The Art of Picking the Right Grass

Picking the right type of grass for your lawn can save you from headaches and suffering later. The wrong kind of grass will struggle to survive on your lawn, meaning that you have to spend effort and time constantly feeding it and maintaining it, while buying the right type of grass can make sure that your lawn thrives with hardly any input from you, looking great year round with minimal effort needed to look after it.

But how do you pick the right grass for your lawn? Well, here at Best of Machinery, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to the art of picking the right grass for you. We’ll walk you through the main things you need to consider when choosing grass for your lawn, from where you live to whether you need grass seeds or sod for the best results.

With our guide, you can quickly get your head around what you need to consider, making it far easier for you to choose the right grass for your lawn without worrying that you’ve got it wrong.

Why Does Picking the Right Grass Matter?

Grass is not a single plant, but an entire family of different species. Within each species, there are several different varieties, all of which offer various advantages. Different varieties of grass have surprisingly different properties, as well as often looking different.

Some species of grass are better equipped for surviving in dry climates, while others are happiest in wet environments. Some grow well in cooler weather, while others prefer hot conditions. Picking the right grass is a matter of determining what conditions you live in and selecting the right species for your environment.

After picking the right species, though, you’re going to need to choose a variety. While the varieties of a species might all look very similar, they offer different advantages. Some types are better at surviving more extreme weather conditions (an increasingly important consideration as extreme weather becomes more common due to climate change), while others are resistant to diseases or pests.

In general, it is a good idea to buy a mixture of varieties, ensuring that some of your grass is resistant to each significant common hazard that might cause damage to your lawn. That way, no matter what happens, at least some of your grass should survive in good condition.

Sod vs. Seed vs. Springs and Plugs

The two most common ways to establish a new lawn are sods and seeds, although springs and plugs are also an option if those are not available. Each option for establishing a lawn brings with it certain advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to consider these before you buy grass for your lawn.

Sod is a much faster option for establishing a new lawn, but it costs significantly more than many alternative options. You’re also going to be limited to the particular varieties and species available from local sod growers, as they are not as easy to mix or transport in sod form as they are in seed form!

The one situation that definitively requires sod for establishing a lawn is for planting a lawn on a steep slope. Sloping surfaces are prone to erosion, and rain on slopes can wash seeds away. Sod is heavy and solid enough to stay in place while it establishes, especially if you pin it in place.

Seed is a cheaper option than sod, and it may be easier to find a wide range of varieties in this form. It is, however, much slower to establish than sod, and can grow somewhat patchily, requiring occasional reseeding of areas that haven’t established themselves properly. Seeded grass is also more prone to weed problems early in establishment, meaning you need to keep an eye on it as it develops.

Springs and plugs are less common but are often the only option available for warm season grass varieties. These are small clumps of grass that can be planted in the soil of your garden and slowly spread out, growing to cover the entirety of your lawn, filling in the gaps.

What Region Do you live In?

There are three major regions of the continental USA, and which one of these you live in will have a significant effect on which types of grass are well suited for growing effectively in your lawn. Each region has different environmental conditions, and therefore, each one will affect the grass growing there in different ways.

The Northern Zone is the coldest region of the US, covering the Northern states (and also Canada), where winters can be very cold, and summers often do not get particularly hot. The best choices here are cool season grasses such as tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, or perennial ryegrass.

The Southern Zone is the warmest region of the US, spreading across most of the southern half of the nation. In this zone, summers can be very hot and dry, while winters do not reach the same extremes of cold as in the Northern Zone. Good grass choices in this region are warm season grasses such as centipede grass, Bermuda grass, or St Augustine grass.

The third and final region is the Transition Zone, falling in between the Northern and Southern Zones. This region combines the problems of both other areas, with hot, dry summers and cold winters, making it challenging to find grasses that work well in this environment.

Cool season grasses struggle to survive the dry heat of summer, while warm season grasses can be severely damaged by the cold. The most popular choice for lawns in the Transition Zone is tall fescue, as this type of grass is reasonably resilient to both heat and cold.

What’s your Site Like?

Most lawns in normal conditions can get good results out of any of the commonly recommended grasses for your region, but some yards can present special challenges that make it harder to grow these grasses successfully.

If your yard is hard to supply with water and fertilizers, such as if you live a long way from the nearest town or reliable water supply, you’re going to want hardy, low maintenance grasses. Buffalograss is a popular choice for environments like this across the US, while centipede grass is an excellent choice for these sites in the South Eastern region.

Shady sites with limited sunlight also present a problem, as many grasses require a high level of light in order to survive well. Fine leaf fescue grasses are the best choice for shady sites, while the Southern Zone’s best choice for shady yards is usually St. Augustine grass.

If you live near the coast and have a high level of salt spray or use salty water for irrigation, you’ll need to plant a type of grass with excellent resistance to salt. A good choice for this type of environment is seashore paspalum, or any other grass commonly found near the coast.

If your lawn takes heavy traffic, with many people walking on it or playing sports across the grass, you’re going to want a type of grass that’s resilient and can recover well from being trampled. In the North, ryegrasses and Kentucky bluegrass are excellent choices, while in the South, Bermuda grass is the most popular and resilient option.

Cool Season Grasses

Cool season grasses are well adapted to colder climates, such as those found in the Northern Zone. These grasses stay healthy and happy during spring and fall and go dormant during the winter (or remain green and fresh during more moderate winters). They do not, however, cope well with summer heat, and generally, require extensive watering in hot conditions.

The most common cool season grass for northern lawns is Kentucky bluegrass, which can also be found everywhere on the West Coast, thanks to the ocean’s moderating effect on the summer heat, and in much of the Transition Zone. This is a dark colored grass with a medium texture and one that survives winters well, although it requires a relatively high level of sunlight in order to thrive and does not handle shade very well.

It is also worth noting that Kentucky bluegrass is one of the primary foods of many species of insect, and Kentucky bluegrass lawns can require careful maintenance in certain conditions to minimize the risk of damage from hungry grubs.

Warm Season Grasses

Warm season grasses thrive in hot climates and are ideally suited to the South and South Western areas of the US, thanks to the hot summers found here. In dry conditions, they will go dormant without watering but will rebound when conditions become wetter.

Unfortunately, however, warm season grasses do not cope well with cold weather, making them a poor choice for colder environments. Many common varieties of warm season grasses can only be purchased as springs, plugs or sod, and cannot be bought in seed form.

The most typical warm season grass it Bermuda grass, a coarse and hardy grass that copes well with a wide range of conditions. This common grass can be grown from seed, while some of the rarer and more attractive varieties are only available in plug or springform. Some of these varieties, however, are hardy enough to cope well with colder temperatures.

It is also easy to combine with other grasses for year-round color and vibrancy in variable temperature environments. This is a fast-growing grass that rebounds well from heavy wear but can spread a little too fast for smaller gardens and requires a high light level in order to thrive.

Conclusion

There are many different species of grass and many varieties of each species, but the ones listed above are some of the most common and popular options for their respective ideal climates. This is by no means an exhaustive list; there are other great choices we haven’t mentioned, but these are good options to keep an eye out for when buying grass for your lawn.

With our guide above, you should be able to get a good sense of what you need to consider when picking the right grass for your lawn. These considerations are always important to remember in order to ensure that you get the right type of grass, saving you a great deal of time and effort in maintaining your new lawn.

The beginning of choosing grass for your lawn is always going to be developing an understanding of your local climate; knowing whether you’re looking for resilience to heat, cold, drought or heavy rain is an important part of picking grass.

About the Author

Bob Robinson has been a tool enthusiast and lawn care expert for the past 11 years. First working with John Deere to reduce their impact on the environment, whilst building his love for writing in his spare time. Now, Bob runs the editorial team at BestofMachinery and tends to his garden in his spare time.

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