Backyard Gardener: Grass-Type Grasses for Lawn | News, sports, jobs

Backyard Gardener: Grass-Type Grasses for Lawn |  News, sports, jobs


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Welcome farmers and gardeners to the Mid-Ohio Valley! What a stretch of rain in the second week of August. I hope many of you benefit from several days of dry, sunny weather before the humidity arrives.

Choosing the right grass seeds for your lawn will impact your home for years to come. Mid-August and September are a great time to reseed or overseed your lawn. It has many benefits compared to spring seeds, including faster seed germination and rapid growth in warm soil compared to early spring.

Plus, there’s less competition from weeds and (usually) more abundant soil moisture. Warm fall days and cool fall nights provide ideal conditions for seedlings to grow.

Many homeowners experience spring lawn failure due to hot, dry conditions in June or competition from weeds. Spring seeds must mature quickly and establish a good root system to prepare for the hot, dry weather of summer.

This week I want to discuss tall fescue, a type of lawn grass. This is my go-to for yard grass seed because of its ability to handle heavy traffic, high temperatures, and drought.

Common grasses for turf include bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fescue. However, if your goal is to have a low-maintenance lawn that still looks great, tall fescue-type grass is the better choice.

How does tall fescue type grass differ from Kentucky 31? The 31-tall Kentucky fescue is a forage species and can be seen along roadsides and in pastures and hayfields across the mid-Ohio Valley. It is a cheaper seed to buy compared to other types of grass, but it has a place as a turf-type grass.

Many gardeners and backyard growers still use Kentucky 31 tall in their lawn. It is a hardy, drought-tolerant grass that is also a favorite for soccer plantings and other sports fields because it can take a lot of abuse.

Fescue is more of a forage type than a grass type, but when planted at higher rates (10 pounds per 1,000 square feet) it can provide excellent coverage when mowed at 4-inch spacing. Higher seeding rates create a crowding effect making this grass appear softer in texture.

Folks, I again recommend setting your mower deck to 3-4 inches. This will shade out weeds, reduce water loss due to evaporation, and help build a stronger, more drought-tolerant root system. I guarantee you will have a healthier and more attractive garden.

Grass-type tall fescue is the most improved type of tall fescue and is used primarily for turf. They have been developed by seed companies to provide a finer-textured leaf blade that falls somewhere between forage type and smooth leaves and is generally more aesthetic.

Its leaf blades are slightly wider than Kentucky bluegrass. The color is usually a deep emerald green and many newer cultivars will provide disease resistance to brown patch. Fescue is considered a type of grass. However, some companies have developed several varieties of tall fescue that produce short taproots, allowing for some spreading potential.

Dozens of improved grass varieties are available and many come in blends with three or four improved varieties in the mix. Many are available at your local hardware store or home improvement retailer.

A mix of tall fescue (90%) and Kentucky bluegrass (10%) will help provide a uniform foundation. If you have shaded areas in the yard, you may want to use a mix that also includes fine fescue such as creeping red fescue which will tolerate shade. Some mixes may include perennial ryegrass, but limit it to 20% in the mix due to disease problems with this grass.

However, keep in mind that although tall fescue has excellent drought and traffic resistance, it has clump-type growth compared to the turf composition characteristics of Kentucky bluegrass. When exposed to traffic and insufficient water, a clumpy and uneven lawn may result.

If this is a problem, you can intersperse with additional tall fescue and provide temporary irrigation to restore adequate grass density. Grass-type fescues may need to be transplanted every three to five years to reduce their clumped appearance.

Grass-type tall fescues provide a great low-maintenance alternative to Kentucky bluegrass and are recommended for non-irrigated lawns.

Always take soil fertility into consideration. You can get the highest quality, most disease- and drought-resistant grasses you can buy to grow your lawn with, but if your pH isn’t at least 6.2 and your soil fertility is low, you’re spending money in the wrong place.

Lime first, then fertilize. Carrying out the results of your own soil test for your lawn can save you hundreds of dollars. Fall is a great time to apply soil amendments such as lime, fertilizer and compost. Enjoy your beautiful garden! Contact me at Wood County WVU

For more information, call the Extension Office 304-424-1960 or email me at jj.barrett@mail.wvu.edu with questions. Good luck and until next time, happy gardening!




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