Sports Field Q&A with Lee Smith of Texas Multi-Chem
What Is Overseeding?
The term overseeding refers to the process of applying a cool season grass seed over an established warm season turfgrass. In our case here in Texas, this means applying a blend of perennial rye seed over a bermudagrass sports field.
Why Do We Overseed?
As the temperatures become cooler in the fall and the nights get longer, warm season grasses will begin to slow their growth rate, eventually stopping their growth almost completely. As the growth slows the grass becomes dormant until the night time temperatures rise again in the spring.
Since the growth is largely shut down, the grass cannot recover from the wear and tear of athletic play. Overseeding with a cool season grass provides a playing surface that can withstand traffic during the cool season's winter months.
Aesthetics is another reason many people will overseed a bermudagrass sports field. As the bermudagrass goes dormant it will turn brown and stay that way until it comes out of dormancy. Adding a cool season grass to the playing surface will give you an aesthetically pleasing green surface throughout the winter months.
When Is The Best Time To Overseed?
In Texas, the best time to overseed is generally mid September to late November. This window typically offers cooler temperatures which is needed for the germination and establishment of cool season turfgrass. During this window the bermudagrass growth is slowing which makes it less competitive with the new ryegrass that is trying to root in during germination.
How Should I Prepare A Field For Overseeding?
Leading up to the date of planting you should gradually lower the mowing height to .75 - 1.5 inches.
Super Rake (verticut and vacuum) the turfgrass playing surface. This process removes the thatch layer and breaks up the top surface of the soil creating a more favorable seed bed.
Once the field is seeded you may topdress with sand. A light topdressing of the seed helps secure the seed in place and creates a constant contact with the soil surface to help germination.
How Much Seed Do I Need And How Should I Apply It?
We typically recommend anywhere from 5-10 lbs of seed per 1,000 sq ft. Higher traffic areas or fields would require more seed than a lower traffic field. The average field usually applies 8 lbs per 1,000 sq ft.
Seed should be applied with a rotary spreader in several different directions. Applying it in multiple directions will help insure a more uniform coverage. For edges of baseball and/or softball infields it is generally best to use a drop spreader to get a more consistent edge.
How Should I Water It?
A heavy watering should be applied immediately after seeding to help push the seed down to soil (but not so heavy that you get surface movement of the water). Then, over the next week a light watering 3-5 times a day should occur to keep the seed and surface moist. Once the seed has germinated, reduce the number of watering cycles per day but increase the run times. (Example: cut back from watering 4 times per day at 10 minutes per watering to 2 times per day at 15 minutes.)
Once grass is fully established and regular mowing can occur the watering can generally be cut back to once or twice a week.
How Should I Mow It And When?
The first mowing can usually take place 2-4 weeks after germination. Once the grass has reached about 1-1.5 inches tall it is ready to mow.
Prior to mowing the grass you should make sure the reel or blades on your mower are sharp. A sharp blade will cut the grass and not pull or tear the grass. It is always a wise idea to have a sharp blade when mowing any grass.
How Should I Fertilize My Ryegrass?
A starter fertilizer such as TMC's Sprout (10-12-8) should be used at the time the seed is applied to the field. Apply at a rate of .5 - 1 lbs N per 1,000 sq ft.
Once the grass is established you can apply a general fertilizer like Fast Start (14-6-8) by TMC every 30-60 days during the winter. Apply at a rate of .5 - 1 lbs N per 1,000 sq ft.
How Can I Help Transition The Ryegrass?
To transition your field's turf grass from cool season to warm season, we recommend applying a post emergent herbicide such as a TMC spray application of Celsius or Certainty in late spring after your season has ended. This will kill the ryegrass without harming the bermudagrass. This approach helps the transition because it stops the ryegrass from competing with the bermudagrass for water and nutrients as the bermuda is trying to come out of dormancy.
Overseeding Athletic Fields - Sports Field Q&A with Lee Smith of Texas Multi-Chem
Lee Smith is a sales representative with Texas Multi-Chem. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy from Texas A&M and helps manage hundreds of natural grass sports fields for our customers around Texas.
Would you like help maintaining your natural grass sports fields? TMC can help...give us a call today at 1-800-292-1214.