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May 24, 2018  |  Login
Taking Your Grass's Temperature: Types of Grass for Every Climate
By Bill Marken & The National Gardening Association

Think of cool-season and warm-season grasses as the yin and yang of the turf world. Or better yet, when you think of cool-season grasses, think of blue spruce. When you think of warm-season grasses, think of palm trees.

Where The Cool Grasses Grow

Generally, cool-season grasses are best suited for moist, northern climates, where summers, although warm, are relatively short, and winters are cold. Such grasses also do well in high elevations with adequate rainfall and coastal areas where temperatures are moderate. If you live in a transitional zone between cool and warm-season climates (where the ground doesn’t freeze in winter), cool-season grasses stay green all winter. But, in such areas, you should talk to your local nursery or extension office about the most appropriate grasses or go with native grasses.

Cool-season grasses grow actively in the cool weather of spring and fall at temperatures averaging 60°F to 75°F. As summers get warmer, cool-season grasses grow slower and are subject to more disease problems. These grasses also grow more slowly in summer and may turn brownish and go completely dormant when the weather is dry and hot for long periods of time. Proper watering keeps cool-season grasses green throughout the summer season. In hotter areas with severe water restrictions, you may have to get used to a brown summer lawn, but, never fear, fall rains usually bring dormant grasses back to lush, green life again.

The most commonly planted cool-season grasses include bent grass, Kentucky bluegrass, fescues, and ryegrass. Of those, Kentucky bluegrass has been the most commonly planted lawn for years. But new and improved varieties of tall fescue have recently increased in popularity due to its finer textures and improved qualities while maintaining greater vigor and resistance to harsh conditions, including drought and heat.

Where The Warm Grasses Grow

Warm-season grasses are the grasses of southern climates, where summers are long and hot (consistently over 85°F), and winters are relatively mild. Warm-season grasses grow most vigorously during the warm months of summer and turn brown in winter. People commonly overseed these grasses with cool-season types to get a green lawn year-round. Plant warm-season grasses after the weather warms in mid- to late spring.

The six most commonly used warm-season grasses are Bahia grass, Bermuda grasses (which includes common Bermuda grass and hybrid Bermuda grass), Centipede grass (Eremochloa ophiuroides), St. Augustine grass, and zoysia grass.

As a group, the warm-season grasses are mostly vigorous, spreading plants that can often become weedy. They also have the propensity to develop thatch, and most look best when mowed low with a reel mower. Warm-season grasses are more heat-tolerant and need less water than cool-season grasses.

Small Is Plenty In The Big, Bad West

By looking carefully at how people use lawns, water agencies in the West determine that many people need only about 600 to 800 square feet of grass. Unless you regularly use your lawn for rugby matches, 600 to 800 square feet — about the size of a large patio — is enough for a small play area or for just lounging around. If you want to play volleyball, badminton, or croquet, you can get by with a rectangle measuring 45 x 80 feet (3,600 square feet).

If you decide that a lawn isn’t a great idea for your part of the country or neighborhood, you do have some wonderful alternatives. Consider using other plants besides grass. You can create a border around the outside of your yard and plant it with trees, shrubs, flowering perennials, or other blooming plants. more



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