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Grow a Green, Lush Lawn - Part 1

Choosing the best grass variety for your area

For some reason, having a healthy, green lawn has become an indicator of someone who really knows how to garden. I can't agree or disagree with this assessment, because I think green grass simply shows that someone did a bit of planning before putting in a lawn, and then paid attention to a few details in order for the grass to do well. No magic there; you can do the same thing.

If the grass around your home isn't looking so hot, don't worry, because there can be numerous reasons for it. For instance:

  1. The needs of your lawn have changed. Perhaps you didn't have kids and now you do, so you had a lawn that liked low traffic, but now it gets tons of traffic, and it's not happy about it

  2. Trees and shrubs have grown up, and your yard is now shady, rather than sunny

  3. You may be trying to grow the wrong type of grass for your area

You get the idea. So the first thing to do is:

Choose the Right Grass For Your Climate

Now this, I think, is where it can get complicated. If you've ever read about all the different types of grasses, there always seem to be exceptions. For instance, I live in what many people would consider a warm, dry climate (California), yet, when you look at the following chart, you can see that I am in what is considered a cool-arid climate, and that's why cool-season grasses do best here.

In order for you to get something concrete out of this article, let's try to clarify the climate you live in.

There are two types of grasses: Cool-Season and Warm-Season, and here is how they are generally divided:

Cool-Season Grasses
Grow well in fall, winter, through early spring

 1. Cool-Humid Climates
    Examples are: Northwest U.S., Northeast U.S., and United Kingdom, and they have:


mild wet

warm and dry

30 inches (76 cm) or more per year

 2. Cool-Arid Climates
    Examples are: California, Wyoming, and Australia, and they have:


mild to cold
snowy to dry

warm, hot dry

20 inches (51 cm) or less per year

Warm-Season Grasses
Grow well in late spring through summer

 1. Warm-Humid Climates
    Examples are: Gulf Coast U.S., Florida, Hawaii, the tropics, and they have:



hot, humid

60 inches (152 cm) or more per year

 1. Warm-Arid Climates
    Examples are: Southwest U.S., and deserts, and they have:



hot, dry

Little to no rain all year long

Knowing these climate variations can be very enlightening, because you can better narrow down what the climate is like in your area, and you can better choose a grass that will do well for you.

The next big hurdle to clear on your way to that lush, green lawn is to honestly assess what you are going to use your lawn for.

  • Will it be used for the kids and a play area?
  • Will it be used as a sports field?
  • Will it be used simply for looks around your garden area?
  • Will it have pets on it?
  • Will you be parking on it?
Once you have thought about it, then you can combine your two requirements: your climate and your needs, and choose the grass that matches best. The following chart lists some of the major grasses:

Grass Comparison Chart

    Cool-Season Grasses




Click each name for detailed
growing information

Creeping Bentgrass


Canada Bluegrass


Kentucky Bluegrass


Rough Bluegrass


Perennial Ryegrass


Fine Fescues


Tall Fescue




    Warm-Season Grasses




Click each name for detailed
growing information



Blue Gramagrass








St. Augustinegrass




Mixes and Blends

At the end of the day, if you still need ideas for some good all-purpose, tried and true, mixes and blends here they are:

General All-Purpose Lawn for Full Sun: Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue, or Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass

Shade: Fine fescue and Kentucky bluegrass; or Kentucky bluegrass, red fescue, and perennial ryegrass

Cool, Moist Climates: Fine fescue and 'Exeter' colonial bentgrass

Traffic-Tolerant Lawn in Sun or Light Shade: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescue

High Traffic Tolerant Lawn: Kentucky bluegrass and turf-type tall fescue

Moist, Shady Locations: Rough bluegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass

Fast-Establishing Lawn: Perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass

Warm, Dry Climates: Buffalograss and blue gramagrass

Cool, Dry Climates: Wheatgrass and turf-type tall fescue

Replace or Repair

Now that you have a better handle on what kind of grass you want for a lawn, the next question you need to address is if you can get by with just repairing your current lawn or if you'll need to replace it entirely and start fresh.

Replace your lawn if:

  • More than 50 percent is weeds
  • Water puddles on surface and you have poor drainage
  • Your lawn is more the 15 years old and is consistently diseased

Repair your lawn if:

  • Less than 50 percent is weeds
  • Grass is a little thin, or has some bare patches, but overall is healthy
  • Grass turns brown only in severe conditions


This is the end of Part 1, and I hope at this point you are very clear on which types of grasses will do well for you, and which ones will not. You could say, "Well, I'll just purchase whatever they have at the garden center," but not all garden centers are high quality. Many of the large home-improvement centers carry bulk seed, or buy sod from out-of-area suppliers and don't always carry what's right for your specific area.

After reading and applying the information in this article, you can now read the label on any seed box to see if it contains the types of grasses that will do well for you. You can also now ask more specific questions about incoming sod, and you'll be much happier about the end result.

Next month we'll get into the nitty-gritty of repairing your lawn, or if need be, starting a new one. We'll also talk about: soil testing, soil preparation, the benefits of seed or sod, and how to best maintain your new lawn, including a seasonal lawn care calendar.

Until then!

Link to continuing article, Grow a Green, Lush Lawn - Part 2 is below

Link: Grow a Green, Lush Lawn - Part 2

With over 20 years professional gardening experience The writer has a very real interest in making gardening fun, doable, and successful for everyone. She is a professional public speaker and educator in the horticulture industry.

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