Grass Mixtures and Ideal Grass Varieties for Lawns
What Grass Mixture is Best for Lawns?
The labels on the grass seed mixture package occasionally list these varieties under their certain names. For example: "Common Kentucky Bluegrass" and "Merion Kentucky Bluegrass." Or, in the case of the fescues, "Creeping Red Fescue," "Illahee Red Fescue" and "Pennlawn Red Fescue."
Any mixture for seeding a permanent lawn should be comprised of at least 80 percent of these persistent, fine-textured grass seeds.
The most rugged of them is Kentucky bluegrass, which requires the least care and is perhaps the best suited for most unskilled gardeners who want a good lawn without spending too much effort and money. But Kentucky bluegrass has two disadvantages: It may be permanently injured if it is cut short or mowed too short; and, like most grasses, it becomes brown in dry weather, but it recovers its rich green color rapidly when the dry season is ended. A seed mixture containing at least 40 percent Kentucky bluegrass (plus another 40 percent of other persistent, fine-textured grasses) will normally produce a good lawn under average conditions. Lawns which are exposed to more than an average amount of sun should ideally be seeded with mixtures containing at least 55 percent Kentucky bluegrass.
The list of new bluegrass varieties grows almost daily, so you may have to count on the judgment of the seed producers (and your local nurseryman) as to which is best for your locality. Some of the newer choices, like Fylking and Pennstar, can be mowed as low as an inch high (regular varieties are best mowed 1 1/2 to 2 inches high).
A little bluegrass goes a long way. Each pound holds around 2 million seeds, and if utilized at the rate of 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet should result in anything from twenty to thirty seeds of bluegrass per square inch, taking into account that there are other seeds in the mixture.
The important thing is to place Kentucky bluegrass in a mixture. A lot of people like a single grass on the lawn, but our experience has shown it's more reasonable to blend bluegrass varieties with fine fescues to prevent serious lawn problems. Don't be impatient with seed germination. It may take up to twenty-six days for some seed to start.
If you live in the northern part of the U.S. and want a lawn having little care or expenditure of money, place some red fescue. Red fescue establishes more quickly from seed compared to the bluegrasses, though they don't establish rapidly by vegetative means, that is, by underground stems. It will not make a perfect green carpet, but it's a great low-maintenance grass. Red fescue demands the smallest amount of fertilizers, pesticides, and water of any lawn grass variety used in the northern United States. It has an exceptional mechanism for conserving water. In long dry periods, the grass stops growing, thus coping with moisture stress. When it is in this "summer dormancy," it is not advisable to water it, even when the grass turns brown. Actually, irregular or improper watering could "confuse" the natural mechanism of dormancy, causing complete kill of the grass. The brown turf will recover when cooler, damper weather sets in. No mowing is needed during the dormant stage.
For really dry soils, red fescue is the best suited variety. Rainier, creeping red fescue, Pennlawn, Illahee fescue, and Chewings fescue are common because they are more drought-resistant as well as shade-tolerant than most other varieties and can hold up to considerable neglect. They generally take longer to accomplish their healthy green in early spring, but keep their color longer into the summer than other grasses, which by that time have normally become brown.
A moderate amount of fescue is favorable in a mixture for a home lawn. Its relatively quick sprouting makes it useful as a nurse grass. Disadvantages of the fescues are that they die easily if clipped or mowed too short or if they are over-watered. If they are used solely, it takes more power to mow them than it does most other varieties. This toughness has gained the fescues the nickname "wire grasses." Fescues do better when used with bluegrass in the mixture.
Those who prefer to build a low-maintenance lawn using red fescues are advised to follow these steps.
1. Select a seed mixture containing 70 percent red fescues, either a creeping type or Chewings type—ideally both. The rest should consist of 20 percent perennial rye grass and 10 percent common Kentucky bluegrasses. The recommended number of the mixture for an area of 1,000 square feet (20 feet X 50 feet) is 5 pounds.
2. If soil test indicates the pH level is over 5.0, no lime is required; if below this, distribute 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 square feet. Then work in 10 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.
3. The seeded area must be covered with a layer of loose straw (1 bale per 1,000 square feet). Whenever possible, roll lightly to firm the straw and seed against the soil. Water for fifteen minutes each day (when there is no rain) for three weeks. After three weeks, take away the straw and put it in a compost pile.
Red fescues don't like wet spots, so careful soil preparation is crucial.
Bentgrasses are not famous with experts, even though this variety may bring out good lawns which withstand close clipping exceptionally well. Some colonial bentgrass in the mixture with Kentucky bluegrass thickens the turf in midsummer when the bluegrass is semi-dormant. This thickening, aside from its enhanced appearance of the lawn, also helps keep weeds out. But bentgrasses are quite susceptible to diseases, demand intensive care, more feeding, regular watering and mowing to look well.
Redtop and annual ryegrasses are of the temporary assortments. Any mixture having more than 10 percent of them is likely to develop an inferior lawn. Their utilization is practical, however, on slopes. The fast sprouting of the seed helps avoid the washing away of the soil by rains as well as the washing away of the seeds of slower-growing grasses in the mixture.