Learn more about warm and cool season grasses with these tips.
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The climate will dictate whether you should choose a warm-season or a cool-season lawn grass, explains Dr. Tom Samples, a leading lawn expert and a professor at the University of Tennessee. Cool-season grasses grow well in spring and fall; warm-season grasses grow best when temperatures are between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Warm-season grasses are grown primarily in the southern United States. Zoysia, a warm-season grass, has some tolerance for cold temperatures, however, so you may find it growing north of the Mason-Dixon line. In areas where the soil freezes hard, zoysia is not suitable. It grows by runners that creep along the surface of the soil and sets down roots as it grows. It is referred to as a sod-forming lawn grass. Because it doesn't grow too rapidly, it's not as invasive as Bermuda grass.
In the South, Bermuda grass is quite popular, though many people consider it a weed. Hybrid Bermuda grass is usually established vegetatively by sodding or plugging, although some Bermudas are available from seed. The texture of Bermuda's runners is much finer than those of zoysia. Bermuda produces both above-ground runners, or stolons, and underground runners, or rhizomes, which readily creep into flowerbeds and other areas adjacent to the lawn. To keep Bermuda from growing out of the desired area, put down a vertical barrier made of plastic or metal as edging material. The looser and finer your soil, the deeper the barrier will need to be to contain underground runners.
Cool-season turf grasses such as tall fescue perform best at temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees. Fescue is a bunch-type grass rather than a sod-forming grass, and a fescue lawn grows as individual plants. Bunch-type grasses won't hold together in the form of sod unless the producer of the turf uses a biodegradable netting at planting time. This netting allows the grass to be harvested, rolled and laid out as sod.
Sod-forming grasses such as zoysia and Bermuda should be mowed at a much lower height than bunch-type grasses such as fescue. Mowing fescue too close to the crown, or growing point of the plant, can actually kill it.
Set your mower blade at the recommended mowing height for your type of lawn:
Bahia grass, 3" to 4"
St. Augustine grass, 2 1/2" to 3 1/2"
Common Bermuda grass, 1" to 2"
Hybrid Bermuda grass, 3/4" to 1"
Zoysia, 1" to 2"
Kentucky bluegrass, 2" to 3"
Tall fescue, 2" to 3"
Creeping red fescue, 2" to 3"
Perennial ryegrass, 1" to 2"