When it comes to selecting a type of grass for your home lawn, a lot of factors come into play. Whether you are installing a new yard because you’ve just purchased a new home or if you’ve decided to start over, knowing what you’re wanting and narrowing down the types of grasses that will thrive in your area are a couple of large steps you can take towards finding the best grass for your lawn.
In another Sod University blog, How to Choose the Right Type of Sod, we discuss some of the main differences between popular grasses like zoysia grass, St. Augustine grass, bermuda grass, centipede, Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue. This week, Sod University lays out a few important steps to take to help you determine the grass that may be the best fit for you.
Where do you live?
The first thing to take into consideration is where you live: are you in a warm season zone, transition zone or cool season zone? St. Augustine sod isn’t going to survive very well if you install it in the state of Idaho, for example. Take a look at the map below to get an idea of what type of grass you may need.
If you are located in the warm season zone, grasses that will primarily fit your lawn are zoysia grass, St. Augustine grass, bermuda grass, centipede grass and bahiagrass.
If you are located in the cool season zone, you more than likely install grass seed and use grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue or ryegrass.
Lastly, if you live in the transition zone, you can probably use a mix of grasses. The transition zone is the most difficult area to plant grass in because of the extreme temperature swings that occur throughout the year. Certain varieties of grasses are bred to survive in these conditions. For example, Latitude 36® and NorthBridge® Bermudagrass are warm season grasses that thrive in the heat, however, they have certain breed characteristics that allow them to survive up into the transition zone. Read our blog on The Differences Between Warm and Cool Season Turfgrass Varieties to learn more.
What are your lawn’s current conditions?
Once you’ve determined if you need a warm or cool season grass, the next step is to go outside and evaluate your lawn’s conditions. Questions to ask yourself are:
- Is there a lot of shade?
- Has the lawn had problems with insects or disease before?
- Do you have pets or children who love the outdoors?
- What type of soil do you have?
The Best Grass for Shade
If you have a lot of shade in your lawn, is it filtered sunlight (partial shade) from a tree, for example, or zero sunlight from a nearby house or other large, permanent structure? St. Augustine grass is one of the best grasses for shady areas with fine-bladed zoysias ranking pretty high as well. Palmetto® St. Augustine, CitraBlue® St. Augustine and InnovationTM Zoysia are some of the best grasses for shade. Learn more in Growing Grass in Shaded Areas.
The Best Grass for Insects and Disease Damage
If your lawn was severely damaged by insects or disease in the past, the best thing you can do is identify the type of insect or disease you were encountering. Sod University has blogs on Insect Identification and Identifying Common Lawn Diseases to help you with this, however, since lawn diseases can be tricky, you can also send a sample of the disease your lawn has to a local extension agency.
Pictured above from left to right: Chinch bug damage to a home lawn and grey leaf spot in St. Augustine grass.
Knowing this will help you take actionable steps for preventing it from happening again. Below are some of our top-performing control products for insects and disease. Seasonally applying a systemic insecticide or fungicide before the pests or disease are present will prevent them from taking over your lawn again. Lastly, if you are a homeowner who’s lawn was demolished by chinch bugs, which is a common insect in the lower portion of the United States, it may be beneficial for you to stay away from St. Augustine grass and install EMPIRE® Zoysia, a chinch bug resistant variety. Learn more here. However, if you’ve had problems with billbugs in the past, Innovation Zoysia has some proven resistance to the bluegrass billbug.
The Best Grass for Children and Pets
If you have pets or children who love the outdoors, finding a durable grass with a strong root system will be your best bet. Some of these include Celebration® Bermudagrass, Latitude 36 Bermudagrass, NorthBridge Bermudagrass or even EMPIRE Zoysia. If you have a furry, four-legged friend, The Best Grass for Pets may be a beneficial read for you. Dogs can also leave scorched-looking burn marks in your yard when they need to pee that can totally ruin the uniform look you are trying to upkeep. Be sure to read Repairing Dog Pee Spots on Your Lawn for more information on this topic.
The Best Grass for Different Soil Types
Although there are various types of soils, the three main types of soils are sandy, clay and loamy. If you live in an area like Georgia, you may have a lot of clay soil with pH ranges that are usually too high or too low. If you live near the coast, you may have very sandy soils, which are great for water drainage, but have a low holding capacity, so nutrients aren’t absorbed as much. Loamy soil is ideal in the sense that it contains clay and sandy soil, organic materials and permits the appropriate amount of water improvement.
St. Augustine grass thrives in subtropical conditions and coastal regions, so if you have sandy soils, St. Augustine might be a good choice for your lawn. Bermuda grass also performs well in these regions with its high salt tolerance, however, bermuda grass is adaptable and will grow in an abundance of different locations and soil types. This includes clay soils. Zoysia grass will also adapt to most soil types and will grow in clay soils.
The best thing to do before planting is collect and submit a soil analysis so that you can determine which nutrients your grass needs. Read more about soil types in Soil Management for Lawns and Gardens.
What kind of look do you prefer?
Another factor to consider is the type of “look” you’re wanting for your lawn. You’re purchasing an expensive product that’s going to require maintenance, so you may as well purchase something you’ll enjoy. If you enjoy the fine-bladed look like the picture below, you may enjoy a zoysia grass like Innovation or Geo® Zoysia or a bermuda grass lawn like Latitude 36. If you like the thicker, tropical grass blade look, you may enjoy a St. Augustine lawn like Palmetto or CitraBlue® St. Augustine. Sod University currently has an ongoing series where different turfgrasses are compared to one another. You can read about these in Turf Wars: Zoysia vs. St. Augustine and Turf Wars: St. Augustine vs. Bermuda Grass.
Pictured above from left to right: Innovation Zoysia and Palmetto St. Augustine.
Are you looking for low maintenance grass?
Certain grasses require different amounts of maintenance. This can vary from mowing, irrigation, insect control, etc. However, one type of turfgrass may require more water than the other, but the other type of turfgrass requires more mowing, for example. It’s important to know these characteristics when installing a new lawn so you know how to take care of it and so you know what kind of maintenance you’re really trying to avoid.
Some of the best grasses for low maintenance in general are Palmetto St. Augustine, CitraBlue St. Augustine, EMPIRE Zoysia and Innovation Zoysia. Learn more about these grasses and their low maintenance requirements in The Best Grass for Low Maintenance. Sod University also has blogs on low maintenance grasses in Southern Texas, Atlanta, the Carolinas and Florida.
What is your budget?
Sometimes what really matters is how much you are willing to pay for new sod or seed installation. This is one of the most important factors when choosing a new lawn. Oftentimes, you get what you pay for and not all grasses are created equally. They have different characteristics and traits. Find out how much sod you need for your yard and then find out how many sq. ft. are on a pallet to figure out how much you need to spend.
Once you’ve figured out which type of grass you want to install at home, be sure to follow the proper installation and establishment procedures so that your lawn grows successfully. Be sure to check out the Lawnifi® New Lawn Starter Box, a fertilizer package we recommend for new grass.
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