Choosing the proper lawn grass is an important basic step to developing a lush turf that you can be proud to display. Often the first impression of visitors is the most important impression. A pretty lawn can add thousands to the price of your home if you must sell.
First How Do You Use Your Lawn?
You need to choose a grass that is appropriate for various lawn areas on your property.
Front Lawn - An American front lawn is usually basically ornamental. It is there to look attractive and welcoming all season long. It is not normally subjected to wear and tear and foot traffic; except maybe for the mailman. In the North any of the modern Kentucky bluegrasses, tall fescues, or perennial ryegrasses make a lovely front lawn.
Back Yard - Turf in backyards is often another situation altogether. Family leisure activities and foot traffic to utility areas all take a toll on turf. Here tougher tall fescue or perennial rye usually does better than Kentucky bluegrass mixtures. Tall fescue is especially appropriate in these situations in a more southern climate with a hot, dry summers or where irrigation and fertilizing are not used to help maintain the turf.
Play Areas - Children's play activities are hard on lawns, yet it is desirable to have turf where they play. Overseed existing grass with tall fescue, commonly used on athletic fields, to improve its durability.
The Right Grass For Your Yard
Lawn Grasses Need Light - While certain types of grasses cope better than others with reduced light, all turfgrasses need a fair amount of bright light or sun to thrive. One grass does not fit all light conditions. Sun loving turfgrasses may survive in reduced light, but they will be stressed. Stress makes them vulnerable to disease and pests. If your lawn area does not receive direct sun all day, then it is important to choose a mixture that is formulated of grass seed varieties that can handle some shade. Bear in mind that even grass seed labeled for shade must have some sun and bright light during each day--at least 4 hours--to maintain vigor and good health.
While turfgrass will grow in deeply shaded areas, it suffers enormous stress and requires constant attention. It is better to grow another type of groundcover plant such as pachysandra, ivy, vinca, liriope or mondo grass in these areas.
Evaluating Available Light
To choose the appropriate grass for your lawn, evaluate the amount of light falling on different turf areas over the entire day.
Full Sun - A site that receives substantial sun--direct sun at least 6 hours a day or dappled sun (as through a tree's leaf canopy) almost all day--is basically a SUNNY site. These are ideal light conditions and all lawn grasses thrive in these sites.
Part Shade - A site that receives limited sunshine--at least 4 but fewer than 6 hours over the entire day--is in PARTIAL SHADE. Some spots may not receive sun, but may enjoy bright indirect light a good bit of the time. In these areas it is advisable to plant grass seed labeled for shade.
Full Shade - A site that receives minimal sun--fewer than four hours a day, or low light (under thick tree canopies)--is in DEEP SHADE. Do not even attempt to grow turfgrass on these sites. Instead, plant sturdy, evergreen groundcovers such as pachysandra or ivy. These plants are green, very low maintenance and promote tree health. While it can be done, growing turf grass in deep shade is extremely labor-intensive and is an ongoing challenge.
Increasing Available Light
Sometimes an area can be rescued from deep shade by judicious pruning of nearby trees. By cutting out small limbs, suckers and twigs from within tree canopies and/or by pruning large lower limbs from the lower trunk to raise the leaf canopy you can encourage more light to reach the soil beneath the tree. These measures may create partial shade conditions where grass can grow.
Sometimes simply pruning some lower limbs from a tree makes a whole area of the yard eligible for grass. Be sure to prune properly. Do not stub back large branches by cutting off their ends and leaving protruding cut ends. Remove branches where they join the trunk, cutting so that the “collar” of rough bark that forms a transition from the trunk to branch tissues remains to promote healing of the wound. Do not paint or dress the wound.