A GROWING CONCERN: Overseeding a great way to avoid overworking

I GOT A recorded message from the Peninsula Daily News voicing an emotional rant that stated, “If Andrew May wants a green lawn in Sequim during the summer, he should move to Las Vegas!”

To the caller, or anyone else who did not read the entire article, where I wrote “or let your lawn go naturally brown during the summer” — I have always advocated allowing your lawn to experience its natural brown dormancy during summer.

With that said, certain grass varieties are drought resistant and “over-seeding” is the best way to get a green, lush, mostly weed-free lawn.

So, indulge me again if I mention crucial tricks to keep your lawn in great shape.

1. You must get your soil tested.

2. You must mow the lawn tall (3.25 inches to 3.75 inches).

3. You must go organic in all phases of your lawn.

4. You must buy the highest quality seed available.

5. You must over-seed twice a year for the great results you want.

Today, we find out why we should use rye grasses, and tall or fine fescues as our preferred choices.


Fescues are divided the into two categories: fine and tall.

Fine fescues have very thin or fine blades (leaves), while the tall fescues are broader and coarse in their appearance.

Rye grasses, which we will identify in a moment, lie in between the two in their texture.

Fine fescues are not well-suited for heavy traffic or sports play, so one should not go heavy with this type of grass in your seed blend if your child plays soccer in the backyard or if you have an agility course for your dogs on the lawn.

Tall fescues are now available in many new, very dark green, turf-type varieties.

This new avenue of plant breeding has made fescues optimum for many lawns, even at 100 percent, especially because they are drought-resistant, shade-tolerant and like well-drained soils.

However, fine fescues grow even better in shade.

Tall fescues also produce less thatch, and both tall and fine fescues are good choices for lower maintenance lawns, particularly if you do not want to water or fertilize as often.

Fescues, especially the talls, are slow to germinate and establish themselves, hence the reason for over-seeding twice a year forever.

Remember, this is not a disadvantage because weeds can only get a foothold on bare spots, and continuous over-seeding plugs the holes.

Many varieties and cultivars of both tall and fine fescue, as well as perennial rye grass, have fungus living inside them and are known as endophytes.

These endophytic types of grasses have a high tolerance to many environmentally induced stresses, so they perform well in low maintenance yards and poorer soils, which most of us have on our property.

Rye grasses

Perennial rye grasses are fast to germinate and protect soil.

But if they are used in percentages higher than 20 in your mix, they can easily overwhelm the other varieties.

So, stay below 20 percent of perennial rye grass in your selected blends.

However, perennial rye is great to use as an over-seed because it establishes itself extremely well and, as an over-seed, would be less than 20 percent.

Perennial ryes are very heat tolerant and wear resistant but they do not stand up well in shade.

Annual rye grasses are perfect for the fall and winter over-seed because they have a wonderful green effect.

They plug the bare spots and hold the space for the more permanent perennial fescues and ryes to grow in as the rye dies off.

And remember that your clippings from the mower should be left on the lawn to decompose along with the annual rye grasses because they add much-needed nutrients to the soil.

So as you can see, a blend or mix of ryes and fescues is the ideal solution because each grass type will colonize the area perfect for their needed condition and, as a mix, will co-mingle and thicken up the entire lawn.

Now is the time you need to go out to farm and feed stores, or co-ops and find blends with these recommended grasses for a far, far better, far easier lawn next year.

Good luck! Stay well … and read the entire article.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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