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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - June 03, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Brown ryegrass in Austin lawn
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We had rye grass planted in our yard last fall. It was beautiful all winter. Now it is brown but the St. Augustine has not yet taken over, so there are large portions of the lawn with an abundance of dried rye grass. Could lack of water this early in the year be the problem? The grass next door did not have rye grass planted and is quite green even though it has not received extra water. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

We believe we already have a diagnosis on your brown ryegrass. It's dead. The ryegrasses usually used for overseeding in lawns are Lolium multiflora, an annual grass native to Southern Europe, and Lolium perenne, a perennial plant native to Europe, Asia and Africa. So, along with the St. Augustine and Bermudagrass commonly used in lawns, none are native to North America. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we urge that native plants be used in landscaping, as they will require less water, fertilizer and maintenance, since they are already adapted to to the conditions where they are grown.

This article from the Clemson University Extension, Overseeding with Ryegrass, details the planting, care and problems of the ryegrasses. Ryegrass adapts well to either sun or shade. Although cheaper, annual ryegrass is a second choice to perennial ryegrass, since perennial ryegrass has more desirable turf characteristics. Annual ryegrass dies out in late spring after being planted in the fall. Perennial ryegrass usually lives somewhat longer than annual ryegrass, especially in the shade. It can survive for years in some areas of the lawn where it can become a nuisance. It has better disease resistance than annual ryegrass. It is not recommended as a permanent lawn, however, because of its susceptibility to diseases in hot weather. Ryegrasses should only be used for overseeding in the fall.

In reference to the St. Augustine, which has not yet completely covered your lawn area, you do know that it has a high water requirement, which is getting to be an ever-growing problem in urban areas, especially in this part of the country. We hope you will consider filling in the blank spaces in your lawn with native plants, until you have totally eliminated the St. Augustine. See our How-To Article on Native Lawns for suggestions and recommendations toward a more environmentally sound lawn.

 

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