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Varieties Of Lawn Grass

There are many different varieties of lawn grass available but knowing the right one to choose for your area is vital.
varieties of lawn grass for a manicured lawn
Lawns are grown in every U.S. state, but the grasses in the lawns aren’t the same all over the country. Like most plants, grasses grow in some climates and conditions but not in others. It’s very important to choose the right grass for your location if you want an attractive and healthy lawn.

You can plant a new lawn from seed, sod, plugs, or sprigs. If you are planting a large area, seeding is the least expensive choice. The downside of seeding is that it takes a longer time for the grass to become established.

St. Augustine grass, hybrid bermudagrass, and some varieties of zoysiagrass are only available as sod, plugs, or sprigs. Plugs are small squares of sod, while sprigs are pieces of mature lawn grass. They are all more expensive than seeding, but take much less time to establish.

Following are brief descriptions of the major turf grasses, including where they grow in the U.S. Keep in mind that mixes of various kinds of grass seed increase your lawn options.

Types of Lawn Grasses

Bahiagrass is a low maintenance, drought- and shade-tolerant, low quality turf grass grown widely in the southeast.

Bermudagrass is the most popular lawn grass in the warm southern states.

Blue gamma grass is a native grass well suited for growing in the northern plains where summers are very hot and winters are very cold.

Buffalo grass is a native grass that grows well in high drought areas of the west.

Centipedegrass is a warm season grass that thrives in poor, acidic soils.

Creeping bent grass is a soft, tightly knit turf grass well suited to golf greens in northern states.

Fescue, fine – or needle-leaved. Mixed with perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass this turf grass increases shade and drought tolerance.

Fescue, tall – or broad-leaved. Traditionally coarse-bladed pasture grasses, tall fescue has new varieties that look and feel like Kentucky bluegrass but are more tolerant of low soil fertility and compacted soil.

Kentucky bluegrass is the most important turf grass in the northern half of the United States. It is also grown in southern coastal areas of California.

Ryegrass, annual, is a low-cost choice for overseeding warm season lawns.

Ryegrass, perennial, is often combined with Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues. Like annual ryegrass, it can also be used for overseeding warm season lawns.

St. Augustine grass is one of the most important lawn grasses of the south and west. It grows fast and has a coarse texture.

Zoysiagrass makes a high quality lawn in subtropical areas of the country.

Choosing the Right Grass

Cooperative Extension agents can tell you which grasses or mixtures of grasses are best for your situation. Every state has a Cooperative Extension service, usually within the state university. You can find the office closest to you from the USDA website. Extension agents can also give you information on how to grow a lawn and help you with insect and disease problems.

How To Overseed Your Cool Season Lawn

Your cool season lawn may not look its best after a hot summer. Heat, weeds, insects, drought, neglect, and diseases take a heavy toll on cool season lawns.

You can make your lawn healthier and more attractive by overseeding, which for a cool season lawn involves sowing seeds over existing lawn to cover spots where the grass is patchy. If at least half of your lawn is fairly healthy and strong, overseeding is a good way to revitalize it. In fact, you may want to overseed your cool season lawn every year to keep it looking great. However, if more than half your lawn looks worn out and weak it’s best to start over with a new lawn.

Preparing Your Lawn for Overseeding

If you haven’t had your lawn soil tested in few years do that before you overseed. The test results will give you recommendations for fertilizer or amendments for growing a healthy lawn. Cooperative extension services all over the country provide inexpensive and convenient soil testing.

Grass seed needs sunlight and good contact with soil to germinate and grow. When you sow grass seeds over a lawn the blades of the existing grass shade them, plus thatch and clippings create a barrier between the seeds and the soil. You can help the new seeds by mowing lower than usual before overseeding to reduce shading. Even if you don’t usually remove grass clippings, bag or rake the clippings before overseeding so they don’t interfere with the seeds.

Work the soil lightly with a verticutter or power rake to loosen 1/4 inch of soil. Or use a core aerator to remove plugs of turf and give seeds places to germinate.

If you have protruding roots or rocks you may need to add a layer of topsoil before overseeding. By raking in a 1/4-inch layer of screened loam or topsoil you can increase the depth of the topsoil.

Overseeding cool season lawns in September gives the new seeds time to grow before winter sets in. Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are good turf grass seed choices, either on their own or in mixes. Sow 6-8 pounds of tall fescue or 2-3 pounds of Kentucky blue grass per 1,000 square feet of lawn using a rotary seeder or drop seeder. The tall fescue will germinate in 2-3 weeks, with the bluegrass following a week later.

Apply a slow release nitrogen fertilizer when you overseed. Six-eight weeks later apply a quick release nitrogen fertilizer. Water at least daily to keep the seeds moist until they sprout, then reduce watering after about three weeks.

When the grass is three inches high mow it to two inches and keep mowing it to this height for the rest of the season.

Long after the blades of grass stop growing the root systems of the turf grass will continue to get stronger, in preparation for a lush, green lawn in the spring.

How to Start a Healthy Lawn in a Cold Climate

Cool season turf grasses are excellent choices for lawns in the cool states. If you prepare the soil properly, use the right type of grass, seed or lay sod at the right time of year, and take good care of your lawn you can have a healthy lawn to enhance your home and garden.

Types of Turf Grasses for Cool Season Lawns

Kentucky bluegrass is a general-purpose turf grass that tolerates low winter temperatures very well. It’s great for lawns and athletic fields in well-drained soil, but does not thrive in shade. The seeding rate for a 100 percent Kentucky bluegrass lawn is one pound per 1,000 square feet.

If you need a more shade-tolerant lawn, use a half-and-half mix of Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue. Sow the mix at a rate of three pounds per 1,000 square feet. Red fescue alone, sown at three-to-four pounds per 1,000 square feet, is a good choice for dry, infertile, or acid soil and shady conditions.

Although it’s considered a weed in bluegrass lawns in the north, tall fescue is good for slopes and banks and near waterways. Tall fescue is very tolerant of hot summer temperatures, is highly wear resistant, and thrives in soil that is too moist for other turf grasses. Sow it by itself at five-to-seven pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Perennial ryegrass is hard to mow and some varieties are not hardy in northern areas. It is, however, an excellent nurse crop in seed mixes because it grows fast, filling in until other grasses get established. Sow a 20 percent perennial ryegrass and 80 percent Kentucky bluegrass mix at two pounds per 1,000 square feet. A 50-50 mix needs thicker sowing—about three pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Another popular mix for northern lawns is 50 percent Kentucky bluegrass, 30-40 percent red fescue, and 10-20 percent perennial ryegrass. Sown at four pounds per 1,000 square feet or a little less, this mix is adaptable to most growing conditions.

When to Seed or Sod

In northern New England the best time to sow grass seed is August 15 through September 15. At that time of year the warm ground and the warm sun encourage germination and there is little competition from weeds. You can also sow mid-summer, but you have to be vigilant about watering. If you are planting in a weed-free location you can even sow in early spring.

Laying sod gives you a lush lawn without waiting. You can install sod any time from May to September, but once again you will need to keep on top of irrigating in mid-summer.

How to Prepare the Ground

Grading allows you to create the perfect contour for your lawn. A large area may require heavy machinery, but you can grade a small area with a rake and a wheelbarrow. Grade the lawn so it slopes away from the house, garage, and garden areas. It’s okay to leave some clods of soil. After you get the grade right rake in four-to-six inches of loam to create high quality topsoil.

Have a soil test done before you add anything to the seedbed. Local cooperative extension services provide low cost soil testing that tells you what your soil needs in order to grow a great lawn. Based on the soil test results you may need to add granular fertilizer, compost, lime, or other amendments before you seed or sod.

Seeding the Lawn

To make sure you get good coverage, divide the seed into two portions and sow half in one direction and the other half at right angles. Rake the seed in about one-quarter inch and water well, but don’t over saturate the soil. Once the seeds germinate water only when the ground is dry.

You can protect the seedbed from wind and direct sunlight and conserve moisture by mulching. Mulching is more important if you seed mid summer than if you seed late summer. Straw is good mulch for seedbeds; stay away from hay unless you are sure it does not have weed seeds. If you spread one bale of straw lightly over 1,000 square feet you won’t have to remove the straw.

Once your lawn is off to a good start you can focus on maintaining it by controlling weeds, mowing, and fertilizing.