Ryegrass is available as a perennial or annual. Approximately a dozen varieties of ryegrass exist but only the Italian ryegrass and perennial ryegrass are used as turf grasses or hay forage in the United States, according to Texas A & M University. Ryegrass grows in bunches. It enjoys regions that offer a cool climate with no extreme weather fluctuations, and it thrives in a moist environment.
Seed ryegrass in the spring in regions that have early or severe winters. Summertime sowing can be achieved in areas with mild winters but should take place prior to August 25th. When seeding ryegrass for hay production, mix legumes into the grass seed to add extra nitrogen. Seed at a ratio of 15 to 20 lbs. per acre for pure ryegrass, but when mixed with a legume, use 8 lbs. of ryegrass seed, according to the Pennsylvania State University.
Ryegrass grows best in a soil pH between 6.0 to 7.0. Apply fertilizer prior to planting. Use a 20-20-20 general purpose fertilizer. Apply 20 lbs. per acre. Once a ryegrass field is established, fertilize once per year using 150 lbs. of nitrogen per acre.
Plant ryegrass seeds at a depth of 1/2 inch into the soil. Roll the seeds into the tilled bed for best results. Ryegrass will also establish in an existing turf bed that is mowed exceptionally short to reduce competition.
Water newly planted ryegrass to a depth of 1/2 inch when first planted. Apply 1/2 inch of water four times per day. Water lightly so the seeds are not displaced or moved when establishing. Keep the ryegrass seeds moist but not water-logged. Once germination occurs and the grass begins to grow, reduce waterings to once per day until fully established. When growing ryegrass for a lawn or turf, mow when the grass is approximately 2 inches. Remove only 1/2 inch of grass when mowing.
Grazing and Harvest
Allow grazing or harvest for hay when ryegrass reaches a height of 12 inches. Once a field is fully established in ryegrass after a year, grazing can safely take place when grass is approximately 3 inches in height. Always allow the ryegrass to regrow at least 10 inches between grazings.
Due to the rapid germination and growth of ryegrass, it is often used as a temporary groundcover while waiting for longer germinating grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass to take hold. Ryegrass can also add color when planted with grass species such as bermudagrass, which goes dormant and looses its color in winter months.