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Grass seed is planted for a variety of uses such as lawns, pastures, reclamation areas and erosion control. Besides the obvious uses listed above, grass performs an important role in our ecological system. Grass improves air quality as it absorbs dust and other pollutants, produces oxygen, works as a water filtration system, provides food and cover for insects and small animals as well as forage for livestock and wildlife. There are several things to consider before purchasing grass seed for new lawns, for overseeding damaged existing lawns, pasture or forage use. Please read through the material provided here to help you choose the correct grass type and plant it properly.

The Types of Grass

Grass can be categorized, as we have done below, with the types of grass being used for more than one purpose. For instance some pasture grass seed is also planted for home lawns.* Native grass can be used for reclamation sites, pastures, and lawns.

  • Native Grass - Grass that originates in the USA - This type of grass is becoming more popular for home lawns and farm pastures especially Buffalo grass.
  • Lawn Grass - Grass seed planted for commercial and home lawns - Most are not to be used for pasture or food plot forage
  • Pasture Grass - Grass that is used to graze horses and livestock
  • Grass For Food Plots - Grass used in wildlife food plots such as ryegrass
  • Turf Grass - Grass used for sports fields, golf courses

*Note: Many lawn grass seed species should NOT be planted for animal forage.

Cool Season & Warm Season Grass

Grass species can further be divided into two types that apply to your growing area -- cool-season and warm-season species.

Cool-season grasses originate in the north and grow best during the spring and fall. You should plant cool season grasses in the late summer or early fall. Most will go dormant and turn brown during the heat of summer. All types of cool season grass can be grown by planting seed. Warm season grasses such as bermuda grass are often used to overseed cool season grass in the summer months.

Warm-season grasses are best adapted to hot weather as they originate in the south. These grasses go dormant in the winter and turn brown. Plant warm season grass in the late spring after danger of frost. Some warm season grasses must be grown from grass plugs, sprigs or sod as they have been propagated vegetatively. Annual ryegrass is used to overseed warm season grass during the winter months.

Naturally the cool-season grasses grow well in the cooler regions of the northern United States and the warm-season species are best adapted to the warmer regions of the southern USA. But wait for some areas of the USA it is not so simple because the U.S. is actually divided into five climatic zones. Please see our next topic below.

The Types of Grass For Each of The Five Climatic Zones of The USA

However, grass species adaptation in the U.S. is a little more complicated in that the USA has four separate climatic zones of grass adaptation with a fifth area known as the transition zone. See the map below for a visual reference.

The cool humid zone is comprised of the Northeast, several states of the Midwest, and much of the Pacific Northwest. Cool season grass seed species such as Bluegrass, fescues, ryegrasses, and bentgrasses are best adapted to the cool humid zone. However, improved varieties of bermuda grass (Yukon, Mohawk), Buffalograss and Zoysiagrass, all warm season grasses, are found in the southwestern and southern parts of this region even though the growing season is shorter for these species. Grass Seed USA Planting Map

The cool arid zone of the U.S. includes much of the dryer areas of the Midwest and West. This is essentially a cool-season zone and any of the cool-season grasses can be used here if irrigation is available. Buffalograss is becoming widely used in the warmer parts of the region, such as Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado, on non-irrigated sites. Zoysia grass is also grown in the western and southern parts of this zone

Warm season species such as bermuda grass, centipede grass, bahia grass, zoysia grass are best adapted to the warm arid and warm humid regions of the U.S. Bermuda is one of the most widely used grass seed species in the warm humid zone, although it may suffer winter damage in the most northern sections of this zone. Improved bermuda grass cultivars, such as Yukon and Mohawk, have been developed with more cold tolerance than older varieties and can be used farther north in the warm humid zone. Zoysiagrass is also widely used throughout this zone while carpetgrass, centipede grass, bahia grass, and St. Augustine Grass are more common in the Gulf Coast region.

Bermuda grass seed is also one of the most planted seed species in the warm arid zone along with the ever popular Zoysia Grass although any of the warm-season species can be used if irrigation is available. Buffalograss is becoming increasingly popular in the more arid parts of this region. In both the warm arid and warm humid zones, cool-season species are often used for winter overseeding.

The transition zone (shown in orange on the map), is an area of the U.S. that includes parts of the other 4 zones shown on the map above. Traditionally this has been one of the harder areas to grow grass. With the advent of improved grass seed species and grass seed blends and mixtures the transition zone is not that difficult to grow grass in anymore. Grass seed that will establish well in the transition area can range from creeping red fescue, tall fescue, perennial ryegrass, native buffalo grass, and zoysia grass.

Please see our grass species chart below for planting information on warm and cool season grass.

Choosing Grass Seed

The steps to choosing the best grass seed for your lawn or pasture should include the following considerations.

  • Choose a grass that will grow where you live.

Grass seed researchers are constantly working to develop new grass cultivars for the different regions of the USA. The results of these tests can be found at www.ntep.org. You may find state by state information about lawn grass seed for your area at www.lawngrass.com where grass seed species are cataloged by state. Additionally, you can check with your local extension agent or the University Extension in your state. A good online resource for the University Extension System is www.extension.org or see our list of Extension Services by state at www.turfhelp.com/info/extension.html.

  • Buy quality grass seed.

Once you have selected a grass seed that will grow in your area, a source of high quality seed should be found. The quality of seed, although of upmost importance, is often neglected in the establishment process of turf, lawn or pasture grass. Poor quality seed will cause any grass establishment efforts to fail.

Unfortunately quality grass seed usually cannot be found at discount home and garden "chain" stores. Grass seed sold at these types of stores, even though they may carry a recognized name brand, generally are specified by the store's corporate buyers with said name brand creating a line of products to be sold at discount lawn and garden supply stores. In some locations you may be able to find a locally owned agricultural supply store that stocks high quality well adapted grass seed cultivars. The internet is an excellent source for finding quality, certified grass seed that can be shipped to your door. Seedland.com sells only high quality, tested and certified grass seed.

  • Read the bag or label for contents that should meet or exceed the following specifications:

All grass seed contains weeds - accept no more than 0.5% weed seed in your grass seed
To prevent damage to your lawn Grass Seed should contain 0% Noxious weeds
Inert matter, other than seed coating, should not exceed 2%
Other Crops should be less than 2% - None is best
Avoid grass seed mixtures and blends that read "Variety not stated"
Germination should be 85% or above
Seedland.com sells grass seed that meet or exceeds the above specifications.

  • Determine the amount and type of traffic your grass may experience.

The amount and type of traffic that will need to be tolerated by your grass is an important factor that many people forget to include when shopping for grass seed. Ask yourself if your grass lawn or pasture will need to tolerate low, medium, or high traffic volume. If you have pets such as dogs or you are choosing a pasture grass for grazing livestock then you need to buy a traffic tolerant grass.

Grass Seed Blends and Mixtures Explained

Single Variety grass seed is planted to achieve a particular look and feel.

Grass seed Blends can be useful in areas where the environment is variable and a number of different disease and/or insect problems exist. Blends are useful for areas where no one cultivar is resistant to all the major diseases or insect problems. If one grass seed variety is available that is resistant to all of the major disease and pest problems, then the use of a blend is not necessary.

A grass seed mixture contains more than one species of grass which increases the genetic diversity providing a high level of adaptation for problem areas. As an example consider this, in a lawn situation some areas may be shaded and others may receive full sun. Additionally, some areas may have a droughty, course-textured sandy soil and others may have a fine-textured poorly drained clay. A mixture containing Kentucky bluegrass and red fescue contains species that can adapt and become dominant in these different environmental conditions. Red fescue will dominate in shaded areas and on infertile droughty soils, while Kentucky bluegrass will do well in full sunlight and on imperfectly drained, moist, fertile soils. The two species may also complement each other if one of the species is severely damaged due to injury or disease.

Tips For Planting Grass Seed

There are many methods for planting grass seed as there many variables when planting grass seed. We will give you a basic outline here but recommend that you visit our informational site www.grassing.com for detailed information.

Soil testing should be the first step in any soil preparation for turf or lawn grass establishment. A soil test should be done well in advance of planting to allow time for adding any soil amendments that may be needed. This is the best time to add organic amendments or fertilizer, lime, and other materials that may be needed. Existing weeds, rocks, and other matter should be removed. Rough grading of the existing soil or any new topsoil (4 to 8 inches of top soil should be brought into sites in which it was removed) that was brought in is often necessary. Once the rough grading process has been completed, Then, mix in some organic material to help the soil retain water and rake it smooth. Next, a lawn starter fertilizer or organic alternative should be placed on the surface and worked into the soil to improve germination -- and help the new grass grow -- follow product recommendations .

Next you should sow the grass as evenly as possible following the directions on the bag or as directed by your seed supplier. You may sow the seed by hand for smaller areas or use a seed spreader for larger areas. Rake the seed lightly into the soil at the recommended depth -- see the chart below for grass seed type planting depth. For detailed information on seeding your grass please see our page http://www.grassing.com/seeding/index.html.

Cover the seed as instructed by your seed supplier-- see the chart below for common grass seed seeding depths. Water daily until seed germinates then water less frequently but heavily until grass is established. Generally, you may mow the grass when it reaches 3" high -- never remove more than 1/3 of the grass leaf when mowing.

Climate Zone Map For Growing Grass


Use this climate zone map developed specifically for the planting of grass to determine your 'climate zone'. Then refer to the Grass Species Planting Chart found below to determine which grass species will live in your location.

Grass Seed Species Planting Chart - With Climate Zone Map

Grass Types CLIMATE
MAP ZONE
SEED RATE
for Lawns
@ 1000 sq. ft.
Planting Depth When to Plant Best USDA*
Zones
Bahiagrass:
Pensacola
9-10 5-10 1/4" to 1/2" Spring / Summer 9 to 10
Bahiagrass:
Argentine
9-10 5-10 1/4" to 1/2" Spring / Summer Lower 9 to 10
Bentgrass 1 thru 9 & 11-12 1/2-1 1/4" to 1/2" Spring or Fall
(Fall is Best)
4 to 6
Bermuda 8-9-10-11-12 2-3 1/4" March - August 3 to11
Bluegrass 1-3-4-5-6-7-8 1-3 1/4" to 1/2" Feb-May
Sept - Nov
2 to 6
Carpetgrass 9-10 4-5 1/4" to 1/2" Spring / Summer Coastal 8-10
Centipede 8-9-10 1/4 - 1 1/4" Spring / Summer 7 to 10
Fescue:
Tall & KY-31
1-3-5-6-7-8 5-10 1/4" to 1/2" Spring or Fall
(Fall is Best)
4 to 7
Fescue:
Creeping Red
1-3-4-5-6-7-8 3-5 1/4" to 1/2" Spring or Fall
(Fall is Best)
3 to 7
Native-Buffalo 5 1-2 1/4" to 1/2" Spring 5 to 8
Ryegrass:
Annual
All zones 5-10 1/4" to 1/2" Fall All Zones(Seasonal)
Ryegrass:
Perennial
2 to 8
+All for overseeding
1-10 1/4" to 1/2" Spring or Fall
(Fall is Best)
3-6 Per.
7-10 Overseed
St. Augustine 9-10 1/2 - 1 1/4" to 1/2" Spring & April-August 8 to 10
Zoysia 8-9-10-11-12 1-2 (raw seed)
2-3 (coated)
1/4" to 1/2" Spring & April-August lower 5
to 10

Special Notes: The rates listed above are approximate guides. Higher seeding rates generally result in fast establishment times for grasses. - No warranty or guarantee, express or implied is provided based on using the above rates for planting your lawn. Different aspects, including soil, weather, seed quality, planting procedures, and other variables will determine the actual rate needed to seed your lawn.

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