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Selecting a Cool Season Grass

Cool season grass regions

Cool season grass species are all available as seed, whereas warm season species are primarily available vegetatively, i.e. sod or stolons. Cool season species are most widely adapted in the northern two-thirds of the United States. The middle third of the country is called the transition zone — where both warm season and cool season species are grown. Cool season grasses grow best between 60 to 75 degrees.

Cool season grasses are typically found in the following states:

  • Delaware
  • Connecticut
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • West Virginia

Cool season grass types

Properties of selected cool season grasses.
FeatureBluegrassFine FescueRyegrassTall Fescue
Drought toleranceMediumHighLow to mediumHigh
Traffic toleranceMediumMediumHighMedium to high
Shade toleranceLow to mediumHighLow to mediumMedium
Fertilizing requirementMediumLowMediumLow to medium
Leaf textureMediumFineMediumMedium
Mowing heightMediumMediumMediumMedium
Cold toleranceMediumMedium to highMediumHigh
Heat toleranceMediumLow to mediumLow to mediumHigh
Thatching tendencyLow to mediumLow to mediumLowLow
Acid soil toleranceMediumMedium to highMediumHigh

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass is a widely adapted species that is used for many situations. Its darkgreen color and medium fine texture contributes to it sometimes being called the king of lawn grasses. Kentucky bluegrass is able to spread and recover because it grows by underground primary lateral stems called rhizomes. These rhizomes grow out from the main plant and form a new plant, allowing it to form a dense cover. Kentucky bluegrass is a good choice for athletic fields, home lawns, and golf courses. For high quality turf, Kentucky bluegrass should receive medium to high maintenance.

Perennial Ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass has a non-spreading, bunch type growth habit. It germinates and establishes quickly. It has a dark green color, medium fine texture, and good mowing characteristics. Perennial ryegrass may be seeded alone or in mixtures with other species.

Tall Fescue

This is another bunch type grass that persists in the warmer areas of the cool season range of adaptation. This is primarily due to the fact that it has a deep root system, which helps it be more heat and drought tolerant. Plant breeders have made great improvements in this species over the last decade. The newer varieties are as dark green and almost as fine textured as the improved Kentucky bluegrass varieties. It does not tolerate as close a mowing height as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass, so a mowing height of 1.5 - 3 inches is recommended. Tall fescue requires slightly less water and fertilizer to produce a high quality turf stand.

Fine Fescue

Creeping red fescue is the most widely used of the three main fine leafed fescues. It has slow spreading rhizomes. Chewings fescue and Hard fescue have a bunch-type growth habit. All have a fine leaf texture. They are particularly well adapted to dry, shady conditions as well as low maintenance situations. The fine fescues are primarily used in mixes with other species like Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.

Whichever species you choose, always try to choose the best varieties available at the time with superior genetics that have improved disease and insect resistance, and drought tolerance, and that will fit your long-term management plans.

Greenview Fairway Formula Grass Seeds contain blends of best quality NTEP rated cool season grass varieties.


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