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Selecting Lawn Grasses. By: Matthew Flanders Dr. Keith Karnok Dr. Frank Flanders. Importance of a Lawn. The lawn and other landscape components should complement the house and provide a pleasant area for family activities. Importance of a Lawn.

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selecting lawn grasses

Selecting Lawn Grasses

By: Matthew Flanders Dr. Keith KarnokDr. Frank Flanders

importance of a lawn
Importance of a Lawn

The lawn and other landscape components should complement the house and provide a pleasant area for family activities.

importance of a lawn3
Importance of a Lawn

Sound establishment and maintenance practices will improve the appearance of your lawn.

importance of a lawn4
Importance of a Lawn

Unkept Lawns reflect the people who live there and are unappealing to the neighborhood.

selecting turfgrasses
Selecting Turfgrasses

The first and most important step is to choose the proper grass species.

building a good lawn
Building a Good Lawn

The characteristics of your site should be considered when selecting a turfgrass.

Grasses will not grow in incorrect conditions without any regard to your effort.

selecting turfgrasses7
Selecting Turfgrasses

Do not make the assumption that all grasses are alike. There are several grasses to choose from and they require various conditions and treatment for good growth. They also differ in appearance. Color variation is easily seen here.

selecting turfgrasses8
Selecting Turfgrasses

A homeowner should become familiar with the turfgrasses adapted to his/her area and then select a species based his/her personal preference and the environmental requirements of the species.

warm season vs cool season
Turfgrasses for Georgia can be divided into two categories, warm season and cool season.

If you live south of Atlanta and Athens you should not consider a cool season grass because of stress from summer heat and drought.

The warm season grasses generally can be grown all over the state, but with the exception of the North Georgia mountain areas.

Warm Season vs. Cool Season
types of grasses
Warm Season Grasses

Common Bermuda

Hybrid Bermuda

Centipede

St. Augustine

Zoysia

Bahia

Seashore Paspalum

Cool Season Grasses

Tall Fescue

Fine Fescue

Rye Grass

Kentucky Bluegrass

Types of Grasses
cool season grass characteristics
Cool Season Grass Characteristics
  • Cool season grasses as the name implies, grows best during the cool part of the year; fall, winter and early spring.
  • They are recommended only north of Atlanta and Athens area.
  • If properly managed the grasses will remain green all year.
  • The major problem of cool season grasses is the lack of heat tolerance.
types of cool season grasses
Tall Fescue

Fine Fescue

Rye Grass

Kentucky Bluegrass

Types of Cool Season Grasses
tall fescue
Tall Fescue
  • Most heat tolerant cool season grass
  • Easily established from seed
  • Very economical
tall fescue14
Tall Fescue

The biggest problem of fescue is that it doesn’t spread and becomes clumpy and spotty. It lacks rhizomes and stolons to fill in bare ground in the landscape.

tall fescue15
Tall Fescue

Reseeding is recommended each fall to reduces the gaps between clumps.

tall fescue16
Tall Fescue
  • Should be mowed to about 3 inches.
  • Shorter mowing will stress the grass especially during summer.
tall fescue17
Tall Fescue
  • Very Coarse Texture
  • Wide Leaf Blade
  • Unappealing to some
tall fescue18
Tall Fescue

Poorly managed fescue lawns quickly become unattractive.

fine fescue
Fine Fescue
  • Not widely used in Georgia
  • Less heat tolerance than tall fescue
fescue
Fescue

Varieties of fine fescue are being researched and there is promise of heat and drought tolerant varieties for the south.

kentucky bluegrass
Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Most popular lawngrass in the Northern United States
  • Limited to only the northern part of Georgia due to poor hear tolerance
kentucky bluegrass23
Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Medium Textured Grass
  • Found commonly in mixed stands with fescue
kentucky bluegrass24
Kentucky Bluegrass

The boat shaped leaf tips readily distinguish Kentucky Bluegrass.

ryegrass
Ryegrass
  • Two types: Annual and Perennial
  • Not usually grown in Georgia as a single grass lawns.
  • Used mostly to overseed dormant warm season grasses for winter color.
cool season grass mixes
Cool Season Grass Mixes
  • Sold commonly in Georgia.
  • Suitable for Georgia in or north of Athens or Atlanta or if your lawn has a variety of conditions such as sun and shade or dry and wet
  • Usually more expensive than single grass seed
  • There may not be any advantages over a single grass lawn.
warm season grass characteristics
Warm Season Grass Characteristics
  • A major disadvantage is that they become dormant and turn brown in the winter.
  • They can be overseeded with ryegrass to provide green color in the winter.
  • Grow during late spring, summer and fall.
types of warm season grass
Types of Warm Season Grass
  • Common Bermuda
  • Hybrid Bermuda
  • Centipede
  • St. Augustine
  • Zoysia
  • Bahia
warm season grasses vegetative reproduction
Warm Season Grasses- Vegetative Reproduction

Most of the finest grasses are hybrids and must be reproduced vegetatively. This can be slow if sprigged or plugged and expensive if completely sodded.

bermudagrasses
Bermudagrasses
  • Most popular warm season grass
  • Most adapted grass to Georgia
  • Can be mowed at short desirable lengths
bermudagrass
Bermudagrass
  • Selecting and breeding of bermudagrass has been present since 1950.
  • The University of Georgia Coastal Experiment Station in Tifton has been a leading producer of successful cultivars.
bermudagrass seed heads
Bermudagrass Seed Heads
  • Seeds are most abundant on common bermuda.
  • A very unattractive characteristic.
  • Hybrid breeds have been selected for their lower number of seed heads.
four groups of bermudagrass
Four Groups of Bermudagrass
  • Common (Arizona Common)
  • Improved Common or Seeded- have better color, density, or traffic tolerance than common bermuda, depending on the type.
  • Hybrid- produces sterile seed and can only be propagated vegetatively. Has a finer leaf blade than common.
  • Ultradwarf- relatively new, they are selected for their low mowing height. Used mostly for golf greens.
common bermudagrass
Common Bermudagrass
  • Distinguished by its coarse texture and open habit of growth.
  • Most widely used lawngrass in Georgia
  • Grows very easily
  • Can be reproduced by seeds
bermudagrass35
Bermudagrass

The difference in texture of the finer hybrid bermuda and the more course common Bermuda can be seen here.

bermudagrass hybrids
Bermudagrass Hybrids

Hybrid bermuda grasses can be very beautiful if given the extra care that is required.

bermudagrass hybrids38
Bermudagrass Hybrids

Tifgreen 328 is best used on golf greens, but can be used on lawns.

bermudagrasses for lawns
Bermudagrasses for Lawns

Tifway 419 is the most popular hybrid bermuda used for lawns. It is also well suited for golf fairways and football fields.

bermudagrass ultradwarf
Bermudagrass- Ultradwarf
  • Used only for golf greens
  • Selected for their close mowing ability
  • Have a high maintenance requirement
bermudagrass characteristics
Bermudagrass Characteristics
  • Bermuda is commonly confused with Zoysia
  • The leave angles are different for the two species. Bermuda leaves are at 45º angles, while Zoysia leaves are at 80 º angles.
  • Zoysia is also much stiffer and spindly to the touch than Bermuda.
zoysiagrass
Zoysiagrass
  • Provides a neat and clean appearance.
  • A slow grower
  • Cannot be grown from seed
  • Zoysia sod is expensive and the sprigs grow slow.
zoysiagrass43
Zoysiagrass

Zoysia can spread by stolons and rhizomes, shown here, as does bermuda.

zoysiagrass vs bermudagrass
Zoysiagrass vs. Bermudagrass

Zoysia and bermuda are difficult to tell apart. Bermuda leaves, on the right, stand at 45º angles to its stems. Zoysia, on the left, has leaves that stand at about 80º to its stems.

zoysiagrass46
Zoysiagrass

Zoysia makes a beautiful lawn but grow slowly and requires a lot of extra care. It can be grown in light shade, unlike bermuda.

zoysiagrass47
Zoysiagrass

These plots were planted at the same time, ten months ago. The zoysia has not spread as well as the bermuda.

meyer zoysia
Meyer Zoysia

The most widely used cultivar. Is known for its improved growing rate.

el toro zoysia
El Toro Zoysia

The El Toro variety is a high quality hybrid. This fine textured grass has a low growth habit, attractive color and high density. However, its cold tolerance is less than other varieties of Zoysia.

emerald zoysia
Emerald Zoysia
  • Very fine leaf texture
  • Poor cold tolerance
centipedegrass
Centipedegrass
  • Low Maintenance Required
  • Easily and economically established from seeds.
  • Less mowing and fertilizer needed than other grasses
centipedegrass52
Centipedegrass
  • Ability to grow in the sun or shade
  • Poor cold tolerance
  • Yellow-green color is unattractive to some homeowners
centipedegrass53
Centipedegrass
  • Coarse Texture
  • Opposite leaf arrangement
  • Single stem seed head
centipedegrass tifblair
Centipedegrass- Tifblair

Tifblair is a more cold tolerant variety of centipede, making it more suitable for North Georgia.

st augustinegrass
St. Augustinegrass

Very popular in the Coastal Plains Region of Georgia

but also grown successfully in the Athens-Atlanta area.

st augustinegrass56
St. Augustinegrass

Has large flat stems and wide coarse leaves. Lacks seeds, so must be propagated vegetatively. A very aggressive grass that spreads rapidly.

centipede st augustine
Centipede St. Augustine

St. Augustine is sometimes confused with centipede. Centipede (right) which has a narrower leaf and whose leaves are opposite on the stem. St. Augustine's leaves (left) are alternate on the stem and are much taller.

bahiagrass
Bahiagrass

Not usually recommended as a lawn grass, with the rapid production of unattractive seed heads being the most objectionable trait. Bahia is used mostly where quality is not important, such as roadsides and ditches.

seashore paspalum
Seashore Paspalum
  • Recently developed in Florida
  • Tolerates poor soils
  • High salt tolerance (Can even be irrigated with ocean salt water!)
  • Highly suitable for coastal regions
seashore paspalum60
Seashore Paspalum
  • Used mostly on golf courses near the coast
  • Can be mowed to an 1/8 inch height but ½ to 1 ½ is recommended.
seashore paspalum61
Seashore Paspalum
  • Seed heads grow quickly, however not enough viable seed is produced to be effective.
  • Vegetative propagation is used with stolons, rhizomes, and sprigs
selecting a grass
Selecting a Grass
  • Matching the proper grass to a site can be confusing.
  • Remembering all the characteristics of each grass is difficult for a beginner.
  • Find a grass that best suits your situation
shade tolerance64
Shade Tolerance

If the area is in deep shade, you should consider using a suitable ground cover or mulch.

wear tolerance
Wear Tolerance

Rating

Grass

Most Tolerant

Least Tolerant

Hybrid Bermuda

Common Bermuda

Bahia

Tall Fescue

Kentucky Bluegrass

St. Augustine

Centipede

Wear tolerance refers to the traffic or use of the grass. Areas that receive a lot of hard use, such as playgrounds and lawns where children play need a high wear tolerant grass like bermuda.

drought tolerance
Drought Tolerance

Rating

Grass

Excellent

Least Tolerant

Bahia

Bermuda

Zoysia

Tall Fescue

St. Augustine

Centipede

Drought can be a real problem during the summer in Georgia unless an irrigation system is installed. Assuming no irrigation bermuda and zoysia would be the best choice.

low temperature hardiness
Low Temperature Hardiness

Rating

Grass

Excellent

Very Poor

Kentucky Bluegrass

Tall Fescue

Zoysia

Bermuda

Centipede

St. Augustine

Bahia

A more critical factor in North Georgia. The colder winter temperatures can severely harm or even kill some warm season grasses.

high temperature hardiness
High Temperature Hardiness

Rating

Grass

Excellent

Very Poor

Bermuda

Bahia

Zoysia

Centipede

St. Augustine

Tall Fescue

Kentucky Bluegrass

A bigger factor in Central and South Georgia. Cool season grasses will suffer greatly in the summer.

maintenance
Maintenance
  • Generally, the higher quality lawn grasses, require the most hours of maintenance.
  • Low maintenance grasses, such as centipede, reduce time working on the lawn.
  • Grasses are best cut with a reel mower as seen here, although they may be too expensive to be practical for homeowners.
choosing a lawngrass
Choosing a Lawngrass

With a little study of the characteristics and requirements of various turfgrasses and a decision about what you really want in a lawn, the puzzle of “Choosing a Lawngrass” can be solved quite easily.

references
References

Emmons, Robert. Turfgrass Science and Management. 3rd Ed. Albany, NY: Delmar. 2000.

University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences “Turfgrass." Georgia Commodities. 2001. http://www.griffin.peachnet.edu/caes/turf (11 Nov 2002).