The last few weekly columns concerned getting your lawn looking as good as new. The only thing you need to know now is what type of grass seed you need to make your lawn your pride and joy.

Whenever you are patching up your lawn or putting in a new lawn, you need to know what type of grass seed you need to use based on the growing conditions you have in your lawn area.

The things that you need to determine are how much or how little sunshine the area will get throughout the day, how much traffic the area will get from foot traffic and how much soil you have in the area. Let’s break this down for you.

Sunshine — or the lack of it — can make or break your attempt to have a nice lawn. For many years, people have put down Kentucky bluegrass seed because it is a name that is familiar. Don’t get me wrong when I say that bluegrass probably isn’t the seed of choice for most areas.

Bluegrass needs a lot of sun to grow properly. Bluegrasses are not happy when there is a lot of foot traffic on the lawn. Once it is growing, it needs a lot of fertilizer and a lot of water to keep it growing. It will also do its best if you have 6 inches or more of high-quality loam in your yard.

There are some new varieties of bluegrass that require less water and fertilizer, and you probably will find them in some mixtures. If you can meet all the requirements I have listed, bluegrass mixtures are probably good for your lawn.

If, on the other hand, you have a lawn area that has mostly shade during the day, fescue grass seed is probably the best seed for your lawn. The fescue grass seed that you will commonly find in mixtures is creeping red fescue and many variations of that seed. They do tend to be lower-growing and do need less water and fertilizer than bluegrasses.

Fescue seed lawns will tolerate some sun, but my experience has been that they will do best if they are not getting the hot afternoon sun. Fescue seed will tolerate some traffic. They will do best if they get at least 6 inches of loam for their root system.

If you are patching a lawn or you are starting a lawn because you have poorer soil or not a lot of soil, there is some hope to establish or fix a lawn if you go looking for a seed called turf-type tall fescue.

Many years ago, you could find a seed called tall fescue. It grew kind of patchy, so you needed to use a lot of seed to grow a lawn. You would often find that it was used in playground areas because it would tolerate a lot of foot traffic.

The old tall fescue seed wasn’t used in lawns because of the way it looked. The blades of grass were course. It tended to grow low on the soil and didn’t have the visual appeal of bluegrass.

Over the years, the old tall fescue has been hybridized into turf-type tall fescue. Unlike its parent, the turf-type tall fescue has thinner blades like bluegrass, and it does grow a bit taller.

The selling point for turf-type tall fescue is its appearance and its ability to put out a massive root system even into poorer soils. It will take a lot of foot traffic. Best of all, once it is established, it needs less water and fertilizer to keep it going strong. It tends to bounce back quickly after periods of prolonged drought.

Since many lawns have a mix of growing conditions, you will likely need to buy a mixture of grass seed types. If you look at the label on the bag, you will find that the seed mix will show a percentage of each type of seed. If the predominate percentage is of a particular seed that is best for your growing conditions, that is the mixture you want for your lawn. You also will find some perennial rye grass seed in most mixes. This seed sprouts fast and will help hold the soil in place while the other seeds slowly sprout.

Don’t buy any mix for your lawn that contains annual rye grass. This seed will sprout incredibly fast, but the grass that forms will die after the first frost, meaning that come the spring, you will be back to reseeding bare spots again.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

Tim Lamprey has worked in the lawn and garden industry for 45 years. 

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