A lush green landscape offers many benefits, from increasing the value of your property to creating a more welcoming space for family gatherings. Whether you’ve just moved into a new property or you’re planning to give your front yard a makeover, you want to choose the best grass seed for your new lawn installation. Keeping reading to find out how.
There are so many species of grass seeds out there. You should consider several different factors before selecting a grass for your property.
Today, I’ll reveal how to choose the best grass seed for new lawns. I will also include a simple guide to how to achieve success with your new lawn installation.
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Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Grass Seed
Selecting the right grass seed is not as easy as picking the ones which are easiest or least expensive to install.
You need to weigh different factors carefully to prevent future struggles in maintaining your lawn.
An example would be a homeowner in a northern climate who wants a lawn that’s quick to establish. He might choose a bag of Ryegrass available at his local hardware store, as it germinates quickly (in 5 days or less), and will be ready to enjoy in a month’s time.
While the results are great at first, he’ll eventually realize that his dry, sunny lawn isn’t well suited to Perennial Rye. It thins out and dies in the summer heat because the rye bag he chose doesn’t have the root depth appropriate for his soil type.
This is why I typically steer homeowners toward premium grass seed blends suitable for their growing zone. The light, soil, and foot traffic conditions are different in different parts of your yard, and by using a blend of different types of grass hand-selected to work well together, you allow the correct seed for the correct conditions to thrive and become the dominant type.
You may have Kentucky Bluegrass that thrives in full sun, Fescue grasses that become dominant in shady nooks in your yard, and Perennial Rye well suited to high-traffic zones emerge as the dominant grass around walkways and patios.
For many homeowners, even if they choose a single type of grass, that bag of seed will have a mix of unique Turfgrass cultivars selected to work well together and handle the different conditions that are unique to your yard.
Let’s look closer at some of the things you should consider before you buy seed:
Lawn Purpose and Foot Traffic
Think about the activities that will take place on your lawn. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
- Do you have children or pets that will play on your lawn?
- Will you use your lawn to receive guests, host outdoor parties, or play lawn games?
- Will your lawn be used for gardening or for ornamental purposes only?
Not all grass species are tough enough to withstand high foot traffic.
Your Location and Region
You need to choose a grass seed out of the grass types that will grow and thrive in your region and climate.
Do you live in a northern state? You’ll need a cool-season grass. Grasses in the cool-season category grow faster in the spring, stay green in the fall, and can tolerate cool winter temperatures.
But if you live in a southern state, you have to go with a warm-season grass. Look for one that is drought-resistant, so it won’t need as much watering as otherwise to get through the hot summer months.
But what about the transition zone? The transition zone is between the cool-season and warm-season regions.
The transition zone tends to experience dry summer conditions and cold winter months.
Generally, cool-season grasses grow more successfully in this region. However, many cool-season grasses will wilt because of the heat in this region. Warm-season grasses will turn dormant or brown during the fall and winter.
Site Growing Conditions
You should test your soil’s pH level and nutrient profile.
This will help you figure out the best grasses and the necessary prep work before putting down any grass seed.
The Lawn Chick editorial team regularly interviews industry experts to bring our readers the latest science and expert recommendations to complement our own hands-on lawn care experience.
We Asked: How does soil pH impact a lawn’s ability to utilize the fertilizer you apply and the nutrients available in your yard’s soil?
Teri Answered: “Soil pH is a crucial indicator of soil acidity, and tells us if your yard has the ideal pH for the plants (like grass) you’re growing. It also impacts how well grass utilizes applied fertilizer and absorbs soil nutrients. The sweet spot for lawn pH is between 6.5 and 7.0, but most lawns are adaptable, typically ranging from pH 4.0 to 9.0.”
“If your lawn is thriving but the pH isn’t in the ideal range, there’s no need to adjust it. It’s typically difficult to adjust pH levels, but if pH is too high, you can try adding organic matter like compost, and if it’s too low, applying lime can help.”
Natural Science Manager at Sunday
At Sunday, Teri leverages data analysis, lawn and garden industry trends, and customer needs to create impactful content. With a combination of her conservation background and expertise in science communication and content strategy, Teri works to advance sustainable yard care practices on behalf of Sunday.
Each grass species has its own specifications in terms of the optimal soil pH and nutrient profile.
Your soil type is another important factor. For example, if your lawn is made of sandy soil, it cannot absorb water as much as loam soil.
Below are other conditions that can affect the growth of the grass seeds you choose.
Some grass seed types will flourish with full sun exposure, while other types only need partial shade to grow.
How wide or large your lawn affects the type and amount of grass seed you need to grow a healthy landscape.
Lawn Incline or Slope
Generally, you need a deep-rooted grass species for hilly or inclined ground. It is better able to survive soil erosion and water run-off.
The best time to plant cool-season grasses is springtime or early autumn.
For warm-season grasses, plant them during the early summer months.
You may also need to apply insect or pest control measures and reseed and fertilize the soil a few times a year.
Keep in mind that some species of grass seed are “high maintenance” while others go with the flow.
For these reasons, you need to consider how much time you can commit to looking after your lawn to make sure that the grass you plant is thick and lush all year long.
Types of Grass Seeds
Now it’s time to find out about some of the most popular grass seed types. You can consider these for your new lawn.
As I touched on earlier, there are two main grass seed categories: cool-season and warm-season. You can check out the grass zone map below to quickly determine which type of grass will grow best in your lawn.
If you live in the transition zone, you can typically grow either type of grass, but I typically recommend Fescue or Zoysia for many transition-zone lawns.
You can also use my grass seed calculator. In it I recommend grass types that will thrive in your microclimate.
Cool Season Grasses
Cool-season grasses do best in the northern areas of the United States, including areas of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest.
Here are some of the most common types of cool-season grass varieties.
This type of perennial turf grass has excellent winter hardiness and is a popular choice in the northern states, west coast, and the transition zone.
Kentucky bluegrass has a dark green shade. This grass prefers full sunlight, but some varieties can hold up well in shaded areas.
During normal weather, Kentucky bluegrass needs at least an inch of water a week, while during the warmer months, it needs two or more inches of water weekly.
It also prefers loose soil. Kentucky bluegrass can also grow in heavy clay but it needs frequent aeration.
The mowing height for Kentucky bluegrass is two to three inches.
One disadvantage of Kentucky bluegrass is its shallow roots, which make it less resistant to drought and heat.
Fine fescue is a family of cool-season grasses. These grasses have thin blades and come in a medium to dark green color.
We usually mix fine fescue with other turf grass seeds. Fine fescue grasses can survive on poor soil and areas with high foot traffic.
Tall fescue is a type of bunch grass that has wide blades and a coarse texture. This grass species is commonly used in high traffic areas such as sports fields.
This type of grass has high tolerance to drought and heat because its roots can reach up to three feet underground.
We usually mix tall fescue with other grass species unless you choose an improved turf-type tall fescue which compares well to some bluegrass lawns. It is low-maintenance and grows quickly.
Tall fescue can survive with less watering and adapts to many types of soil.
Ideally, keep your tall fescue at less than three inches in height. This will help prevent weed growth.
This type of grass has a glossy appearance and fine texture. Just like fescue, perennial ryegrass is typically mixed with other types of grass seeds because it germinates quickly after seeding.
Perennial ryegrass has higher than average water and fertilization needs if you want to maintain its beautiful green color.
Besides being a great grass for residential properties, perennial ryegrass is also used on golf courses and baseball fields.
Farmers sometimes even use it as pasture for livestock.
Perennial ryegrass needs partial to full sunlight. One disadvantage of this grass is its low tolerance to drought.
As lawn turf, this grass type should be mowed between 1.5 and 2.5 inches high.
The creeping bentgrass is commonly used in fairways, lawn tennis, or bowling greens because of its dense, finely textured appearance.
You can use it in home lawns, but this is a high maintenance grass variety.
It needs more frequent than average watering and high levels of fertilization to maintain its lush color.
You’ll have to give it routine topdressing, more frequent mowing, and the application of fungicides, especially during the summer.
Warm Season Grasses
Warm-season grasses thrive in the warm environments of the southern and southwestern regions. They usually go dormant during the winter or even in the summer if there isn’t enough summer rain.
Most warm-season grasses prefer slightly acidic to neutral soil with pH levels ranging between 5.8 and 7.0.
Bermuda grass has a coarse texture, but there are hybrid varieties that look fine, making them more suitable for home lawns.
This type of grass grows thickly and easily from seeding. It has high drought tolerance and wear-and-tear resistance.
Bermuda grass spreads quickly and vigorously. In fact, you’ll have to take steps to stop it getting into your flower beds.
You can surround your flower beds with metal edges to help prevent Bermuda grass from spreading into them.
St. Augustine Grass
St. Augustine grass can tolerate high levels of heat and humidity. It also has high salt tolerance, making it perfect for coastal areas.
St. Augustine grass can create a dense, blue-green carpet of grass.
This grass also features good tolerance for moderate foot traffic and can repair itself quickly. It is also a low maintenance grass.
While it requires frequent irrigation within the first 10 days of seeding, once its roots form and get established, you’ll only have to give your St. Augustine grass around 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch of water each day.
Centipede grass is another type of grass that requires minimal maintenance to stay lush and healthy.
Also known as the lazy man’s grass, centipede grass has a coarse texture and medium green color.
This type of warm-season grass is slow-growing and thrives on acidic soil. Because of its texture, it is highly resistant to weeds and pests.
Centipede grass also has low fertilizer requirements and can tolerate partial shade. It grows well in transition zones.
Bahia grass is a tough, roughly textured type of grass, making it a good choice for high-traffic lawns. Just like St. Augustine grass, this type of grass has high heat and humidity tolerance.
Bahia grass also tolerates disease and requires little water and nutrients to survive.
Bahia grass grows aggressively, so it is offers good erosion control. However, weed management can be a bit difficult.
I recommend mowing your Bahia grass to a height of three to four inches. This will help prevent weed growth.
Zoysia grass, just like St. Augustine grass, tolerates high salinity soil. It is also drought and shade-tolerant.
When well-maintained, Zoysia grass produces a luxuriously thick carpet.
Zoysia grass, however, doesn’t thrive well in high-traffic and wet areas.
It is a slow-grower and forms a dense carpet, so it doesn’t require frequent mowing. It also usually doesn’t need much effort when it comes to weed control.
As well as the warm-season growing region, you can also grow zoysia grass in the transition zone.
What’s the Best Grass Seed for New Lawn Installations? It depends
Every lawn and how you use it is unique. On my lawn, I have primarily Turf Type Tall Fescue from Jonathan Green, and I overseed every year with their Black Beauty Ultra product which is a blend of some Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Rye with elite Tall Fescue cultivars.
But what works well for me, may not work great for you.
I hope that the tips I’ve provided in today’s article will help guide you toward an informed choice for your upcoming seeding project.
If you’d like to learn more, check out my content hub on installing a new lawn to find articles that speak to your specific issues and concerns, and read this article about the best time to plant grass seed (in every state).
Finally, once you’ve decided on which grass seed you want, you should use my grass seed calculator to find out how much you need for amazing results.
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