Guide to getting the right lawn grass for your yard

October 9, 2015

When deciding which type of lawn grass to plant, you should first examine the needs and benefits of the various types available. Follow this guide to learn which is the best type for you, your yard and your climate.

Guide to getting the right lawn grass for your yard

Understand the needs and benefits of bluegrass

  • The undisputed queen of lawn grasses is bluegrass (Poa pratensis), also called Kentucky bluegrass
  • This is a sod-forming type of grass (it creates a web, covering bare patches) with fine, dark green blades
  • It tolerates cold, heat and rain but does not grow well in shady or damp conditions
  • Because bluegrass grows vigorously and quickly, it may need more water than other grass species.
  • If you have a fertile, sunny site, bluegrass is the first grass to consider for creating a classic lawn
  • There are many named varieties of bluegrass that show good disease resistance including 'Adelphi' and 'Glade'
  • Most packaged bluegrass seed and sod are actually mixtures of several species of grasses, including some shade-tolerant types that work together to grow a dense, luxurious lawn.
  • Mow bluegrass to a height of six to eight centimetres (2.5 to three inches)

Understand the needs and benefits of perennial ryegrass

  • Plant breeders have made big improvements in perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), which grows quickly from seed
  • It is often included in seed blends, because its fast germination helps retard soil erosion while slow-germinating grasses become established
  • Older varieties were strictly tuft forming, but several of the new ones form sod
  • Good choices include 'Manhattan II', 'Citation II' and 'Pennfine'
  • The greatest shortcoming of perennial ryegrass is that it has shallow roots and can be killed by three consecutive weeks of hot, dry weather
  • One of its greatest assets is that it often stays green through winter, particularly in the warmer zones of its hardiness range
  • It is also resistant to heavy traffic and a number of lawn diseases
  • Mow perennial ryegrass to a height of five to six centimetres (two to 2.5 inches)

Understand the needs and benefits of fine fescue

  • Fine fescues (Festuca rubra, also called red fescues, are seldom grown as a primary lawn grass, but they are often included in seed blends because they tolerate shade, drought and poor soil
  • They show good disease resistance
  • There are several kinds of fine fescue, all with very fine leaf blades
  • Creeping fescue is a sod-forming grass that spreads rapidly into a soft cushion of turf. It is good for cool, humid areas and acidic soil. Look for 'Pennlawn', 'Dawson' and 'Flyer'.
  • Chewings fescue is a tufting, upright grass that grows very well in shade. Good varieties for a dense turf include 'Jamestown' and 'Highlight'
  • Mow fine fescues to a height of six to eight centimetres (2.5 to three inches)

Understand the needs and benefits of lawn seed blends

  • Many lawns in colder zones are a mixture of bluegrass, fine fescues and perennial ryegrass, which can grow together without competing for moisture or nutrients
  • When a blend is sown, perennial ryegrass germinates quickly and holds the soil in place, giving slower-growing bluegrass a chance to become established
  • The fine fescues fill in shady spots or pockets in a lawn where bluegrass shows weak growth due to low soil fertility
  • Over a period of about three years, the bluegrass will gradually take over, except in areas where the other two species are better adapted

Now that you have a better idea of the characteristics and requirements of the varying types of lawn grasses, you'll be better prepared to pick the one that's right for your space.

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