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Figure 9–1. A regional map showing the mountain, piedmont, and coastal plain regions of North Carolina.

Tall Fescue

III. What to Plant

Tall fescue is best adapted to the North Carolina mountains and piedmont but can be successfully maintained on the heavy silt loams in the coastal plain (Figure 9–2). It is a reliable performer and easily started from seed. It is the best grass to plant for a green lawn year-round. Tall fescue thrives in sun or medium shade in the mountains and piedmont. It will not perform well in full sun in the coastal plain, especially if the soil is sandy. It can be seeded by itself or mixed with Kentucky bluegrass or fine fescue, or both, particularly where shade is a concern. Tall fescue is a bunch-type grass, so damaged or bare areas need to be re-seeded. It exhibits good disease resistance, drought tolerance, and cold tolerance. It tolerates moderate traffic and persists with minimum care. Several improved tall fescue cultivars have been developed that are more shade tolerant, denser, and finer textured than Kentucky 31, a commonly used older cultivar. These characteristics become more evident as the turf matures and the maintenance level increases. Research has shown that some of these improved cultivars also have darker green color, improved disease and drought tolerance, hold up to wear better, and have a lower growth habit.

Perennial Ryegrass

North Carolina is divided into three major regions: coastal plain, piedmont, and mountains (Figure 9–1). Both cool-season (northern) and warm-season (southern) grasses are grown in North Carolina (Table 9–1). Cool-season grasses grow best in the spring and fall and less actively in the summer. They stay reasonably green in the winter. Tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass are common types of cool-season grasses. Table 9–2 lists ratings for the performance of various cultivars of these grasses in North Carolina. Warm-season grasses are slow to green up in the spring, grow best in the summer, and go dormant after the first heavy frost. Table 9–3 lists many warm-season cultivars.