Friday, October 31, 2014

Planting a Winter Lawn: The Joys of Living in a Warm Climate

Assemble your team.
Here in sunny, warm Arizona, I face the same question every year: do I over seed my lawn with grass seed in order to have a winter lawn? Before I proceed, I feel that I must explain what this means for anybody who does not live in a desert. Here in the desert, we have two seasons - n

ice, warm weather, and insanely hot why-did-I-choose-to-live-on-the-sun weather. With our two seasons come two types of grass that will grow. The nice warm winter season utilizes rye grass, while the please-let-me-die summer is surrounded with nuclear bomb-proof Bermuda grass. If it is not clear by these descriptions which grass is nicer, then I have failed in my use of creative adjectives.
Ask for volunteers.

So the advantages of over seeding with rye grass in the winter are that it keeps the lawn a nice dark green, I get to continue to mow throughout the pleasant weather (yes, for me that is an advantage), and my kids have a soft outdoor carpet of grass to play on at the time when it is actually possible for them to play outside. Based on these advantages, I seldom think of the disadvantages, so here is how to over seed a winter lawn in Arizona.

1). Choose the time of planting. Rye should generally be planted when nighttime temperatures are in the 60s. About a week or so before the big day, start to cut the water back on the Bermuda lawn, helping the Bermuda grass to go dormant.

Gather your equipment.
2). Mow it. Cut the grass as low to the ground as you can, bagging the clippings. Depending on the thickness of the lawn, you may need to make multiple passes. This year, I had to mow my lawn three times, decreasing the height slightly each time.

3). Break up the thatch. The thatch is the layer on top of the soil made up of organic material, roots, dead grass, etc. There are blades that you can put on your lawn mower that will help break this up, or you can go at it with a hard rake. After breaking up the thatch, make one more pass with the lawn mower, bagging the clippings.
Never turn your back on the poop.

4). This is where it gets fun. Spread the seed on the lawn, using either a broadcast spreader, a drop spreader, or your hands. This is when my kids begin to have fun and work on the lawn with me, but it gets even better.

5). After the seed is spread on the lawn, bring on the manure! Yes, most Renaissance Dad readers know how much I love manure. This is yet another opportunity to share the smell of cow manure with your neighbors. This is a time when the kids not only get to say "poop" as much as they want to, they actually get to throw poop. The lawn only needs a thin layer, but it helps to get the seeds going. Actually, let's back up. Before you start with the manure, make sure your kids are not wearing their best shoes. Yes, I am speaking from experience.
Reload when empty.

6). Until the grass starts growing, you'll need to water two or three times per day for about five minutes per watering. After the grass starts growing, cut back to every three or four days until the weather cools off, then cut back to once per week or so.

7). Apologize to your spouse for the way you and the kids smell. Take a very, very long shower with lots of soap. Make sure you clean out your nostrils, or everything will still smell like manure. 

Poop mountains are important.
So why write this post? Am I bragging about my lawn? Not really. Am I rubbing it in most of the world's face that we have beautiful weather for the next six months while most of you don't? Maybe a little. Actually, I had so much fun with my kids throwing poop around the yard, that I just wanted to write about that. But I can't very well write about how my kids and I throw poop around every October without you all thinking that I'm nuts...unless I throw in some grass seed, and then it's totally normal.

Although maybe anybody who would take three kids to the backyard with many bags of manure is a little crazy...

Man he's got a big head...

Enjoy the fruits of your labor...

...with your team.

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