Sunnylands scales back overseeding of turf to conserve water

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 — Broadening a water-conservation program launched last year, Sunnylands is more than doubling the acreage of turf it will not overseed on the historic estate this fall and winter.

Ninety-six acres are being removed from areas that, starting in November, are normally overseeded with a cool-season ryegrass over winter-dormant Bermuda grass to maintain a green landscape in colder months. The process, known as “overseeding,” requires a heavy watering schedule because ryegrass seeds need to be kept wet to germinate. Last year, Sunnylands experimented by eliminating 44 acres of turf, including fairways on the property’s nine-hole golf course, from the overseeding program.

Reducing the number of overseeded acres helps Sunnylands achieve its sustainability goals and comes as a response to the state of California’s drought-driven mandate to reduce water use. This season just 10 acres of turf primarily surrounding the Annenbergs’ winter home will be overseeded.

Last year’s experiment showed that large areas of turf do not need to be overseeded with ryegrass to maintain beautiful landscapes. Over the next few months, visitors to the estate can expect scenery with variations in color from pale green to yellow and brown. Of course, the change in colors won’t occur until the first frost of the season causes the warm-season Bermuda grass to enter a dormant state.

Additionally, if winter is warmer than normal, the length of time the Bermuda grass is dormant will be minimized. In that case, the more earthy color palette may not last long, but visitors can expect Sunnylands to remain a spectacularly beautiful place.