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For a Green Winter Lawn (and Maybe Some Peace of Mind), Plant Cool-Season Grass

Posted Apr. 4, 2006

This month might not seem like the right time to be thinking about dry, hot fall or the dead of winter, but please allow me to give you a scenario of what has happened to some folks who had dormant, dry, warm-season grass next to their houses when the unspeakable happened.

On a windy day (somewhat normal in the southwest), smoke can be seen from a great distance, and, though you see smoke quite frequently, it might be several miles away; you really don't know its precise location. You try not to think about the potential severity of the situation. Surely, someone isn't burning off a pasture under these conditions. Then, while you're away from home, comes the dreaded phone call from a neighbor that might go something like this: "Hello? How close is the fire to my property? Oh no! I'm on my way!"

Let me stop here. I don't know anything about fire control, but I do know green grass burns slowly. This article will give you a method for doing something to give you a little peace of mind plus a green lawn during the winter when everyone has a dormant warm-season lawn. In April, which is the second-best month to seed cool-season grass (the prime month is October), you can overseed with a cool-season grass such as annual ryegrass. This seed will germinate fairly quickly two weeks if soil temperature is 55 degrees or above and adequate moisture is available. Green grass will impede the movement of fire. Cool-season grasses have been used as green fire lanes near fencerows as well as other non-targeted areas. The seeding rate should be light enough (6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet) to receive a stand, but not enough to over-power the warm-season permanent grass, which is, in many cases, bermudagrass. To keep the growing grass green, keep the soil moist. You can select from 20 or more varieties of cool-season grasses or combine them in a blend. Bermudagrass is allowed to take over the cool-season grass once the soil temperature approaches 60 to 65 degrees and above and adequate moisture is present. Mow the lawn short to assist the transition of cool-season out and warm-season in, which allows sunlight to reach the bermudagrass.

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