A quiet overseeding season for desert courses so far

I was driving around the desert a few days ago and drove past a course that had already gone through the overseeding process of putting the summertime Bermuda grass into dormancy. And what was surprising was how the course was already starting to green up with wintertime rye grass.

It is remarkable how the overseeding process has changed in just the 26 years I have been in the Coachella Valley. Back in the 1980s, you would see every course in the desert with massive mowers kicking rooster tails of dead (really not dead, just dormant) Bermuda grass up into the area, along with a lot of dust. The dust was because courses had stopped watering for maybe a week, and the mowers just kicked everything up into the area.

These days, with a lot more thinking about the environment and people’s lungs, you could almost never see the overseeding process in action. Courses keep the golf courses wet and green longer, do a better job of cutting the grass shorter before overseeding to cut down on the amount of clippings and the do a better job of eliminating dust and the dreaded PM-10, or particulate matter under 10 micros, the stuff that can fly into you lungs pretty easily.

Overseeding is still a tricky thing to pull off properly. The biggest problem is temperature. If the nighttime temperatures remain too hot, the rye grass can’t germinate, so there is no reason to cut the Bermuda down. But if the temperature drops all of a sudden, you might be left with a brown golf course of Bermuda grass before you can cut it down properly. Nighttime temperatures need to be in the 60s before rye grass will take hold.

So as you wander around the desert and see courses go through overseeding this fall, remember that the process just 10 or 15 years ago was much harder on the golf courses and much harder of people’s lungs.