Grass Types

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Grass Types

Okay, so we realize the picture is a bad joke. We don’t actually mean grass types on a keyboard. We mean the types of grass that you can choose for your lawn. Which type of grass that you pick happens to be one of the most important lawn decisions you will ever make. It can be the difference between a beautiful, low maintenance lawn and one plagued with diseases, pests, and weeds.

There are four important questions you need to answer to determine the best grass for your lawn:

  • How much money and time are you willing to spend?
  • What do you want your lawn to look like?
  • What are your growing conditions?
  • How will your lawn be used?
  • The answers to those questions will direct you to the right grass. If you don’t want to spend much time or money, then you will need to consider a low-maintenance turf. The amount of sun, expected rainfall, soil type, and climate are all growing conditions that should be factored. Also, if you plan using your lawn as a play area, then you will need to choose a grass type that is tolerant for heavy foot traffic.

    Fun Fact:

    Out of approximately 10,000 grass species in the world, only about 50 are good for growing in a lawn.

    When you choose the type of grass you want to plant in your lawn, you will need to learn all the characteristics and distinctions to help you make a tailored plan for lawn care. Some of the characteristics you will be learning are texture, growth habits, density, and color. Grasses are generally divided up into two groups: warm-season and cool-season. Then subgroups native and transitional zone.

    The following map is the USDA Plant Hardiness Map which divides the United States into 11 zones according to average minimum winter temperatures. This can help identify regions to which grasses are best suited.

    The next map is the American Horticultural Society Heat-Zone Map which divides the United States into 12 zones based on the average annual number of days a region’s temperatures climb above 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

    So, you’re probably thinking…so what…right? I’m assuming that you’re planning on doing your own research, so pretend that you are now like an FBI profiler and it’s your duty to get the right man err…grass in your case. Before we get started, let me give an out for those poor souls who find this task far too daunting. Rest easy my friend! There is a solution. Simply contact your local Cooperative Extension Service and get them to tell you the best grass for your climate and conditions.

    For those who have a high opinion of their abilities, like me, ahem…here is what you need to do. Consult the two previous maps and determine the zones that you live in. This will help you figure out what kind of climate your living to determine the best grass types for your area. A hard and fast rule is that if you live in the Northern part of the U.S. you will be picking a cool season grass and if you are in the Southern part of the U.S. you will be picking a warm season grass. If you live somewhere in the middle, known as the Transitional zone, you will be able to pick from either type.

    Now it’s time to start combing through all the types of grass and their characteristics.

    Cool Season Grasses

    Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)

    Kentucky Bluegrass is the most widely used cool season grass. It’s a great all-around, general purpose turf. The look is a deep green and fine-texture. It can handle temperature extremes and grows well in full sun and light shade. It grows by seed and spreads through tiller and rhizomes. It handles traffic well as it recovers from injury easily.

    Drawbacks

    The grass seed is slow to germinate and it will go into dormancy during a hot, dry spell. It also has reduced performance in shade or wet soils.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 7. As there are over 100 cultivars of this grass to choose from, you may want to consult the local Cooperative Extension to choose which one is best. You can also take advantage of different resistances by planting at least three different varieties.

    Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

    Tall fescue is usually used as a durable utility grass. It also has a deep root system that tolerates drought and heat very well. Also, the “turf-type” varieties are dense, dark, and have good resistance to insects & disease.

    Drawbacks

    It does have a slow recover rate if it sustains damage. It is prone to clumping which causes it to thin out and can require overseeding to fix.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 7. This grass is great for the northern regions and can be used for overseeding in the fall or early spring in southern lawns.

    Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)

    A bright green bunchgrass commonly used to overseed warm-season lawns. It grows quite well in a wide-range of soils. These ryegrasses are resistant to compacting soil and heavy foot traffic. They are best suited for coastal regions with mild winters and moist summers.

    Drawbacks

    They don’t tolerate drought and have poor tolerance for cold whether. Also, they can develop pythium blight.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 3 through 7.

    Rough-stalked bluegrass (Poa trivialis)

    A fine-textured, light-green grass best for low traffic areas. It spreads through stolons and has good tolerance for cold. It doesn’t mind acid soils, shade, or moist areas. It’s not a good traffic grass.

    Drawbacks

    Because of its shallow root system, it doesn’t tolerate dry, hot temperatures.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 7. It grows best in shade with moist soil.<

    Fine fescue (Festuca species)

    Fine-textured and dark green grass that mixes well with other bluegrasses. These grasses are suited to shady areas with acidic soils. They grow upright with a dense turf. They have good resistance to diseases and pests when mixed with other grasses. Most fine fescues, with the exception of creeping fescue, are bunch grasses.

    Drawbacks

    They aren’t tolerant to heat or heavy traffic. They also struggle in areas that lack well-drained soil.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 2 through 7. You will find most fescues in shade mixtures.

    Warm Season Grasses

    St. Augustinegrass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)

    Very popular grass in coastal areas from Florida to California. It produces a dense blue-green turf and has a strong salt/shade tolerance. It is grown from sprigs, plugs, or sod.

    Drawbacks

    It produces heavy layers of thatch if watered and fertilized too much. It is also vulnerable to bugs, diseases, and has a coarse texture.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 10. Look for varieties that have better resistance or slow-growing to bolster the grasses advantages.

    Zoysiagrass (Zoysia species)

    Sometimes touted as a miracle grass due to its incredibly thick and slow growing turf. It is very popular in the transitional zone and parts of the South. It can take up to two years for it to establish itself, but once it does weeds have a difficult time penetrating the lawn. It has deep roots and is therefore well-suited for droughts and hot weather. It handles salt, pests, diseases, and minor shade pretty well.

    Drawbacks

    It turns brown rather quickly in the fall and most people complain of its straw color that persists throughout cold weather. It is prone to thatch and can be quite difficult to mow. It needs a lot of fertilizer and doesn’t recover from damage very quickly. So it can be a high maintenance turf even despite its nickname.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 10. Look for improved cultivars to help deal with some traditional problem areas.

    Carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis)

    A grass that grows well in boggy (wet), warm climates where high-quality lawn types have trouble growing. The look of Carpetgrass is strikingly similar to Centipede.

    Drawbacks

    This grass needs lots of water and doesn’t stand up well to traffic. It also has a short green period.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 8 through 9.

    Bermudagrass (Cynodon species)

    One of the most popular southern grasses that thrives in multiple soil types – even salty ones. Bermuda has an extremely deep root system that takes sun, drought, heat, and erosion with ease. It spreads and repairs quickly through growth from both stolons and rhizomes. Bermuda is a very low cost grass from seed to maintenance and it establishes very quickly.

    Drawbacks

    It’s an invasive grass that requires edging maintenance to preserve the integrity of other areas. It’s the least shade tolerant warm season grass – needing almost full sun.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 10.

    Centipedegrass (Eremochloa ophiuroides)

    A low-maintenance warm-season grass with moderate density and medium-texture. It’s best known for its slow growth and nickname “lazy man’s grass.” It grows in full sun and partial shade and prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soils.

    Drawbacks

    Not a heavy traffic grass. It can have yellowing problems from salt spray and lack of iron.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 10.

    Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum)

    Similar to a pasture grass which plays as a low-upkeep home lawn. Grows very will on infertile and sandy soils. It’s robust root system causes it to withstand drought very well. It is also durable and wear-resistant.

    Drawbacks

    It is very difficult to mow because of its coarseness. Some people dislike the look of the tall seed heads and lighter green color. It also yellows from lack of iron.

    Recommendations

    Best for USDA Hardiness Zones 7 through 10.


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