Best Grass Seed To Choke Out Weeds

Winter Rye Grass – It is beautiful in Central Texas. How do I apply it? What is the benefit? We want to help you have a beautiful yard! For the good-looking, easy-to-maintain lawn, plant grass varieties that are well-suited to your climate and the lawn's intended use. Bermuda grass, known botanically as the Cynodon species, is a warm-season perennial turf grass that grows widely in temperate, tropical and subtropical climes. It is a vigorous grower, reproducing vegetatively by creeping runners and stolons as well as by seed. Considered a weed itself by some, healthy Bermuda …

Winter Rye Grass Overseeding

Lawn types vary throughout the country, with different types of grass used as turf grass in various parts of the country. Turf grasses are selected to fit each location’s needs, but the primary factor that determines what type of turf grass will grow is weather. Grass types are split into two broad categories, Warm-Season grasses and Cool-Season grasses.

Austin is definitely a region where Warm-Season grasses thrive. Our long hot summers and mild winters are perfect for Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia lawns. Our grasses are green and growing three seasons out of four, and typically go dormant in the winter. Winter over-seeding is used to bridge the gap, resulting in a year-round lawn.

Winter over-seeding is possible because our winter months have perfect weather for Cool-season turf grass. We get too hot in the summer for cool-season grasses to live long, so it is impossible to establish a perennial winter lawn. But if we use a good, fast growing grass it is possible to grow a temporary lawn that looks amazing.

The grass type most commonly used in over-seeding is rye grass. Rye is a very fast-growing grass that is easily established. It doesn’t take long for rye to grow from seed to healthy lawn. Rye is a clumping grass type, and only forms a turf when seeded thickly. There are a lot of varieties of rye, and it can be an annual or perennial grass type. Perennial rye is intended to be a permanent turf grass in colder areas, and annual rye is a temporary seasonal grass used for a variety of purposes.

Annual rye is used almost everywhere, in both cold and warm climates. Annual rye will live for a season, and then die. It is used as a cover crop to keep weeds out of fallow fields, as a companion seed to help cool-season lawns get established, and as a southern winter grass. If you see a random bag of winter rye in the store, it is most likely a variety of annual rye.

Perennial rye is very similar to annual rye, except it can survive year after year in a cooler climate. Perennial rye is first and foremost a turf grass, and has been grown and developed for only that one purpose. As a result, it is tends to have a finer blade, better color, and a soft foot-friendly texture.

Rye is very easy to grow and maintain. It is a lot easier to keep a rye lawn green in the winter than keep a Bermuda or St. Augustine lawn green in an Austin summer. Mother nature typically provides most of the water needed after the lawn gets going. The cooler weather means a smaller amount of water goes along way.

Biggest Benefit of a Winter Lawn

The largest, and most obvious reason people over-seed with rye is to have a green useable lawn year-round.

One of the advantages of living so far south is that we have mild winters. Most winter days are warm enough that you can still enjoy the outdoors. Our winter lawns are actually usable, not just decorative. With winter rye the kids or grandkids actually have a lawn to play on over the Christmas break. Even if you prefer to hang out on your porch with a cup of coco, having a green lawn greet you instead of a dormant stretch of brown is always nice.

Additional Benefits of a Winter Lawn

Beyond simply having a green lawn there are several very good reasons to over-seed. The first is that it helps eliminate winter weeds, it helps improve the soil, and shelters and protects your existing lawn.

Winter weeds can be a problem in colder climates. Most of the herbicides used to control weeds in lawns can’t be applied when the temperature falls below a certain level. This limits weed control to preventative pre-emergent herbicides applied in the fall, or old fashioned hand pulling. Without a healthy, growing lawn, winter weeds can grow unhindered. Having rye helps quite a bit.

The rye grows vigorously enough that it can out compete most weeds. If the rye is healthy, it will completely choke out some of the most common and pesky winter lawn weeds.

As an added benefit, the rye makes a good “green manure.” Green manures are plants used to add nutrients to the soil. Some plants add nutrient directly to the soil, but others work by adding organic matter that decomposes into nutrients. Rye falls into the second category.

When used as a cover crop in agriculture, the rye grass is plowed directly into the soil, adding nutrients that will be used by the next crop. On lawns, the grass clippings are mulched back into the lawn, with the grass plant itself dying and decomposing into the soil in the spring. Rye is high in nitrogen, one of the vital nutrients Bermuda lawns needs to stay green through the heat of the summer.

The last benefit of rye is that it shelters your existing lawn. In cool-season lawns, rye seed is added to seed mixes because it grows up quickly sheltering the young new lawn, and then dies out after the lawn grows in strong. Up north, the shelters the grass from heat, down here it shelters the lawn from cold.

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Our warm-season lawns are not very cold hardy. Sudden shifts in temperature at the wrong times can cause extensive damage to both Bermuda and St. Augustine lawns (though Zoysia is more tolerant of cold.) Soil temperature will fluctuate more with exposed soil than with soil insulated from the cold air. Mulch provides insulation to keep your plants alive in the planting beds. Rye can fill that role in a lawn. And the rye actually likes the cold!

We use a special machine called a hydraulic slit seeder to over-seed lawns. This is very different from broadcast spreading most people are familiar with. Our seeder distributes the correct amount of seed directly into the soil of the lawn. Using the slit seeder limits accidental seeds in planting beds. Because the seed is put in direct contact with the soil, it is easier to get the seed to germinate. The seed is evenly distributed so there are rarely bare spots or thin spots – both problems are common with broadcast seeding.

The hydraulic slit seeder has the added benefit of loosening and dethatching the top of the lawn. The blades that push the seed into the soil are very similar to the blades of a dethatching machine, and have a similar result. If there is excessive dead grass in your lawn it will be removed.

What makes us different?

As far as we know, we are the only company to use a hydraulic slit seeder to over-seed lawns. We looked, and couldn’t find anyone offering a similar service. In fact, we had to special order our machine. I don’t know why we are the only ones using it, but it works great!

We also only use perennial rye grass. It is more expensive, but the results are much better than using an annual rye. Perennial rye will still die in our hot weather every spring, but the lawn it produces over the winter is thick, green, and lush.

Basically, we decided that if we were going to offer winter rye, we should only offer the best winter rye, seeded the best possible way.

A few Warnings about Winter Rye:

Rye grass is grown from seed, so it is incompatible with pre-emergent herbicides. Pre-emergent herbicides work by preventing seeds from germinating. Our method of slit seeding will disturb the soil enough that the grass seed should still germinate even with a pre-emergent treatment. But it is best to simply consider these two services incompatible. The good new is that rye is generally more effective than pre-emergent applications anyways.

Another thing to avoid is weed-and-feed fertilizes from big box stores. They shouldn’t be used very often anyways, but the herbicides in these products are harmful to new grass and germinating grass seed.

Last few thoughts:

The only real downside to having a lawn all winter is that is needs to be maintained in the winter. Fortunately, maintaining a winter lawn isn’t terribly hard. You can mow the grass short, or let it grow long. Generally, it’s a good idea to keep your winter lawn a little longer than you keep your summer lawn. Our mow crews can handle the mowing for you, so that shouldn’t be a big inconvenience.

You do need to give a newly seeded lawn extra water to get it going. It’s best to keep the grass seed damp until it grows up into a healthy lawn. After it grows, water can be cut back to more minimal levels. Thankfully, we usually get enough rain over the winter that irrigation is only needed when the sky fails to provide enough moisture.

The best way to get your winter lawn to grow in is by having your lawn top dressed at the same time as the over-seeding. These two services work well together, and result in not only a good winter lawn, but a healthier summer lawn as well.

If you want to watch a funny video (we think laughing is important), look at this.

Picking the Right Grass

For the good-looking, easy-to-maintain lawn, plant grass varieties that are well-suited to your climate and the lawn’s intended use.

Viveka Neveln is the Garden Editor at BHG and a degreed horticulturist with broad gardening expertise earned over 3+ decades of practice and study. She has more than 20 years of experience writing and editing for both print and digital media.

Almost all lawn grasses are classified as either “cool season” (meaning they do better in the North) or “warm season” (better adapted to southern gardens). Our grass information will help you select varieties that will grow well in your climate and under the conditions present in your yard.

A beautiful lawn usually contains a combination of distinct grass types, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. As you evaluate a grass mixture, look at the proportions of the varieties described below to evaluate which mixture will meet your needs and conditions best. Before you make your final decision, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service or local nurseries to find out about varieties adapted to your area.

Know Your Zone

Northern Zone In the Northern United States and in Canada, where summers are moderate and winters often are cold, cool-season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue are the primary choices.

Southern Zone The Southern Zone, with hot summers and moderate winters, provides a climate where warm-season grasses thrive. St. Augustinegrass, Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, and zoysiagrass are the most common varieties.

Transition Zone This region has hot summers as well as cold winters, making it the most challenging region for lawns: Cool-season grasses struggle in the summer heat, while warm-season types can remain brown as much as half of the year and may be prone to winter damage. Tall fescue is a popular choice in the Transition Zone because it exhibits good tolerance of both cold and heat, and it stays green most of the year. Bermudagrass, zoysiagrass, and Kentucky bluegrass also are grown in the Transition Zone.

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Consider the Site

Next, think about conditions in your yard. If there are no special challenges, then you should get good results from any of the primary grasses for your region. For difficult sites—those that have deep shade, a lack of water, or salty soils—other species will adapt better to the specific conditions.

Low-Input Areas For an out-of-the-way area that’s hard to supply with water or fertilizer, buffalograss—hardy throughout much of North America—is an excellent choice. Fine-leaf fescues also are good for low-input sites. Centipedegrass is a good choice for low-maintenance sites in the Southeast.

Shaded Sites Fine-leaf fescues are the most tolerant of shady sites. In the South, most varieties of St. Augustine are fairly shade-tolerant (with the exception of the Floratam variety).

High-Traffic Sites In the North, blends of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass work well for high-traffic areas. In the South, Bermudagrass is preferred for its ability to recover rapidly from wear.

Seed companies often package mixes containing several species or varieties selected for a particular type of site—sunny, shady, dry, or high-traffic, for example. They do the homework of devising the best mixes in the right ratios, and the resulting lawn will perform better than if you’d planted a single species.

Salty-Sites or Sites Using Effluent Water Seashore paspalum is extremely salt-tolerant, making it excellent for sandy coastal sites affected by salt sprays, or where effluent water with high salt levels is used for irritation.

Use the Right Variety

Each grass species is available in several (sometimes a great many) varieties, offering variations in texture, color, and growth rate. Visually, the differences may be subtle, but newer varieties often have unseen advantages. For example, they might better tolerate diseases, pests, or harsh weather. No-name or generic seed, though cheaper, is usually not worth the savings because you might end up with an older variety prone to problems.

To get the best performance from species, such as tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, and Kentucky bluegrass, use a mix of varieties. Though you can create your own mix, it’s more convenient to use prepackaged mixes, which are formulated for specific regions. Generally, you won’t go too far wrong if you stick to recognized brands and buy seed from reputable garden centers, which tend to stock current varieties.

Cool-Season Grasses

Cool-season grasses are generally adapted to northern climates, where they grow vigorously in spring and fall and may turn brown in very hot summers. They are often sold as a blend of several varieties of the same species, such as several varieties of Kentucky bluegrass, or as a mixture of two or more different species such as Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue. Growing blends or mixtures is a good idea—if one doesn’t grow well or is destroyed by disease, chances are that the others will take over and flourish.

The most common cool-season grasses include fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and tall fescue. The new varieties of Kentucky bluegrass, unlike the old standards, are quite disease-resistant, keep their fine-textured looks without a lot of feeding, and have some drought tolerance. Fine fescue includes several grasses—chewings fescue, hard fescue, and creeping red fescue—that are often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass as they thrive in shade and drought. Perennial ryegrass is a main component of cool-season grass mixes. It germinates quickly and wears well.

Kentucky Bluegrass

  • Texture: Medium
  • Germination time: Slow
  • Shade tolerance: Fair
  • Drought resistance: Fair
  • Traffic resistance: Good
  • Optimum height: 2 to 3-1/2 inches
  • Pros: Fills in bare spots on its own, tolerates harsh winters
  • Cons: Intolerant of shade, prone to thatch, languishes in heat, favorite food of grubs

Fine-leaf Fescue

  • Texture: Fine
  • Germination time: Medium-slow
  • Shade tolerance: Good
  • Drought resistance: Excellent
  • Traffic resistance: Fair
  • Optimum height: 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches
  • Pros: Needs little maintenance, tolerates drought and shade
  • Cons: Loses color in drought; may spread undesirably

Tall Fescue

  • Texture: Medium coarse
  • Germination time: Medium-slow
  • Shade tolerance: Good
  • Drought resistance: Good
  • Traffic resistance: Excellent
  • Optimum height: 2 to 3-1/2 inches
  • Pros: Not prone to thatch, tolerant of drought and heat, good pest tolerance
  • Cons: Doesn’t spread into bare areas, may appear clumpy

Perennial Ryegrass

  • Texture: Fine-coarse
  • Germination time: Fast
  • Shade tolerance: Fair
  • Drought resistance: Good
  • Traffic resistance: Excellent
  • Optimum height: 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches
  • Pros: Tolerates traffice well, germinates and establishes quickly
  • Cons: Doesn’t fill in bare spots on its own, poor tolerance of temperature extremes

Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses love heat and are well-suited to the hot summers of the South and Southwest. In areas with little summer rain, they will go dormant without supplemental water. With a few exceptions, warm-season grasses are not very cold-tolerant, and most undergo winter dormancy. Many varieties are unavailable as seed and must be planted as sprigs or sod.

Zoysia is the most winter hardy of the southern grasses and is sometimes grown up to Zone 7. It stays brown all winter in cold-winter areas, however, and is slow to green up in spring. It’s a dense grass that’s somewhat tolerant of shade and grows best in the upper South. Bermuda grass is suited to Florida and the Gulf Coast and thrives when it gets abundant water. St. Augustine grass is a coarse grass, adapted to the humid coastal areas of the South. It is not tolerant of freezing weather or much shade but stands up to sun and high traffic. Bermuda grass is common to the mild-winter West Coast and southern regions.

Bermudagrass

  • Texture: Fine-coarse
  • Germination time: Slow—use plugs or sod
  • Shade tolerance: Poor
  • Drought resistance: Excellent
  • Traffic resistance: Excellent
  • Optimum height: 1 to 2 inches
  • Pros: Vigorous spreader, quickly recovers from wear, hybrid types are fine textured and less coarse
  • Cons: Intolerant of shade, prone to thatch, invades beds, may be too agressive
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St. Augustinegrass

  • Texture: Coarse
  • Germination time: Slow—use plugs or sod
  • Shade tolerance: Fair
  • Drought resistance: Poor
  • Traffic resistance: Fair
  • Optimum height: 2 to 3 inches
  • Pros: Requires moderate maintenance, reasonably tolerant of shade
  • Cons: Susceptible to chinch bugs, does not survive dry summers without supplemental watering, poor cold tolerance, susceptible to disease

Zoysiagrass

  • Texture: Medium
  • Germination time: Slow—use plugs or sprigs
  • Shade tolerance: Fair
  • Drought resistance: Good
  • Traffic resistance: Good
  • Optimum height: 1 to 2 inches
  • Pros: Effective at choking out weeds, somewhat tolerant of shade, drought tolerant
  • Cons: Long domancy, requires annual dethatching or scalping, slow to establish and recover from wear, not well-suited to winter overseeding, turns brown in winter

Buffalograss

  • Texture: Fine
  • Germination time: Medium—use plugs
  • Shade tolerance: Poor
  • Drought resistance: Excellent
  • Traffic resistance: Poor
  • Optimum height: 2 inches
  • Pros: Tolerates climatic extremes, requires little fertilizer, pest control, or mowing, tolerates alkaline soil, native to areas of North America
  • Cons: Does not tolerate traffic well, slow to re-establish, goes dormant in winter and mid-summer (if not irrigated)

Centipedegrass

  • Texture: Medium-coarse
  • Germination time: Medium—use plugs or sod
  • Shade tolerance: Good
  • Drought resistance: Good
  • Traffic resistance: Poor
  • Optimum height: 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches
  • Pros: Needs little maintenance, invites few pests of disease problems, grows slowly for reduced mowing
  • Cons: Recovers slowly from wear, is easily injured by freezing weather

Sod, Seed, and Sprigs

New lawns can be established by sod or seed (or sprigs or plugs, if seed is not an option). Sod is the quickest way to establish your lawn, but it’s also more expensive than the alternatives. Further, you are limited to the varieties that local sod growers have chosen to plant. One situation may demand sod: steep slopes. Slopes are prone to erosion, and heavy rains can wash away seed; sod will stay put.

Seed saves you money up front, and you may find a wider selection of varieties in garden centers. However, lawn planted from seed may take a year to develop a thick stand, and you may find yourself reseeding areas that didn’t establish well. Also, weeds may be problematic until the young grass thickens.

Many warm-season varieties aren’t available from seed, so they are sold as sprigs (stolons) or plugs. These are planted in the soil and gradually spread until they’ve filled in to form a solid lawn. Sprigs are sold by the bushel from garden centers; plugs are sold by the tray.

The Best Way to Choke Out Weeds in Bermuda Grass

Bermuda grass, known botanically as the Cynodon species, is a warm-season perennial turf grass that grows widely in temperate, tropical and subtropical climes. It is a vigorous grower, reproducing vegetatively by creeping runners and stolons as well as by seed.

Considered a weed itself by some, healthy Bermuda lawns under proper cultivation practices can overpower most other weed species and prevent them from establishing a competitive presence.

Mow your Bermuda grass to a blade height of between one and two inches. When weeds are present raise the mowing height up to 2 1/2 inches to shade the weed seeds and plants. This will prevent them from conducting photosynthesis and weaken or kill them allowing the Bermuda to gain the upper hand. Use a catcher on your mower to prevent cut weed seeds from being redeposited onto the lawn surface.

  • Bermuda grass, known botanically as the Cynodon species, is a warm-season perennial turf grass that grows widely in temperate, tropical and subtropical climes.
  • Considered a weed itself by some, healthy Bermuda lawns under proper cultivation practices can overpower most other weed species and prevent them from establishing a competitive presence.

Water your Bermuda lawn consistently to keep it lush and healthy. Apply a minimum of 1 inch of water each week in either one or two deep watering session. Ensure that the soil is wet to a depth of at least 6 inches to saturate the Bermuda root zone. Use more water in arid or hot climates and less in cooler northern or rainy climes. Avoid drought stress, which can give competitive weeds a foothold.

Pull up the competitive weeds by the roots after the lawn has been watered and the soil is saturated. Grasp the weed down at its base up against the soil and pull up and out of the soil with a firm tug. Throw the weeds away and bypass the compost bin.

  • Water your Bermuda lawn consistently to keep it lush and healthy.
  • Pull up the competitive weeds by the roots after the lawn has been watered and the soil is saturated.

Fertilize your Bermuda grass monthly to keep it growing vigorously. Use a basic lawn turf fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen and apply according to the product label instructions being careful not to exceed a dose of 1-pound of actual nitrogen for every 1,000 square feet of lawn expanse. Water in deeply after each application until the top few inches of soil are saturated.

Dethatch or aerate your Bermuda grass lawn once or twice per year to remove excess thatch and ensure that applied water and nutrients are making their way down to the root zone where they are needed. Pull the dethatching fork across the lawn surface, making two passes, the second pass being at a 90-degree angle to the first. Rake up all of the loose thatch when completed and discard it.

Plunge the aerating tool into the lawn and soil, making two passes over the area. The soil plugs can be left on the soil to act as fertilizer or raked up for a tidy appearance. Water deeply immediately after either of these procedures.