Grass Seed Buying Guide
A lush, well-cared for lawn does more for your home than just add curb appeal. A lawn that has been properly maintained can also absorb rainfall, reduce soil erosion, and provide filtration for ground water. It can even help improve air quality by producing oxygen, and absorbing dust and other particles. Whether your goal is to grow a new lawn or improve an existing lawn that has been damaged due to disease or winter, grass seed can help you create a beautiful, green turf.
Before you buy grass seed, there are a few things you’ll need to consider:
- Is your lawn subject to high traffic, or medium to low traffic?
- How much time and money do you have available to invest in improving your lawn?
- How much sunlight does your lawn receive? Is the sunshine full, partial, or is there none at all?
- Is your goal to reseed bare spots, or plant a whole new lawn?
- Will you use a mix of grass seed varieties, or will you buy a single type?
Grass Seed Types, Grass Seed Selection, and Tips for Planting
Grass seed is an easy and cost-effective way to start a new lawn and create exactly the type of landscaping look you want. The first thing you’ll need to do when planning your new lawn is decide what type of grass you wish to grow. There are many different varieties, so its important to select one that fits well not only with your climate, but the amount of sun and shade exposure as well. It’s also important to consider the maintenance requirements of the different grass types, so you can choose one that best fits your lifestyle and schedule. Think about how much traffic your lawn is likely to be subjected to, and choose a grass seed specifically designed to withstand that level of impact. Below, you’ll find some information on the different types of grass and how to select the right grass seed.
Turf grass is generally divided into two main categories: cool season and warm season. Cool season grass originates in the North. It’s characterized by rapid spring and fall growth. The best time to plant this type of grass is in the late summer or early fall. Cool season grass tends to turn brown in the hot temperatures of summer. Warm season grass originates from the South, and should be planted in late spring. Most warm season grass turns brown and goes dormant in cold temperatures.
Common cool season grasses:
- Kentucky Bluegrass
Common warm season grasses:
- St. Augustine
Grass Seed Selection
When choosing a grass seed, check the label to see which grass seeds are included. Straight seed types consist of only one kind of grass seed. Blends and mixtures tend to offer a more uniform looking lawn with better resistance to disease. Blends consist of several varieties of one type of grass seed, while mixtures are a combination of several different types. Avoid mixtures that don’t disclose what seed types are included, as they can be of poor quality.
Next, look at the germination percentage, which indicates the percentage of grass seed that will germinate in ideal growing conditions. Avoid anything with a germination percentage under 75 percent. Some grass seed brands contain weeds. Only select brands that list less than 0.5 percent of common weeds, and no noxious weeds, which can harm your lawn. Timothy is okay, but allow only one crop, and it should be listed as less than 2 percent. Be on the lookout for fillers as well; your chosen brand should have less than 2 percent dirt, chaff, or other filler material listed. Do not buy grass seed that is more than 10 months past its expiration date, as it could fail to germinate.
Deciding between warm and cool season grass will depend largely on where you live, but there are a few other factors that will need to be considered:
- How much and how frequently does the lawn need to be watered to be kept in a healthy, green condition?
- Do you prefer soft, fine, or coarse grass?
- Will the area be heavily used by children or pets?
- How much sun and shade does the area receive?
It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the different types of grass seed and where they work best.
Grass Seed Features
Straight Seed – You’ll often find warm season grass seed types labeled as “straight seed”. These packages contain only one type of seed. Growing and maintenance tips are usually included on the back of the package.
Blended Seed Mixtures – Blended mixtures consist of different kinds of seeds within the same species, which capitalize on each others’ strengths. Because the grass seeds are all from the same species, this type of grass will give your lawn a uniform appearance.
Seed Mixtures – Grass seed mixtures contain several different types of grass seed in one package. Each grass seed has its individual strength and weaknesses, which offset those of the others. In doing this, this type of grass seed works effectively for keeping your lawn lush and green. Seed mixtures generally have disease and drought resistant properties.
Lawn Repair Mix – Lawn repair mix combines grass seed, mulch, and starter fertilizer in one package. Lawn repair mix is great for reseeding bare spots in your lawn. It also saves you time and money by preventing you from having to purchase fertilizer and seed separately. The mulch and fertilizer in lawn repair mixes are selected specifically for the particular type of seed contained in the package.
Grass Seed Planting Tips:
- Use a lawn spreader to sow seeds, or sow by hand in smaller areas
- Use garden fabric or straw to mulch the seeded area and retain moisture
- Water every day until germination occurs, then water more heavily but less often
There are many grass types to choose from, each with its different features, advantages, and drawbacks. By considering your needs, lifestyle, and maintenance requirements of each type, you’ll be able to choose the best grass seed and create the lush, green lawn you desire.