Perennial Ryegrass: A Complete Guide
Perennial ryegrass is a cool-season grass, meaning it is best suited for areas in the United States with cold winters and mild summers like those of the northeast and Midwest. It is a pale green in color and has fine-bladed leaves, capable of withstanding large amounts of wear and tear. Perennial ryegrass is well-known and desired as a turf grass for its ability to handle heavy foot traffic, although it is probably most famous for the speed with which it germinates from seed. If you live in a state well-suited for cool-season grasses, reach out a local lawn care expert to see if perennial ryegrass is right for the needs of your outdoor space.
How To Grow Perennial Ryegrass
When establishing a new perennial ryegrass lawn, you have multiple options: seed, sod, or plugs. Seed is generally the least expensive option, however, it will take the longest because you will have to wait for the seeds to germinate and grow until they cover your entire yard. Luckily, ryegrass is known for its ability to germinate quickly. While other grasses generally take about 10-14 days to germinate, and occasionally can take up to a month, perennial ryegrass can begin germination within 5-7 days.
To properly seed your lawn, first make sure you reach out to a professional lawn care expert to ensure you are getting the right seed for your area. The area in which you live also plays a factor in determining the best time to begin seeding your lawn. For optimal results, you are going to want to plant the seeds when the soil temperatures fall between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This is generally in the spring or early fall, about a month and a half before your area expects to receive its first frost.
To prepare the soil after clearing all debris form where you plan to establish the new lawn, it helps to first conduct a soil test as perennial ryegrass will grow best at an acidity between 6 and 7. If your soil is too acidic, adding lime can raise the pH, making it more alkaline, whereas sulfur will drop the pH and increase acidity. You will then need to till the soil to help the seeds and water penetrate, resulting in healthier grass. Once you spread the seeds, water your lawn two to three times a day. Regularly moist soil will help the seeds begin germination.
If your budget allows for it, sod is an even easier method of establishing a perennial ryegrass lawn. Although it germinates quickly, the grass does not spread as quickly as other types. If you want coverage of your yard as quickly as possible, sod is your best bet. The soil preparation process is the same as seed, as you want soil as healthy as possible so your grass grows healthily.
Plugs are a good middle ground between price and ease-of-growth, however, it is generally used to fill in bald spots on your lawn rather than establishing a whole new perennial ryegrass lawn.
How To Maintain It
The maintenance schedule for perennial ryegrass is similar to that of other cool-season grasses. In times of extreme temperature or drought, such as in the summer and winter months, you might notice your lawn turning yellow or brown. While you might think that this means your grass is dying, cool-season grasses actually go dormant and will return to full health and greenness when temperatures are more suitable, generally between 60 and 75 degrees.
For year-round lawn maintenance, you are going to want to mow and fertilize regularly depending on the time of year. During winter dormancy, you will not have to do much except for the warmer months when perennial ryegrass begins turning green and growing again.
Once spring comes around, you will want to mow your perennial ryegrass lawn to a height of about one and a half to two and half inches in height, making sure to mow frequently enough so as not to remove more than one third of the grass at one time. If you cut too much of a grass’s blade at one time, it can damage the plant, making it more susceptible to disease and the elements. During spring you will also want to fertilize the grass with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, depending on the results of a soil test. If a soil test cannot be completed, you will generally be safe with a fertilizer with a high first number (nitrogen) and a low second (phosphorus), such as 30-0-4 or 16-4-8. These numbers are referred to as NPK, corresponding to the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium (read our blog on how to read a fertilizer label). In the summer, you will want to allow your grass to grow to a height of about three inches. Otherwise, the maintenance schedule remains relatively unchanged.
Annual vs. Perennial Ryegrass
While perennial ryegrass is the species most often used for lawns and sports fields, you will also occasionally encounter annual ryegrass, also known as Italian ryegrass. Therefore, it is important to familiarize the distinction. As the name indicates, annual ryegrass will only stay alive for one season before dying. A perennial plant, on the other hand, will regrow every time spring arrives. This is an important distinction because you cannot establish a lawn with annual ryegrass. It is occasionally used for overseeding lawn of a different species to stabilize the soil or provide coverage another, more sensitive species of grass.
Contact us here at LawnCare.Net to get connected with experts that can suggest services and lawn care plans specifically tailored to your perennial ryegrass lawn.