December seeding in Atlanta?

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by pickaxedge, Dec 10, 2008.

  1. pickaxedge

    pickaxedge LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    I am a homeowner interested in renovating a 200' x 60' lawn area on my 2 acre lot located beneath 4 mature pecan trees in suburban Atlanta . I have recently trimmed the pecans to maximize direct sunlight in summer, but at best, this is a mostly shaded area 7-8 months/year.

    The area contains some fescue, centipede and bermuda along with some bare dirt patches. The area borders bermuda lawn to one side and centipede to the other. The area will require constant care in that gets much traffic, football, baseball, etc....

    I have just purchased a pull-behind 40" plug aerator and 175lb spreader and would like to put the equipment to work. The area will be irregated with my cast iron walking sprinkler. I would like to begin the renovation right away (December-January).

    Is there a seed that I can begin with such as a annual rye at this time of year? Or, should I just hold off everything until next fall? If I want to begin renovation now, what type of seed is best? What type of results can I expect? If the rye works now, can I then plan on an overseeding of fescue in the spring as my final turf?
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2008
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I am from the north but do have a generalized understanding of North Florida. Annual rye is the way to go for winter.

    However, I have a question about that. If you have irrigation and fescue. Does your fescue go into winter dormancy in Kennesaw?
    That will be an important point.
  3. clallen03

    clallen03 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 514

    You could seed it with rye and It will grow in that area for you but it will die out in the heat of spring. I would recommed that you wait until next fall to areate and seed with a quality fescue seed (Lesco sells a pretty good fescue seed). This will give you some ground cover in that area for years to come as long as you overseed that area each year.

    I hope this helps
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Does fescue even go dormant down there?
    Is it a dry period or does it cool off long enough to force the fescues into dormancy.

    Our ground has been frozen for most of November and it is still green under the snow.
  5. clallen03

    clallen03 LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 514

    From what I have seen, it doesn't. I does slow in growth during tha winter but never goes dormant.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    It seems like you should be able to maintain 'green' with just the fescue.
    Is that possible?

    As long as the annual rye dies back it shouldn't inhibit the fecuse, in the thin spots, and even use the A.R. as a cover crop as it dies.
    A good strategy or am I missing something. :)
  7. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    First, have realistic expectations about growing grass under trees in the shade. In my experience these areas will have thin turf and I've never liked how they look, though moderate shade can be a plus on Fescue in terms of helping it through summer. You'd have better results with fine fescues/shade mixes than pure Tall Fescue but if you're going to get ANY significant wear on the lawn you will not be able to grow anything in the shade that will tolerate the wear. Shady lawns here are delicate. You'd need Bermuda to use it as a play field, and that means no shade whatsoever.

    I believe the rye would come up but as they said before it's just temporarly till the heat hits. Temps are too low for Tall Fescue to germinate now and even existing stands aren't really growing. The rye can be cut short in early spring and replaced with Fescue and I doubt it'd inhibit the Fescue too much, but unless you remove the shade you won't have good results and if you have kids playing on it it will not last either even with some sun. Fescue will also of course have problems in summertime as it is a cool season turf, but if played on it will quickly develop bare spots as it does not spread like stolonous turf.

    And if the current rainy weather doesn't hold up over the winter, you may see more watering restrictions and be unable to water even newly seeded lawns by mid March. My county allows it on an odd-even before 10am basis but not all do even now. But with the lakes so low I'd be surprised if normal watering is allowed by mid summer, so take that into account.

    Fescue planted in the spring is less likely to survive summer than when planted the fall before, as it doesn't get mature and tough enough in time before the heat/drought does a number on it.


    a) I wouldn't bother seeding with Fescue now
    b) I wouldn't expect it to do great in shade, with lots of wear, in Georgia, with limited watering ability, anyway.
  8. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Nice equipment,
    If you are getting a lot of traffic and have water restrictions you will want to build up the soil organic matter, see if you can find a good source for compost.
    Overseed with your rye ( I prefer Italian rye) as thick as you can. there are 2 things I like about rye. The roots will penetrate almost any soil and can go down 3 to 4 feet. This sets a great base for your fescues later as the roots of the dead rye leave tunnels if you will throught the soil and the fescue root will follow it. It also leaves organic matter (dead roots) which increases soil fertility

    You will be able to get deep rooting faster than normal, with the drought you guys have had you will want roots as deep as you can get them. The Organic Matter (compost) will also hold water better than before

    It was mentioned before, it is hard to get great establishment under trees, they are pulling a lot of moisture and nutrients from the soil, so plan to core areate, overseed and cover with compost every year.

    Rye in the fall each year will eventually break up your famous red clay into some nice soil going down 1 or 2 feet, great for the trees and the turf

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