Gardening Articles: Landscaping :: Lawns, Ground Cover, & Wildflowers
by National Gardening Association Editors
Having a beautiful lawn is a lot easier if you choose the right type of grass for your situation. Even if you already have a lawn, but it needs help, you can improve it.
Deciding which grass is right for you will depend on the part of the country you live in and the situation on your property.
In roughly the northern half of the United States, cool-climate grasses are used for lawns. In this part of the country, lawns put on most of their growth in spring and fall and slow down in the hot months of summer and the cold months of winter. The most common grasses are:
Kentucky bluegrass. Grass seed mixes in the North will have a high proportion of Kentucky bluegrass. A mix that is identified for sunny areas should have mostly bluegrass, since it does best in sun.
Fine Fescues. Most fescues have finer blades than Kentucky bluegrass, and since they do well in shady areas, they are the dominant seeds found in grass mixes for shade. Red fescue and chewings or hard fescue are favorites. Tall fescue has a wider leaf blade, almost like Kentucky bluegrass, and stands up to hot summers better than Kentucky bluegrass.
Perennial ryegrass. These have a Kentucky bluegrass-like look and feel, but grow from seed much faster. Many named varieties are available and these are often combined with Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue in grass seed mixtures.
Grass seed mixes may also contain annual rye grass. This establishes quickly and dies after one season. It is used to stabilize the area while the premium grasses become established. It is also used to cover vegetable gardens that will not be used for one season, then turned under when it is to be replanted. Avoid using annual ryegrass for a permanent lawn.
If your lawn appears to be thin--for example in a shady area--try overseeding. Just before the growth season in spring and fall, scatter grass seeds over the existing lawn and rake them down into the root zone. Keep the area watered.
Two areas of the country don't quite fall neatly into the conditions that clearly favor cool-climate grasses or warm-climate grasses. One of these is the area of the high plains, where native grasses such as buffalo grass and wheatgrass are used--particularly where there is no irrigation. The other is a transition zone that runs like a belt from the southern half of California to North and South Carolina. Both the northern and southern grasses are found here, and local conditions make the right choice critical. Garden centers should be consulted for local knowledge.