At the August Board meeting we reviewed the proposal from Stillwater, our landscape vendor, to do the winter overseeding of the community’s turf areas.
If you’re not aware, here’s some background. There is a perennial (grows year after year) grass in our turf areas called Bermuda, which really thrives in the summer, but tends to go dormant in cooler temperatures. Specifically, if daytime temperatures go below 65°, Bermuda grass pretty much turns brown. Within the soil – under the surface – the roots of Bermuda are still alive, and need minimal irrigation. But it doesn’t look good – and historically we get a lot of complaints from residents about how the turf looks in the winter, if only the Bermuda is there.
Ryegrass to the Green Rescue!
But there’s an annual (has to be replanted every year) grass that thrives in the cooler Arizona temperatures, which is called Ryegrass. To plant the Ryegrass, the irrigation is stopped for about a week when the temperatures fall below the 60s. The Bermuda grass turns brown, and the Ryegrass is planted, often along with aerating the turf and application of a fertilizer. And watered… a lot! The water costs almost as much as the Ryegrass seeding costs, in most years.
But you and your neighbors have spoken loud and clear for years: you want green grass in the winter! So each year we budget for the extra cost. Normal budget is just under $10,000 for the Ryegrass application, and about that much for the additional water. I have to admit I like the green turf in the winter too, and the cost – while it seems high – is well worth the better community appearance… and your satisfaction.
The Price is Up…
But this year, the price of Ryegrass application is considerably more expensive, primarily due to increased prices of the seed itself, which have doubled, by most accounts. The reason for the seed price increase is beyond the scope of this post, but see this article from the US Golf Association (they know a thing or two about grass growing!).
Another consideration is that many landscape professionals recommend not overseeding every year, saying that every 3-5 years there Bermuda needs to be left “uninvaded by Ryegrass” to maintain the long term health of the Bermuda. The consensus view of the board has been that the desire of the residents for green grassy turf in the winter is more important than allowing our grass to go brown in hopes of improving the underlying Bermuda.
And the Answer Is…
All of this came into the discussion, and the board decided to proceed with overseeding most of the Rio Crossing turf areas — but to experimentally leave two smaller turf areas undisturbed:
- What we semi-lovingly call the “Jumping Wall Park”, the turf area west of the Roma/124th intersection.
- The turf inside the turn/intersection from Devonshire to 123rd – the northwest corner.
We plan to monitor the health and vitality of the turf in those two areas for a year or so afterward, and determine whether there is – or is not – a good reason to allow other turf areas within the community to “rest the Bermuda”.
We don’t really want the main park area to look like this any longer than necessary:
But if the long-term health of the turf can benefit from one “rest year” out of every 5, I hope we’ll consider a rotating “rest period” throughout the turf areas. Doing one major or several minor turf areas each year would at least give us some nice grass around the community every year. Prior boards have taken the “all or nothing” approach to the rest periods… resulting in the entire community turf being brown. Our landscape company has recommended this approach for us, and I think it’s a reasonable alternative to “all or nothing” without never giving the Bermuda a rest.