Grass is grass, right? It’s all thin and green, so why not go with the cheapest bag you can find? The truth is, all grass is not the same. Just as different varieties of tomatoes and trees have drastically different characteristics, lawn grasses also have different traits and preferences. Even within the same type of grass are variations that can make the difference between a lawn that dies from fungal disease or cold temperature vs. one that thrives in the same environment.
Most home market grass seed options tend to lean toward bargain varieties because seed-shoppers generally don’t realize there’s a performance difference. Buyers beware: as bargain varieties are often the poorest performers in university turf grass studies and are more prone to bugs, diseases, weather stresses and short life span. Discerning homeowners can buy many of the same superior varieties used by golf courses, public parks and athletic fields and reap the same advantages with some guidance. It’s important to view your lawn as a long-term investment when choosing the right seed, versus feeling you are getting a deal. Whether you’re filling in a spot on an existing lawn, or seeding a new lawn—it’s important to choose wisely.
Many consumer grass seed options are simply described as Sun and Shade Mix, Fast Grow Mix, Dense Shade Mix, or High-Traffic Mix. There are even those that highlight a specific blend for a State or region such as Northern or Southern. The challenge is figuring out how these grass seed product names, translate to a grass type that will grow well in your region.
The first step in zeroing in on the best grass type depends on your climate. Lawn grasses come in two main categories: Warm-season grasses are ones that perform best in long, hot summers with mild winters (i.e. the South, Southwest and lower West Coast), while cool-season grasses are ones that perform best in more moderate summers and colder winters (i.e. the North, Midwest and most of the Mid-Atlantic). Some grasses in either camp will grow in the transition zone between North and South. It’s important to double-check the seed label detail on the packages that identify the grass type or types—as many bags come in mixed of more than one species.
Kick-start your investigation by learning a little bit more about the characteristics of several common species.
Here are the positives for four most common types of cool-season grasses:
- Fine fescue: Has good shade tolerance; attractive fine texture; low fertilizer needs; good drought tolerance.
- Kentucky bluegrass: Has good dark-green color and attractive fine texture; quick to fill in and recover from injury; very good cold tolerance; good tolerance to foot traffic.
- Perennial ryegrass : Is very quick to germinate; tolerant of foot traffic; has a glossy sheen and attractive fine texture.
- Tall fescue: Has excellent tolerance to foot traffic; tolerates some shade; good drought tolerance in cool climates; tolerates high heat better than other cool-season grasses, making it useful in transition zones and even warm-season areas
Here are the positives for six most common types of warm-season grasses:
- Bahiagrass: Tolerates sandy and acidic soil as well as salty conditions; heat- and drought-tough; tolerates foot traffic very well; good disease resistance; forms a dense mat to discourage weeds.
- Bermudagrass: Easy to grow from seed; heat- and drought-tough; tolerant of foot traffic; fills in thickly and quickly; tolerates cooler temperatures better than most warm-season grasses.
Buffalograss: Very drought-tough; good tolerance of foot traffic; attractive fine texture; has low fertilizer needs; good heat tolerance and is also more cold-tolerant than most warm-season grasses.
- Centipedegrass: Slow-grower and so needs less mowing; low fertilizer needs; tolerates sandy soil; tolerant of partial shade; performs well in transition zones.
- St. Augustinegrass: Has good shade tolerance; tolerates sandy soil and salty conditions; good heat tolerance; forms dense mat to discourage weeds.
- Zoysiagrass: Does very well in heat and drought; very good in all but the heaviest foot traffic; tolerates partial shade; slow-grower so it doesn’t need as frequent mowing; performs well in transition zones; eventually forms a very thick, weed-discouraging mat.
Choose which is right for you, then buy quality seed. GreenView’s Fairway Formula grass seed selection uses only the highest performing seed varieties.