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What is Rye Grass?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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Rye grass is a cool weather ground cover that is divided into nine species. Although each species has its own characteristics, there are some things that tend to generally characterize this type of grass. For example, it tends to be low maintenance and fast growing. It also tends to be highly regarded for its vibrant color.

In the United States (US), there are two common species of rye grass. These may be used in different areas and for different reasons. To begin with there is annual rye grass, formally known as Lolium multiflorum. This cool season bunch grass can grow in a variety of conditions, including in soils that are sandy and on land that has temporarily flooded. The ideal conditions for annual rye grass, however, are heavy clay or silty soils that have a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 and adequate drainage.

Annual rye grass is easy to care for. It grows from small seeds, which can number over 200,000 per pound. This cool season grass can withstand lower temperatures than many other ground cover options can. It should be noted that this grass does require adequate moisture and it has only moderate drought and shade tolerance.

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The leaves of annual rye grass can grow up to 12 inches (30.5 cm), while a plant can grow up to four feet (1.2 m). This grass is used for several reasons. In southern parts of the US, it is used to replace warm grasses. It is also used as a cover crop, a nurse crop, and to produce hay.

Perennial rye grass, formally known as Lolium perenne, is another species of this type of ground cover, which has long, brightly colored blades. Perennial rye grass is a nutritious option for a wide range of animals and is commonly used for grazing. It is also used for over seeding other grasses and can be hayed.

Although it is a cool grass, it is best suited for areas that are not extremely cold, which is why in the US it is a good grass to plant in sunny, central states. This species has high disease and insect resistance. It requires minimal tillage and can be sown using a spreader or by hand.

The ideal time to plant this grass is from mid-September and throughout October. It is fast growing, usually appearing in about a week. It can also be described as long-lasting since it will generally continue to provide beautiful ground cover until temperatures reach about 90 degrees (32 degrees C).

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