Crop and Soil Environmental News, March 2008
Author: Mike Goatley, Jr., Extension Turfgrass Specialist, Virginia Tech
Perennial ryegrass. This grass fell out of favor for homelawn use in the 1990s when gray leaf spot disease ravaged many ryegrass cultivars on the east coast. However, turf breeders have since selected for greatly improved resistance to gray leaf spot and perennial ryegrass has returned to a place of prominence in Virginia’s cooler climates. Perennial ryegrass is a bunch-type grass best suited for use in full sun to moderately shaded lawns at elevations above 1500 feet. It is one of the fastest germinating grasses from seed (7-10 days) and also one of the fastest to establish a dense canopy. Mature perennial ryegrass has excellent wear tolerance but it is not very heat and drought tolerant, and can have significant disease pressure in warmer climates. It tolerates some of the lowest mowing heights possible (1 to 2.5 inch recommended cutting height) and is noted for its striping potential when mowed. Ryegrass responds to 2 to 4 lbs N/1000 sq ft/year, with higher rates being used when it is mixed with Kentucky bluegrass at 80-90% ryegrass by seed weight. This seed combination takes advantage of the rapid establishment characteristics of the ryegrass and the long-term creeping potential of the bluegrass. There is no perennial ryegrass sod produced in the state.
Fine-leaf fescues. This group of extremely fine-bladed grasses are some of the most under-utilized grasses in the state, being well adapted to the Valley and Ridge and northern Piedmont regions. People either love or hate fine fescues because of their needle-like leaf texture. However, these grasses (broken down into species such as creeping red, hard, or chewings fescues) provide some of the highest quality, low maintenance cool-season turf possible. They are ideal for low maintenance lawns where minimal fertility and fewer mowing events are desired, but fine fescues have poor traffic tolerance, so be wary of using them if your lawn will have lots of use from kids or pets. The fine fescues have the best shade tolerance of the cool-season turfgrasses and are very persistent in dry conditions and somewhat poor soils. They generally do not fare well in persistently wet soils and their quality will decline if over fertilized (only 1 to 2 lbs N/1000 sq ft/year is recommended). Seed is readily available but there are not nearly as many choices in cultivars as for other species. Fine fescue seed germinates pretty quickly (10-14 days) but is a somewhat slow establisher, so fall seedings are best. It thrives under mowing heights of 1.5 to 2.5 inches, but is often used in the mountains as ‘no mow’ turf for areas too steep to mow. Seed mixtures with Kentucky bluegrass are commonly sold as ‘sun-shade’ mixes where bluegrass is intended to dominate in the sun and fine fescue in the shade. The grasses likely will segregate out over time, but fine fescue has the best chance of persisting in moderate shade. There are no fine fescue sod producers in the region.
Virginia is what turfgrass managers describe as a “transition zone”. What it means to you and your lawn is that our cold winters and hot, dry summers don’t allow for easy choices in lawn grasses for most of our state. Following the drought of 2007 (and the disconcerting forecast for continued suboptimal rainfall in 2008) there are lots of lawns that need work this spring and we might have more problems ahead this summer. This article considers the strengths and weaknesses of the major turfgrasses that can be managed as lawn grasses across Virginia, where they are best adapted, and how their use fits into lawn management programs that deliver quality, aesthetically pleasing turf in an environmentally friendly approach.
These are just two basic options for your lawn. Turf-style grass seeds are popular for their soft, dense and durable coat. There are other options that may be more suited to your specific soil, lawn needs or lawn care routine, so ask a local lawn care expert for more information. Choose a grass seed that is perfect for your lawn.
Midwest Grass Seed
There’s nothing better than a luscious, thriving lawn full of healthy, green grass. From coast to coast, our nation has many diverse climates and soil types that affect which grass seed varieties are best for your lawn. Discover how different regions affect your grass and find out how to find the best types of grass seed for your location.
Perennial ryegrass can be reasonably tolerant to drought, resistant to diseases and insects and holds up well again heavy traffic. When maintained by a professional lawn care company, your ryegrass will provide you with the beauty and practical comfort you need from your lawn.
Another popular option is tall fescue. This grass is designed for cool temperatures, but is also tolerant of heavy shade, drought and heat. Choose tall fescue if you’re in an area that doesn’t receive as much irrigation as other parts of the region.
Prepare Your Lawn
Best Midwestern Grass Seed