Planting Rye grass is the very first thing you do after disturbing the ground. Planting Rye grass is the last thing you do at the end of the day to protect whatever soil is still bare. No matter what the weather. That is my opinion. It is cheap enough to make a mistake with. Maybe it will be too dry for it to germinate, or maybe there will be a surprise shower and the Rye will sprout overnight. It does no harm to have it out a little too early in the season or a little too late because this grass takes advantage of every warm or sunny day and keeps going all winter.
Rye Grass is amazing for all sorts of applications. I wish I had discovered it early on in the construction of my barn because I could have saved a lot of muddy days and wheel barrow work. Since the basement of the barn was put in at the end of October I thought I would just have to wait until Spring to get any grass to grow. It was a warm winter though, and I could have had grass growing before the post and beams went up in December.
I had heard of Rye Bread, but never heard Rye grass was so hardy. It will germinate at temps as low as 43° if the moisture is right. Old timers used to throw Rye seed right on top of the snow, so I tried it January 31 after learning about it. Once it has established a root, it will grow a little any warm day you get in the fall, winter or spring. It won’t die or even go dormant in below zero weather…in fact it will still be green. What kills it is 95° heat. Have two or three days of that weather and you will notice the stand will go golden brown.
The backhoes are long gone and we continue to correct the grade around the barn using wheelbarrows. The ground keeps settling and more and more dirt has to be added to maintain a slope in front of the barn. Water accumulation on the field side of the barn is really concerning going into winter. At least an acre of land lies up hill from the east side and we don’t want rain-water soaking in, freezing and cracking the foundation. All this earth moving is hard work, so we don’t want to lose any more dirt to erosion than we have to. We’ve used carpet scraps that neighbors put out on trash day to control the slipping in the mud and to stop erosion. Professional versions of these are called ‘Swamp Mats. However, it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that those same carpet scraps could also be used to speed up germination of Rye grass seed.
My youngest wanted to earn some money, so I drove him out to the barn to move wheelbarrows of dirt even though a huge rainstorm was predicted at sundown. He did a great job and we raked it to the right shape for shedding water and sowed Rye grass all across the top. As we were finishing up we could see the thunderstorm coming in the distance so I grabbed the muddy scrap carpet and put it over the newly laid seed just to keep them from getting washed away. [We have thick lush Rye grass ditches and gullies because the seeds get washed all to one area despite straw used as protection].
We returned a few days later to move more dirt on November 18. When we pulled off the carpets the Rye was not only all evenly distributed, it had also sprouted in record time. The little sprouts are a unique and pretty red that change to green as they mature. Thanks to the soaked carpets the seed was kept at the perfect moisture level and the thick carpet made it impossible for birds to eat. If you leave the carpet on too long it will kill the seedlings, but simply checking every 3-4 days is usually sufficient to prevent that problem. The following photos will show how much progress it made over 10 days in November.
Without carpets to hold the seed in place during rain, keep it moist for germination and fend off the birds, this is the kind of sprout density you get on a slope even in the summer. The seeds find it hard to get a start in straight clay. Note that the drip line off the roof is very deep.
Because of the early start Rye grass gets it is used as a ‘nursery grass’. That means when you are trying to put in a regular perennial grass that needs heat to grow, the Rye grass seed sprouts first and protect the warm weather grasses as they take longer to put down roots. The plan here is to sow perennial Alfalfa into the annual Rye grass in the spring. We will see if Alfalfa is a good grass so close to the barn. I love Rye so much maybe I should buy the more expensive Perennial Rye Grass too so we have green grass all winter, every winter.
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