The Best Types Of Grass For Your Lawn

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Grass is the default ground cover for most homes today. To make the most of your lawn area, choose a seed that is recommended for your climate zone. The right seed selection can turn your lawn area into the emerald jewel of your property.

How to choose high quality seeds

As you shop for grass seed, you will see different brands of the same grass seed. To get the highest quality seed, see if the bag has a blend of seeds. The seed package will list the percentage of each grass seed in the bag or box and the amount of weed seeds and other additives or contaminates. The cheaper brands of grass seed will have a higher percentage of weed seed and contaminates. They are cheaper for a reason. Budget priced seed will usually have a lower germination rate and contain a higher percentage of inert matter, weeds or filler.

  • Check what percentage of the bag contains the actual seed you want to plant.
  • Grass seed is blended for several reasons. It may contain grass that is faster growing and thicker, or it may contain varieties that are more drought resistant.
  • If you have kids, look for high traffic seed varieties that will stand up to kids and pets.
  • Several high traffic grasses are: Bermuda, Bahia, Fescues and St. Augustine.
  • Make certain the seed is fresh. It should be dated for the current year and have a guaranteed 85 percent germination rate.
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Understanding seed labels

Grass seed packaging is required by law to provide detailed information about its content, germination rates, dates the seeds were tested, and the percentages of different seeds contained in the blend.

Grass seed today is bred for the best long term performance, disease resistance, deeper roots, deeper color, and appearance. Choose trade or variety names rather than a generic name such as Kentucky bluegrass. Do not choose seed labeled VNS, which means Variety Not Stated.

Thoroughly read and understand the following items before purchasing seeds.

  • Cultivars: Cultivars are cultivated grasses chosen specifically for a particular purpose, or type of lawn.
  • Purity: This lets you know how much of the seed you are buying is the cultivar you want.
  • Germination: the percentage of seed that will actually grow. Better brands of seed will promise at least 85 percent germination rate.
  • Crop: Look for grass seed that has less than one percent of other crop seeds.
  • Weed: Look for grass seed that has less than one percent of weed seeds. The bag may also list "Noxious Weeds," which are difficult to control. Your grass seed should contain no noxious weeds.
  • Inert: This is the amount of material in the bag that is not grass seed: sand, soil or other debris. Choose grass seeds with less than four percent of inert material.
  • Date Tested: Grass seeds are tested before they are packaged and sold. Choose seeds tested within the last 12 months.

The four most popular types of grass

Discuss your lawn needs with the local nursery for advice about which grass seed will work best in your climate zone. Most nursery or home centers will usually stock the following grass seeds.

  1. Kentucky Bluegrass: a popular perennial grass that grows best in sunny conditions. It is a good choice for seeding thin areas of your yard because it grows quickly and doesn't require re-seeding. Perennial Ryegrass is a good choice for blending with other grasses for a temporary, quick fix. It is drought resistant, but does not last as well in colder climates as bluegrass does.
  2. Fescue: is offered in a variety of types, including tall, red, hard and chewing fescue. Popular in the Midwest, fescues do well in shady areas. You will find them used in blended lawns, often with Kentucky bluegrass. Tall fescue is thicker than other varieties and does well in cool, dry conditions. Unlike warm-weather grasses, fescue stays green throughout the year.
  3. Zoysia: another good choice for hotter climates, it grows shorter than Fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. It does take longer to get established, but once it has taken root, Zoysia provides a thick, weed-resistant lawn with less maintenance. Be aware that Zoysia turns brown during cold months.
  4. Bermuda: is a popular choice in warm weather states, providing a neatly manicured look for your lawn. It grows well in the sun and during droughts, but will turn brown during cold months. Bermuda does not grow as well in shade. Consider shaded areas over your yard before you install a Bermuda lawn.

Grasses for warm climates

Most warm climate varieties of grass go partially dormant during winter. These include: Bermuda and hybrid Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine, and Bahia. All will grow vigorously during hot weather. Most are grown in the warm climates of the South and Southeast, as well as in some parts of the Southwest and Far West.

  • Common and hybrid Bermuda are two of the most popular warm-season grasses. Both are relatively drought tolerant and very resistant to high traffic. Hybrid Bermuda offers a finer textured than common Bermuda and and doesn't turn brown in winter as readily.
  • The toughest and most drought tolerant of all the warm-season grasses is Zoysia. It's also one of the most attractive, but it tends to go dormant sooner and stay dormant longer than the others.
  • St. Augustine is another tough variety; it tolerates partial shade and seaside conditions. It's moderately drought tolerant but looks shabby during winter.
  • Drought-tolerant Bahia grass is a good choice where soil is sandy or acid; it's popular in Florida.

Grasses for cold climates

Cool climate varieties grown in the northern climate zones of the country can retain their color all year round if they receive enough water.Cool-season grasses include blue grass, perennial rye grass, bent grass, and fine fescue. All have narrow blades, deep green color, and make lush-looking lawns.

  • Many of the Blue grass hybrids are very cold tolerant.
  • Tall fescue is another cool-season choice.
  • Many of the cool-season grasses on the market are blends. One common mixture combines blue grass with perennial rye.
  • Bent grass is also included in blends to give the lawn a plush look.

The ideal grass is a fine textured variety with a deep, rich green color, there is no perfect grass seed for all regions of the country. You should research the best varieties of seed for your specific climate zone. The local nursery is a good place to start.

Last Updated: May 9, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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