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Knowledge to Grow by Karen Weiland - Grass Choices

An attractive, well-kept lawn can be an important aspect of a home’s landscape. It adds value to a homes’ appearance, aids in soil erosion, reduces mud and dust and it produces oxygen. Planting a new lawn or even doing some over-seeding requires some knowledge of selecting the best seed for the area.

Cool season turf grasses grow best when the soil temperatures are between 50 and 65 degrees F and air temperatures are between 60 and 75 degrees F. Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine and turf-type tall fescues are all considered cool season grasses. Types of grasses used in the lawn will determine the level of care they will require to look good.

Turf-type tall fescue and fine fescue grasses will require less fertilization than Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. Most lawns are pretty much made up of a blend of bluegrass varieties. Kentucky blue grass will give you a velvety, carpet-like appearance but will require about 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen, applied 2 to 5 times annually, to keep it that way. Fine and turf-type tall fescues require about one third to one half of the nitrogen needed by the bluegrasses.

Mixing Kentucky bluegrass with creeping red fescue provides a good turf for lawns that have both sunny and shaded conditions. There are some fine fescue grasses called hard and sheep (blue) that will prove to be low maintenance. They grow in clumps of bluish-green and are usually mixed with Kentucky bluegrass that will fill in between the clumps. They tolerate drought conditions, need less fertilizer and are slow growing.

When it comes to handling drought, the turf-type tall fescue may be just what you need. It has a larger root mass than other lawn grasses and can handle grub damage along with summer heat stress and has good tolerance to wear from foot traffic. It is not a huge nitrogen hog as it only needs one to three applications per year.

Speaking of nitrogen, returning grass clippings and leaves to the lawn will provide about one third of the nitrogen needed by a lawn during the season. A thick layer of grass clippings is not a good thing. Keep it light. If you are applying three applications of nitrogen a year on your lawn, returning the clippings with each mowing could account for one of those applications. Also, when you mow the grass at a height of about three inches it aids in water loss to evaporation and helps it to withstand drought in that the plant develops a larger root mass.

As always, Happy Gardening!

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co.