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Should You Overseed Your Warm-Season Lawn?

Do you dream of a lawn that is green year-round? Warm-season grasses turn brown in cooler weather, and although natural, some people turn to the practice of overseeding to maintain a green lawn year-round. While overseeding is done on golf courses and sports fields to mitigate traffic during the winter, in home lawns it is mainly done for aesthetics. A temporary rye lawn can be useful to control erosion, but the practice is not recommended for healthy, well-established warm-season grasses.

Overseeded rye grass. Jackie Jordan, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Overseeded rye grass.
Jackie Jordan, ©2021, Clemson Extension

Ryegrass thrives in mild temperatures and competes with established warm-season grass for water and nutrients, delaying the transition in spring from rye to your warm-season grass. If we have a wet, cool spring, the ryegrass can persist and cause permanent damage to the warm season lawn. If ryegrass mowing heights are not properly managed as warm-season grasses come out of dormancy, the warm-season grass can be shaded out.

Dieback in Bermuda grass caused by improper transition practices from ryegrass to warm-season turf. Jackie Jordan, ©2017, Clemson Extension

Dieback in Bermuda grass caused by improper transition practices from ryegrass to warm-season turf.
Jackie Jordan, ©2017, Clemson Extension

The practice of scalping the warm-season lawn to favor the quick establishment of ryegrass also damages warm-season turf. Scalping grass removes over fifty percent of its photosynthetic area—the grass then responds by pulling carbohydrate reserves from the root system. Reduced carbohydrate stores combined with direct competition from the ryegrass weakens warm-season lawns as they enter dormancy.

If you are still planning on overseeding your lawn, refer to HGIC 1206, Overseeding With Ryegrass for information on making the transition as successful as possible.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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