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I was a little disappointed in the garden show, too. I asked a few questions, but the person I asked didn't know that much, and didn't offer to point me to a person more suited to answer the question (in other years, if somebody didn't know, they'd find the right person).

I did read somewhere that native grasses tend to be less susceptible to diseases and pests than KBG. They didn't specifically mention grubs, but don't grubs need fairly damp conditions? Maybe if you can get the natives established, the soil will be dry enough to be inhospitable to grubs.

Blue grama is a bunch grass, but I've read that at higher altitudes (they didn't specify how high) it spreads (probably more slowly than KBG, though). I think somebody on the Rocky Mountain Gardening forum said that mowing helps to spur it to spread.

If you're overseeding into your existing lawn, I think you'll be disappointed with the results. I've been trying that approach, and haven't had a lot of success. I haven't been core aerating, though, and that should improve your seed to soil contact.

Also, remember that native stands take a lot longer to take off than KBG does. There's often little to show in the first year, since the grass initially puts forth most of its effort underground, growing extensive root systems, and only starts spreading after it has established the strong root system.

I don't know anything about Reveille, but the descriptions on their website look promising. I'm looking for more than a 25-30% reduction in watering, though, so I don't think this is the answer for me.

I'm still not sure what to think about Revive. It does seem to improve the water penetration (the surfactant/wetting agent quality). If you're only using it for that quality, though, baby shampoo may help as much. The differentiator for Revive (for our soil) is that it also has chelating and sequestering qualities.

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

It has been 2 weeks on the money and I have some of the seeds growing, mostly in the bare spots where the heat stress took the highest toll on the lawn. I am not sure which grass is growing though I put a mixture all over the lawn so it is hard to tell at this stage.

I could not have paid for a better day when I over seeded. I had my lawn aerated and then a couple of weeks ago on a Tuesday I put down the seed and then fertilized (following the USU extension lawn care schedule). Shortly after it rained really hard. I actully had signs of growth in 5 days!

My new question is when can I cut back watering every day and when can I mow?

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I'm glad you saw results so quickly! It's especially good that you're getting the best growth in the areas hit the hardest by the heat. Those are probably the same spots every year, so you're replacing grass that is less suited with grass that is more suited to those conditions.

At this point, you're probably seeing mostly the streambank wheatgrass. Maybe the sheep fescue, too (I don't know how long it takes to germinate). The western wheatgrass probably takes a little longer.

I watered 3x a day for a short amount of time for about a month, but I seeded when it was a lot hotter, too. If I were you, I would wait for at least another week or two before cutting back on frequency. You want to give the western wheatgrass a chance to sprout.

If you want the natives to dominate, you can quit fertilizing, or cut back to maybe once a year. If you fertilize more often, it won't hurt the natives, but the only native that will get much benefit from the additional fertilizer is the western wheatgrass. So, if you don't fertilize, or if you underfertilize, you'll be providing conditions favorable to all three natives. If you fertilize as usual, you'll be providing conditions favorable to the KBG and western wheatgrass. I think I'll fertilize less than the KBG would like, but still fertilize. That way, I'll be favoring the western wheatgrass the most.

You left the existing lawn there, right? Did you cut it as low as possible first? I scalped my lawn before seeding, then waited until it was tall enough to need mowing at the highest setting on my mower (about 4 weeks). I also only mowed the spots that really needed it, to give the other areas more time to get going. I would wait as long as possible before mowing to give as many seeds a chance to sprout as possible (especially since the western wheatgrass may not have germinated yet).

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I did not dare kill the existing lawn, I want to see what the natives look like. I did mow the lawn short. I cut it on the Thursday before and then I cut it as short as I could handle on Saturday (I still have bags of grass that I am trying to dispose of). I will keep watering, if all goes well I will hopefully be able to turn the water off for a few days (rain is predicted). I looked all over my lawn and see small sprouts coming up. I am not sure if they are the natives or KBG, but I am assuming that they are the natives. I think with mowing the grass short and core aerating it has enabled the natives to mingle with the KBG even in the thickest part of the lawn. My wife was skeptical with the time and $ that I have put into this but now that there are some dead spaces filling in she is happy. I am also glad that the spots that go brown from drought each year are filling in with the natives, it will be nice to see how it looks next year. I am assuming no on else will reply to this so how is your native grass in the heck strip doing?

RE: Seed for Overseeding in Davis, Utah

I haven't seeded any monostands of sheep fescue, so I'm not sure what it looks like. It's pretty easy to tell the difference between wheatgrass and KBG (even KBG that is newly sprouting from the roots/rhizomes). The natives will be much lighter in color than the KBG.

A word of warning on the spots that have been going brown during drought. Streambank wheatgrass deals well with drought, but it does so by going in and out of dormancy easily. So if the streambank wheatgrass is the dominant grass, you'll still get some browning. The sheep fescue and western wheatgrass deal with drought by developing extensive root systems, so they don't go dormant as quickly.

I've got sections of heckstrip that get almost no water at all from the sprinklers, which means almost no water from mid May through August or September, since we're pretty rain free then. The sprinklers probably hit those spots before the mailbox went in, but the mailbox (community, so I can't just get rid of it) creates a dead spot. The streambank wheatgrass grows there, but goes dormant. Western wheatgrass stays green, but I haven't been planting enough of it so far (from now on, I'm skipping the streambank and going with western). Near the end of the summer, I planted some blue grama, hand watering until it sprouted. It's been doing pretty well. I've read that it's normally a bunch grass, but that it can spread slowly at higher altitudes (I think that's comparative, so we'd count).

I was walking the dog earlier today and walked by a section of mostly dirt by a highway. It obviously gets no water other than the rain and snow. There was a lot of dry grass, and some green that looked like it might be western wheatgrass. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the distinctive "eyebrow" seed heads of blue grama. I doubled back to make sure, and there were several tufts of blue grama, green without any water other than the rain we got the first week of June and the first week of September.

I'm tempted to sow more grama throughout the lawn, but I want to wait to see how early it goes dormant, since it's a warm season grass. If it has a long enough season, I may start including more of it in my lawn.

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