Dog safety & fast ground cover (rye?)

tadasanaFebruary 2, 2013

Hi All,

Here's the short version of my question:
Would it be wise or foolish for me to sow rye seed as a temporary groundcover until I'm able to lay bermuda sod?

I've read that rye can make it harder for bermuda to thrive and from what I've read in these forums it sounds like I'd have to rent a tiller and till the whole yard before laying the sod--it sounds expensive and like I'd be creating a problem by introducing rye (even annual rye) into my yard. If there were some benefit to my soil or yard by planting a winter cover crop I'd feel better about doing it. But rye sounds like the only thing that might grow fast enough to be what I need: a decent non-dirt surface from now (Feb) til May-ish.


OK, so what you're seeing in the photo is my backyard and my very dear dog. I had to remove my swimming pool a couple months ago (orange berg sewer lines collapsed beneath it--long story) so the wrecking company filled it with dirt and they're supposed to return to lay a final load of dirt on top but the earth has been too soft for them to do so. And the whole yard must be re-leveled for drainage so I figured I'd wait until that was done before re-sodding the lawn.

THEN THE RAINS CAME and now it looks like it could be months before they finally deliver that dirt.

I've lived with the visual ugliness for over a year so that's not the problem. The real problem is that my dog is ingesting a lot of clay and even if I limit his access to the yard and clean his paws constantly he's still going to be ingesting a lot of clay because it is EVERYWHERE.

I'm considering cordoning off part of the yard and laying sod or something in a place where he can run, but it would be nice if he could safely access the whole yard. He's had a rough year ;-)

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Looks like my photo didn't show up with the posting. I'll try that again here.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 12:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I cant say a lot, but I will give you my thoughts.

It you had orangeburg pipe the house is several years old.
The construction in the picture is new and of good quality, giving me the idea you have spent a lot of money remodeling. If you start working on your lawn now you wont have a great lawn by may (time to cover it up).

Can you build a temporary fence where the post is to keep the dog out of the clay and keep him from tracking it in?
He has put up with if for a year, surly he will be ok in a smaller area for 2 or 3 months. You could let him out for exercise every day if you wanted to.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 2:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks so much, Larry. When people said rye grew FAST I thought they meant I'd have some sort of green happening within a couple of weeks.

Re: the sewer line scenario, it's a cautionary tale so I share it here as a Buyer Beware interlude:

My house was built in the late 1960s. In OKC some developers continued using the tarpaper sewer lines long after WW2 because they were cheap. As another savings-measure they opted to install three sewer lines (for a less-than 2000-sq-ft house) rather than branching one or two. So I had the unexpected expense of replacing all three lines.

Also, apparently, in OKC you can also install a swimming pool however you want and no one is required to check for things like proper slope or sewer line locations. The pool was added in the 1980s and it was magnificent and huge (36,000 gallon+, concrete, in-ground, with a separate multi-level jacuzzi). All of it has now been demolished.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 2:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
helenh(z6 SW MO)

I am sorry you have had such a bad time. Is that the color of soil there? I would not be happy if someone hauled that in to my yard but maybe it is better soil than it appears to be. It looks like subsoil. Take the dog for a walk every day on a leash or take him to a field where he can run and throw a ball for him. He would love that and it would be good exercise for you too. I know it would take up lots of your time and be inconvenient, but I think it might be a pleasant part of your day.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Helen, Yes that's the color of all the earth in my area. I actually think it's beautiful--just not in this particular configuration. Yes, we'll be taking more walks again. Unfortunately, there are a lot of stray dogs in my area and my dog is fear aggressive (another long story) so we curtailed our daily walks some time ago but this may be time to buck up and search farther for a safe venue. I've asked the wrecking company to make the last load of dirt a silty soil instead of clay so hopefully that will be better--whenever it gets delivered. I'm guessing not til May.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It sure sounds like y'all have been through a lot lately. I can tell you really love your dog and want to do what is best for him. I just don't know that there is anything temporary you could plant now that would not be a big mess to remove when it was time to lay the bermuda sod.

As much as I hate to say this, I don't think the rye grass is a good solution if you're planning to lay bermuda sod in spring. Once the temperatures hit the right point in spring, rye grass grows like mad and I am afraid you'd just have to rototill it up and rake out the roots in order to get the bermuda grass off to a good start. Of course, if you don't mind rototilling the rye grass into the ground, it would serve a dual purpose because after you rototilled the rye into the ground, it would decompose and enrich that red soil.

I'm also not sure how good your germination rates would be with the nights still so cool.

We always overseed our bermuda grass lawn in fall with rye grass, and we sow it while the nighttime highs are still staying above 55 degrees. Once the nights are colder than that, the rye grass germination can be fairly erratic. It still will germinate, on and off, when the night time temps are warm enough, but it can take in weeks or months. I am afraid that by the time you get good germination and the grass is really starting to fill in and look good, it already would be time to tear it out and replace it with the bermuda sod.

However, I also could make the argument that nature abhors a vacuum and will fill that area with something if you leave it bare. So, if you don't plant something in that soil, then as soon as the temperatures hit the right point for weed seeds to germinate, something is going to start growing in that red dirt anyhow, depending on where it came from and whatever sort of weed seeds it contains. So, if the issue was that you likely will find yourself with weeds sprouting anyhow and those will have to be dealt with before you lay down the bermuda grass sod, then maybe rye grass becomes a more attractive option. Still, there's no guarantee of good germination until your nighttime lows are staying above 55 degrees.

I don't really know that there is any sort of good answer to this problem. Anything else I can think of like clover that likely would sprout and grow really wouldn't be any easier to get rid of than the rye.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 4:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wow, Dawn. You are always wonderfully helpful and right now you said something I should have considered all along: **something** will start growing there no matter what happens. Oy.

I read on the OSU site -->

that rye grass competes with bermuda, sapping nitrogen and water, which got me confused about why anyone would overseed bermuda with rye, especially ordinary homeowners like me who appreciate not having to mow the lawn in the winter when the bermuda is dormant.

Is it just to prevent weeds? Is that why you overseed?

As for the tilling-it-in: is that something a determined person could do with a $150-ish girlie Black and Decker cultivator thing like this:

or would I have to use a full-blown tiller?

Thanks again for your help!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 6:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

By the way, I'm starting to think maybe I should just go ahead and install dormant bermuda sod and have them dump the last load of dirt on top of it, somehow hopefully making the swale. Is that nuts?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 6:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7

We overseed with rye for several reasons, but primarily for winter fire protection. We live in a rural area where winter wildfires are fairly common, or at least they have been ever since 2005. Prior to that, we never had them. Our DS is a professional firefighter and also a volunteer firefighter and my DH is the chief of our local VFD, and also is a certified professional firefighter in Texas for the last 32 years. (I have to point out he primarily works as a law enforcement officer but at the time he was hired, they all went through the fire academy and the police academy so that they were cross-trained and had the flexibility to do both jobs.) Because we understand the rate at which wildfire can move and because we often are away from home at wildfires elsewhere in the county and are not at home to protect our own home from wildfire, it is important to us to maintain a green envelope around the house and detached barn-style garage. It isn't that green grass won't burn, because it can and it will....but just that it will not ignite as easily as dormant bermuda grass. Our hope is that when a fast-moving grass fire comes this way, the green rye grass will slow it down and keep it from reaching the structures before a fire truck arrives. Most years, the worst and most fast-moving fires have not been in our specific portion of the county very often, but one year we had 4 separate wildfires within about a quarter-mile of our place in a two-week period and I was pretty much a nervous wreck after that....especially when friends call me on my cell phone when I am gone to a fire somewhere and say "Are you at home? It looks like your place is on fire?" At least having the green grass on the acre around the house and other structures gives us a little peace of mind.

Secondly, I hate, hate, hate bermuda grass. I'd rather have bare ground. It is horrifically invasive and will creep and crawl into every garden bed of any type. We did not plant the bermuda grass here. Whoever owned the farmland we purchased likely planted it as pasture grass. When we bought the land, it looked like your typical mix of tall and short prairie grasses mixed with forbs and a bit of invasive brush. Then, after we mowed the grass down short right before the builder started building the house, we saw the bermuda popping up all over in the absence of taller grasses to shade it out. One of our old-rancher/farmer neighbors noticed it one day and said "Oh, great! You have bermuda. You won't even have to plant any." I said something like "yeah, great" but I was thinking something else entirely opposite of that.

Part of the deliberate overseeding every fall is to weaken the bermuda so that it will be slower to grow and slower to move into the flower beds, shrub beds, etc. My main weapon in the battle to defeat the bermuda grass is to shade it out. We've been here 14 years, and the trees and shrubs (we have planted many, many, many of them) are shading out the bermuda grass now in some parts of the yard. When they do that, I plant ground covers in the bare spots. I won't be happy until it is all gone though. So my goal is the opposite of yours. I hate it and want to get rid of it, and you want to grow it. We have red clay...the kind of clay that breaks shovels when you try to dig in it. That sort of red clay in combination with bermuda grass is a horrible combination. When the soil is dry, which is most of the time in this state, you cannot dig out or pull out the bermuda grass. Did I mention I hate it?

If your soil is red clay, you need a real tiller. A big rear-tine tiller. A really strong, sturdy, rear-tine tiller. We have a Troy-Bilt. Those little cultivators/tillers (we have a Mantis and a Troy-Bilt in that size and the Mantis is far superior in performance) are great for well-enriched and well-amended soil that is not strongly compacted or for native sandy-silty soil that is not overly compacted. We've been breaking ground out back for an additional vegetable garden plot, and I used The Mantis for most of it. It has worked just fine on most of that area. When I hit the red clay at the north end of that future garden plot, Tim rototilled it with the Troy-Bilt rear-tine tiller. Now, in the future, since it has been initially broken and will be well-amended, I will be able to use the Mantis to work organic matter into the soil, but when I tried to rototill the dense red and very compacted clay with it last week, both the Mantis and I were bouncing all over the ground and barely making a dent in it. We normally only use the big tiller the first time we break ground. The cultivator is great for mixing in amendments, but I'm even trying to stop doing that regularly because any sort of tilling (or digging) is not necessarily good for the soil tilth.

You don't have to buy a rototiller and, in fact, I wouldn't buy one if I just wanted to use it for one project. I'd rent one for the day. Or, if you check the garden section or the handyman section of your local paper, you may find ads for people who own rototillers and who will come rototill up a spot for someone. Around here, they usually charge a little less than it would cost to rent a big rototiller for the day.

If the soil that was dumped into the place where the pool used to be is fairly loose and not heavily compacted, then the smaller cultivator might handle it just fine. I love my Mantis cultivator but it is not up to the task of easily rototilling very dense and very compacted clay. It's great for everything else.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 7:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for explaining the rye scenario. I get it now. For a while I thought about planting something like buffalo grass but all the lawns in my neighborhood are bermuda and I figured I'd never really be able to completely replace my existing bermuda. Seemed somehow better to make my peace with it.

I agree: red clay + bermuda = pain ;-) I've been working compost into my beds here for about 8 years but the pool area is a brand new plot of compacted red clay and I'm about to sod it with bermuda. Yowza.

Would sowing another grass seed mixture make any sense as a way to somehow diversity the lawn? I ask because I happen to have found a bag of some sort of fescue mix in my garage but didn't know if I'd be better off just trying to have really nice bermuda (whatever that looks like) rather than trying to mix things up.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 10:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

OK I've slept on it and now I'm feeling pretty sure I'll go ahead and sod the yard and have the extra load of dirt (to level the yard and create the swale) on top of it. It would only be about an inch of dirt on top of the sod.

As long as that dirt is silty soil, can the bermuda really continue to grow up through that or would I be wasting all the money I spent on the sod?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 10:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Bermuda grass will grow up through anything. I've sat bales of hay or straw on top of the bermuda grass and had it grow right up through the bale and grow upward through the top of it. In fact, with the 200+ bales of hay that we were given for mulch a couple of years ago, I've had them stacked 4 bales high and the bermuda grass grew up through the 4 bales and came growing out of the top of the top bale. As I've been breaking down the bales to use this month, I've been watching really carefully and trying to pull those long bermuda grass stolons out of the bales so that I'm not planting that bermuda grass in my garden areas as I mulch.

You're correct in assuming you'd have a hard time with buffalo grass holding its own against adjacent bermuda grass. We have buffalo grass on a clay slope where there is no bermuda (because we only mow that area once a year). If you have both bermuda grass and buffalo grass together, here is what happens:

If you do not irrigate and you do not mow, the buffalo grass will outcompete the bermuda grass. So, because we do not irrigate and do not mow, our buffalo grass does just fine. However, it is not prime lawn grass for the same reason. It sets seed heads pretty early and turns buff colored, which is perfectly acceptable on rural acreage, but maybe not as highly regarded in town where neighbors expect green lawns clipped to look like carpets.

If you do irrigate and you do mow, the bermuda grass outcompetes the buffalo grass. I believe this occurs because it is a running grass that spreads by stolons whereas buffalo grass clumps.

People I know who have buffalo grass lawns have to keep a barrier of some sort between their lawn and their neighbors lawn in order to have any chance at all of keeping the bermuda grass from infiltrating their buffalo grass lawns.

When we lived in Fort Worth, we had St. Augustine and our neighbors had bermuda. Our St. Augustine out-competed their bermuda, but it is more of a water guzzler, which is why I don't have it here.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 10:23AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
helenh(z6 SW MO)

How much rain did it take to get that much water standing? It isn't that long until May and if I were you I'd get it leveled so that the water will run away from your house before putting down the sod. I don't know what you mean about the swale so maybe you have a plan. I do think Bermuda would grow up through dirt on top but sod might get in your way when you are trying to get it level. You have put up with it for this long so you should get the leveling right.

My friend's daughter lives in town and we sometimes take her Lab to a place where we can throw a ball. He has a device to sling the ball and avoid slobbers. The dog runs and runs and gets exhausted quickly. The dog loves it but unfortunately if she can find a mud puddle she jumps in it to cool off so you need a pickup.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 10:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks so much, Dawn and Helen.

Yes, the leveling piece of this puzzle is tricky too--I'll spare you the gorey details but suffice to say I'm the low point of the neighborhood (surprise!); I've already spent a couple thousand on a civil engineer's plan that I cannot afford to implement; all I can do is depend on the wrecking guy to reslope the dirt away from the house, making a swale to pull water away from the house and erecting a retaining wall on my own. That beautiful backyard in the photo cost $25K to create (price of sewer line replacement, pool and patio removal, civil engineer consultation and report, and a landscape architect's design plan to give me a game plan for the retaining wall and so forth).

Needless to say, I'm under water literally and figuratively.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Tadasana, I have had 3 houses in the past where I have had to deal with a lawn drainage problem, including the one I live in now. I like to contour the lawn to give the water a path to drain to the lowest point away fron the house.

Where I live now I used a riding mower, trailer, tiller rake and shovel.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Just saw this reply, Larry. Thanks for the encouragement. I'm working on sloping the yard now.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 3:57PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Greenhouse cover
Hello all. We are considering building a greenhouse...
Which Inoculant for Which Legume?
No questions. Yay! Great little pamphlet, here. It...
What happens to tomatoes that are stunted as seedlings?
Because I seem to have a lot of them. I'm not panicked...
Question on my potatoes
I planted the first week of April. They're strong and...
2015 Tomato Grow List
Seed-starting time is approaching, so here's my grow...
Okiedawn OK Zone 7
Sponsored Products
American Drew Grand Isle Counter Height Chairs - Set of 2 - ADL4257
$630.00 | Hayneedle
Micca Duvet Cover - Queen
Offset Stainless Steel Sink
MR Direct Sinks and Faucets
Madison Park Newport Cotton 4-piece Duvet Cover Set
CS005 LED Channel System
Dolce Linear Suspension by Corbett Lighting
$2,846.00 | Lumens
Tuscan Trellis Duvet Cover Queen 90" x 95" - APPLE GREEN
$915.00 | Horchow
Montana 5 Piece Outdoor Patio Sectional Set in Brown Peridot
$1,399.00 | LexMod
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™