For landscapes with turf areas, late September to mid-October marks a major milestone in the low desert areas. In order to keep green lawns through the winter, homeowners with turf need to overseed the Bermuda grass that thrives in the summer.
How to Overseed
The ideal time to overseed is when nighttime temperatures begin to dip below 65 degrees (typically mid-October). About 2 weeks prior to overseeding, reduce the amount of water to the Bermuda by about half. This will cause the Bermuda to slow its growth and store energy for the winter.
Next, prepare the seedbed for the Rye seed. Lower the mowing height on the lawn in several passes, taking off about ¼ inch each time until the grass is about ¾ inch in height. Make sure to remove the clippings either by mowing with a bag-catcher or raking them up. The goal here is to make sure the Rye seed comes into direct contact with the soil.
Now it's time for seeding. For the best results, use perennial Rye grass seed (annual Rye grass is also sold, but not recommended). Use a rotary spreader or drop spreader to evenly distribute the seed at a rate of 8 to 10 pounds per thousand square feet. As an additional step for maximizing germination, lightly rake and cover the lawn with ¼ inch of mulch. Apply a starter fertilizer (6-20-20 or 6-24-24) after the seed is down. Water the lawn immediately and set a timer to water 3 to 4 times daily for about 2 to 5 minutes so that the soil and mulch remain moist (not overly wet) until germination. This should take 7 to 10 days.
After the seedlings emerge, reduce watering to once daily. When the grass reaches about 2 inches in height, it is time for the first mow. Cut the grass back to about 1½ and then fertilize with a 21-7-14 fertilizer. Make sure to water the fertilizer immediately following application. Depending on temperatures and rainfall, reduce the watering schedule to once every 2 or 3 days. To keep your lawn from turning yellow, you may need to fertilize every 3 to 6 weeks with ammonium nitrate (33-0-0) or calcium nitrate. Apply according to the directions on the package.
Learn more about overseeding your lawn.