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Maintaining Ryegrass Lawns & Pastures

Perennial & Annual Ryegrass From Seedland.com

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There are two types of ryegrass -- Annual Ryegrass (lolium multiflorum) also known as Italian or English Ryegrass and Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne).

Ryegrass Seed

Ryegrass, perennial and annual, are are cool season grasses used for their fast growing capability in overseeding grasses located in milder winter areas as well as for establishing lawns (perennial) in the Northern areas of the world.

Ryegrass is also planted as an excellent pasture grass during the cool season months in the Southern USA. It is planted as a permanent pasture grass in the Northern or cooler climates of the USA.

Annual ryegrass is generally used to overseed Southern lawns during fall / winter / early spring periods. Perennial ryegrass is used both as a sports / play lawn and also for overseeding. Keep ryegrass mowed around 1.5 to 2 inches and fertilize for lawns at a rate of 1/2 lb. of Nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft. per month during the growing season of late fall to early spring. Read more below about maintaining ryegrass.

Annual Ryegrass Maintenance

Lawns - When grown in as a single stand for lawns fertilize on schedule to maintain thicker, even growth. Another way to provide nitrogen for your ryegrass lawn is to plant clover with it. Clovers such as White Dutch clover are legumes that provide nitrogen into the soil naturally -- thus eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers. Mowing will be required frequently in areas with good ground moisture levels to maintain the fast growing ryegrass in a more even lawn appearance. Water extensively in dry seasons where rainfall is not adequate.

Weeds - When annual ryegrass is sown at the heavier seeding rate the grass can usually compete with the weeds if the weeds were removed in the preliminary stage of lawn preparation.

Fertilization of Lawns: Lawns planted in annual ryegrass need more fertilization than many other grass types. This is a fast growing bunching grass that needs a consistent amount of nitrogen. A balance ratio of 3-2-1 fertilizers can be used when soil tests are not taken. This is not ideal but it is an easy way to remember and apply as the fertilizer directions state. Fertilizer needs to be applied every four to six weeks during the growing season only. An alternative to chemical fertilizers would be to plant a low growing clover, such as White Dutch Clover, to provide the nitrogen needed by your Annual ryegrass lawn.

Fertilization of Pastures - Pastures seeded in annual ryegrass require additional fertilization about five weeks after planting and whenever the forage is thinning due to higher amounts of irrigation water or plenty of extra rainfall. In mowing or haying, fertilization usually follows to stimulate lush re-growth. Soil tests will help to determine the amount and type of fertilizer that is needed. Never over fertilize as excessive runoff and land or water pollution will be the end result. LIME when necessary! Lime will help any plant that needs it to assimilate as much of the fertilizer components as possible without wasting so much.

Remember that in a pasture situation Ryegrass can and usually is planted with companion crops called legumes. These can be clovers, peas, and many other nitrogen fixing capable plants. Legumes may eliminate the need for chemical fertilization as these companion crops will eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and they are nutritious for grazing animals! Most ryegrass pastures are planted this way.

RESEED YEARLY and TAKE SOIL SAMPLES EVERY TWO TO THREE YEARS BEFORE RESEEDING FOR BEST RESULTS

Maintaining Perennial Rye Grass

Perennial Ryegrass Lawns require frequent mowing to keep up with the growth and can be mown quite close. A perennial ryegrass lawn can live from three to possibly five years or more with good management and weather conditions. Generally perennial ryegrass is found in a mixture or blend of other cool season grass types for lawn usage.

Water - Perennial ryegrass requires medium levels of water to keep producing. Water only when need and deeply until soil is moist not soaked.

Fertilizer - needs to be added every four to six weeks during the growing months. Follow the directions on the product chosen for best results. Again planting a legume, such as White Dutch Clover, will eliminate the need for the application of chemical nitrogen.

Reseed your perennial grass lawn when necessary and use improved perennial ryegrass varieties or  consider using a mixture of different types of cool season grass to add to the existing lawn. Look for new varieties developed to solve problems the existing stand has encountered in the past. Better disease and insect resistance or better drought tolerance and even better performing varieties have been bred for growing further north or south. The addition of companion grass types for problem areas can also be sown when reseeding. Many lawns are reseeded with the same varieties over and over because owners do not know that grasses can be mixed as long as you stay in the same species family.

Soil testing and aeration on a regular annual basis will improve any existing lawn. High usage or heavy clay lawns often require more frequent aeration for best performance.

Maintaining Ryegrass Pastures

Fertilization - Ryegrass pastures require nitrogen to stimulate maximum growth in the forage material which will show in the added weight gains in livestock. There are companion crops such as clovers (legumes) that can provide all the nitrogen your ryegrass stand may need without the use of chemical fertilizers. The type of usage for your pasture will ultimately determine the amount and type of fertilizer used. For example when hay is cut fertilizer is applied to spur new growth for the next cutting. Ryegrass pastures used exclusively for grazing requires less amounts of fertilization per year. Rotational grazing will provide the best yield results, however, ryegrass will tolerate close and continuous grazing.

Silage, green chop, haying, grazing, and whether companion crops, such as legumes which provide nitrogen, are mixed in with the grass will determine your fertilization needs and choice of fertilizers. Contacting your county agent and performing soil tests can give you the exact answers to the question of how much fertilizer, if any, you may need to apply. Soils, climate and water all make a difference in the performance of your ryegrass pasture.

Perennial Ryegrass is a higher maintenance grass than many others, grows rapidly, and should be kept at 6 inches for grazing, 10 inches for silage. The crop can be mown to within 3 inches for fast re-growth, this should be done after a dry spell where the growth wasn't as good as expected and water wasn't available.

Soil testing your pasture area for determining the needed nutrients as well as adding newer ryegrass varieties into thinning stands will help develop a new pasture without completely renovating an older one.

Ryegrass can be affected by disease and some insects are attracted to the grass. This is especially the case if the grass has experienced stress of some type. For instance a period of drought will stress ryegrass and can cause disease or the invasion of pests. The best defense against disease and pests is to properly care for your ryegrass stand. Plant your ryegrass at the proper time as planting too early will cause issues due to the warm temperatures and possible drought conditions. Chemicals are and should be the last resort.

Diseases must be identified and dealt with immediately. Disease and insect problems can require the use of chemicals also and it is important to get this information from specialists in your area and follow the instructions correctly. If weeds are problematic pre-emergence measures can be taken if used early enough without hurting the grass. Again read the instructions to see if the product can be used on the grass in question.

Remember that the use of chemicals can be detrimental and that your best defense against disease and pests is to keep your ryegrass pasture in good health. By practicing sustainable agriculture, such as deriving the nitrogen requirements from companion crops such as clovers and other legumes that put nitrogen into the soil naturally, you can have a great pasture that is healthy for you, horses, livestock and the environment!

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