Pros and cons of ryegrass – will it work for your yard?

Perennial Ryegrass, also known as “sissygrass” has a fine texture and bright green color. It’s frequently used on golf course fairways and tee boxes because of its wear tolerance… Now I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t say no to my lawn looking like something from Augusta National! In this article, I want to give you an honest understanding of what perennial ryegrass is good for, and where it falls short – so let’s dive in:

Pros and cons of ryegrass snippet image

Table of Contents

Pros and cons of ryegrass

So let’s start off with some of the pros. Perrenial ryegrass stripes extremely well and you can even use a 10-blade reel mower to give it that fantastic low height. It has an extremely nice soft texture and it’s also one of the most shade-tolerant cool-season grasses. A downside to ryegrass is it’s pretty susceptible to fungi such as pythium and gray leaf spot. Another con is that ryegrass typically does better in cooler, somewhat wet climates, so you may struggle if your area is typically warmer and drier.

perennial rye

Ryegrass pros in detail

It’s important to go through the pros when it comes to ryegrass because this will show you if it is the right choice for your lawn. So let’s have a look:

Stripes really well

To tell you the truth, perennial ryegrass is one of my favorites becausde it’s super easy to get those nice striped lines which make your lawn look like a putting green. If you’re a golf fan and look at Augusta National where they play the Masters, it is all overseeded with perennial ryegrass seed and it looks absolutely stunning.

In regards to your lawn, you can even use a 10-blade reel mower to cut it nice and low if you use ryegrass. Some types of grasses such as fescue and bluegrass struggle to be cut low because they need more shade to their root systems, whereas with ryegrass you can mow it down to just below an inch without any issues.

green lawn

Shade-tolerant cool-season grasses

A great thing about ryegrass is how well it tolerates shade. If you have a few trees in your yard and the grass underneath is looking a little patchy, planting some ryegrass will cover these bold patches within a few short weeks if the temperature is right.

Perennial ryegrass is also a cool-season grass which means it does most of its growing in the spring and fall when temperatures are cooler. This is opposed to warm-season grasses such as Bermuda which grow best during the summer months.

Temperatures above 100 degrees will usually kill ryegrass so if you live in a hot climate, it’s not the best choice. However, if you have cooler summers or mild winters, ryegrass is definitely a grass to consider.

annual ryegrass

Resilient to wear and tear

Think of it like this, ryegrass is not only used on a number of golf courses around the country and the world because of its luscious green color but also because it can withstand a tremendous amount of wear and tear from foot traffic.

Golf courses need damage-resistant grass because people are constantly walking on it, driving carts over it and hitting golf balls on it. If the grass cannot hold up, the whole course would look like a disaster. Perennial ryegrass is also frequently used for soccer fields, football fields and any other type of recreational area where there is high foot traffic.

If you live in an area where there are a lot of kids running around or even if you just have a lot of daily foot traffic through your yard, ryegrass is one of the best choices to prevent bald spots and patchiness.

Grows quickly

Perennial ryegrass is a grass that germinates and grows extremely quickly. You can expect to see new blades of grass within just a few days of planting the seeds which is fantastic news if you’re trying to establish a new lawn or fill in some bald spots.

The fast growth rate is also great for repairing any damage that has been done to your lawn. If you have dog holes, dead patches or anything else, simply rake up the area, mix in some fresh topsoil and then sow some ryegrass seed. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll have a brand new patch of grass that looks like it was never damaged in the first place. You could have a stunning lawn in as little 4 weeks if you’re seeding a big area.

ryegrass seedlings growing

Can prevent weed growth

Weed growth can be a big problem in lawns but the good news for lawn care is that ryegrass has an aggressive nature and will quickly fill in any bald spots or areas where there are no grass seeds.

Weeds will have a much harder time growing and taking over because ryegrass grows quickly and will already be established. Of course, you still need to pull them out by hand when you see them but it’s definitely a lot easier to do when the area is filled with thick, luscious grass.

Ryegrass is allelopathic. Wich, in lamens terms, means the grass can take advantage of the growth and germination of other plants around it by sending a chemical signal to tell them to basically stop growing. It works on many types of other grass species and grass-type weeds, including invasive grasses.

I wrote an article on different types of invasive grasses and how to get rid of them which may be relevant if you are trying to grow ryegrass.

plant ryegrass

Ryegrass is comfortable at different heights

The common height for mowing ryegrass is between 1.5 to 2.5 inches but it can be mowed as low as 1 inch or as high as 3 inches. Of course, the shorter you mow it, the more often you will need to mow it but if you have the time and don’t mind being out in the yard every few days, cutting it short can give your lawn a beautiful, manicured look.

What type of lawn do you prefer? Would you want your grass to be able to store water at certain times of the year but distribute it more efficiently during other periods? As mentioned before ryegrass can be cut as low as 1 inch without being “scalped” or in danger. You can also allow it to grow to 3 inches during the summer months to retain moisture.

 

ryegrass can grow to over 3 inches

Ryegrass cons in detail

While ryegrass has a great number of benefits, it’s important to know about some of the potential drawbacks before planting it in your yard:

Susceptible to fungi

Ryegrass can quite often develop different types of fungus. The first one is Pythium which is a type of fungi that can cause the blades of grass to turn yellow and eventually die. It’s more likely to occur in warm, humid weather and if the grass is already stressed from a lack of nutrients or water.

Another type of fungus that ryegrass is susceptible to is gray leaf spot. Gray leaf spot is a fungus that will cause dark gray or brown spots to form on the leaves of the grass. These spots will eventually turn yellow and then kill the blade of grass.

Fungi can be difficult to get rid of once they’ve taken hold so it’s important to take steps to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Make sure you’re watering the grass deeply but not too often, fertilize regularly and don’t overwater. If you live in an area with a lot of rainfall, try to choose a spot that has good drainage to prevent waterlogging.

ryegrass adapts

Ryegrass prefers cooler, wet climates

While ryegrass can grow in a variety of climates, it prefers cooler, wetter conditions. If you live in an area that is prone to drought or heat waves, planting ryegrass here may not be the best choice for your lawn.

It’s also important to note that ryegrass is more of a winter grass. This means that it will struggle to thrive during exceedingly hotter months and then start to grow again when the weather starts to cool down. If you live in an area with year-round warm weather, ryegrass may not be a good option as it will simply stop growing at some point during the year.

Ryegrass is susceptible to both extremely cold temperatures and extreme heat. It will struggle to survive a long, frigid winter without being harmed. It will also deteriorate rapidly if the temperature rises above 100F for more than a few days.

ryegrass improves soil aeration

Ryegrass can prevent other grasses from growing

As mentioned before, ryegrass is allelopathic which means it can release chemicals that prevent other plants from growing. This can be beneficial if you’re trying to get rid of weeds but it can also be detrimental if you’re trying to grow other grasses on your lawn.

If you want to grow ryegrass alongside other grasses, make sure you choose a spot that gets plenty of sunlight as ryegrass will shade out any smaller plants that are trying to grow in the same area. You may also need to fertilize and water more frequently to give the other grasses a fighting chance.

Given the ryegrass’ fast sprouting, other turfgrasses like St. Augustine grass will struggle to grow and even die if planted at the same time.

grass weeds are an annoyance

It’s difficult to eliminate once it’s established

Once ryegrass has taken hold in an area, it can be difficult to get rid of. The best way to eliminate it is to physically remove it from the ground. This can be a time-consuming and difficult process, especially if the ryegrass has spread over a large area.

If you’re trying to get rid of ryegrass so you can plant something else, make sure you dig up the roots as well as the grass itself. If any pieces of root are left or other grass is behind, the ryegrass will simply grow back.

grass plant species dries

Conclusion

While ryegrass has a number of benefits, it’s important to be aware of some of the potential drawbacks before planting it in your yard. Let’s summarise the above to see what we’ve learnt:

  • Easy to get nice striped lines using a 10-blade reel mower

  • It’s shade tolerant and can help repair damaged or bald patches on your lawn

  • It’s resilient to wear and tear and high foot traffic

  • It grows at a fast rate in comparison to other grasses

  • It’s good at preventing weeds from growing through

  • It can be cut to 1 inch or grown slightly over 3 inches

  • Ryegrass can develop fungi such as Pythium or gray leaf spot

  • It prefers cooler more moist environments

  • It’s allelopathic which can prevent other plants from growing

  • Its difficult to get rid of once it’s established.

ryegrass conclusion image
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Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

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