Grasses Part 3 – Warm Season Grasses

Warm season grasses are obviously the opposite of the cool grasses. Several of the warm season grasses adapt favorably to the warm summers of the Atlanta area. These are grasses that grow well when the temperature ranges between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Warm season grasses are perennial, so they don’t have to be planted every year, and thrive in the dry, hot summer months, when cool season grasses dry up and go dormant. Certain warm season grass species also are more tolerant of poorly drained soils or soils with poor water holding capacity. But they are slow to establish, taking as long as two years to get a good start. They don’t work well as a quick cover for erosion control.

Establishing a stand of warm season grass takes at least two years and often longer, especially if weeds aren’t well managed. Thus warm season grasses often frustrate gardeners during their first year. Many warm season grasses fare better when started from sprigging, plugs or sod than from seed.

Warm season grasses are also known for their ability to spread by the production of rhizomes and stolons. Rhizomes are stems that grow horizontally just below the soil surface while stolons are horizontal stems that grow on top of the soil. Stems from common Bermuda grass can grow to be several feet long. The most common warm season grasses used in our area include Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, Centipede grass and Zoysia grass

Bermuda:

Bermuda grass originally came from Africa. It is found on many lawns, sports parks and yards around Atlanta. It is a creeping grass and roots penetrate deep into the ground. Bermuda can grow in poor soil but it requires heavy rainfall to grow. Common Bermuda grass is drought resistant, grows on many soils, and makes a good turf if fertilized and mowed right.

Hybrid Bermuda Grasses: Compared with common Bermuda, these grasses have more disease resistance, greater turf density, better weed resistance, fewer seedheads, finer and softer texture and a more favorable color. They also produce no viable seed and must be planted by vegetative means (sprigs, sod).

The hybrids also require more intensive maintenance for best appearance. Frequent fertilization and close mowing, edging, and dethatching are needed to keep them attractive.

  • Tifway (419)- dark green, fine texture, dense
  • Tifway II- dark green, fine texture, dense, tolerates colder temperatures
  • Tifgreen (328)- medium green, fine texture, very dense
  • Midway- dark green, medium texture, dense, tolerates colder temperatures

St. Augustine:

St. Augustine is warm season, perennial grass that is also used in the Atlanta area. St. Augustine originated from the gulf coastal areas, Caribbean Islands and parts of Africa. It has spread nearly every where, especially coastal areas. Now due to irrigation and land treatments it is in much demand as a lawn coverage.

St. Augustine grass has been grown only from vegetative propagation (sod, plugs) means until recently. This grass is rarely sprigged for home lawn establishment, but this method is used on nursery farms to grow sod and can be used for home lawns.

St. Augustine grows quite well with a starter fertilizer added into the soil at the time of planting and fertilization monthly until fully established. St Augustine requires plenty of water on well draining soils with seasonal rains or watering systems for full establishment. Once it is fully developed in areas of consistent rainfall it grows rather well on its own, but further inland and in drought conditions it will have to be watered and fertilized to maintain a lush stand.

Centipede Grass:

Centipede Grass is a low, medium textured, slow growing, but aggressive grass that can produce a dense, attractive, weed-free turf. It is more shade tolerant than Bermuda grass but less shade tolerant than St. Augustine and Zoysia grass. Since centipede produces only surface runners, it is easily controlled around borders of flower beds and walks. Centipede grass is native to China and southeast Asia and ranks between Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass in leaf width, shoot density, and stem size.

Centipede grass is slightly more cold tolerant than St. Augustine grass, but extended periods of cold can kill both Centipede grass and St. Augustine grass.

Zoysia:

The term “zoysia grass” encompasses a particular collection of grasses that originated in the temperate locales of Asia. Zoysia grasses are warm season grasses native to China, Japan, and other parts of Southeast Asia. In 1911, zoysia matrella grass was introduced to U.S. shores from Manila by a U.S. botanist named C.V. Piper. This is, no doubt, why zoysia grass is also called Manila grass.

There are several species and cultivars of zoysia grass used for home lawns. Some of these are:

  • Japanese or Korean lawn grass
  • Meyer zoysia grass
  • Emerald zoysia grass
  • Zenith zoysia grass
  • El Toro zoysia grass
  • Compadre zoysia grass

Although these species and cultivars do vary somewhat in their appearance, color, growth rate, and texture, zoysia grasses are cross-compatible and can safely be considered as one species, zoysia grass, to those of us that aren’t botanists and just want a good looking, warm season lawn.

Zoysia is a warm season grass that can be grown further north than many of the other warm season grasses. It makes one of the most beautiful, carpeted lawns when fully established.

Zoysia is slow to establish but aggressive and competes with weeds for its own space. Zoysia holds up well to wear, is tolerant to various soil types, is drought tolerant and requires less fertilizer than St. Augustine or Bermuda grass. Zoysia does have a slow rate of growth, can’t tolerate over-watering and is not good for cold weather

Need help in determining the best type of grass for your lawn. Click here or call us at (770) 979-5171

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Grasses Part 2 – Cool Season Grasses

There is no “best” grass. If you want a green lawn all year you may need to jump through all kinds of “hoops”, like sewing cool season seed into a warm season lawn every year in the fall. The type of grass you may need to plant in your lawn depends entirely on the site and the traits you’re looking for. Do you mind mowing a lot, or would you rather have a low maintenance turf? Do you have sun or shade, clay or sandy soil; do you want green all year around? What part of the country do you live in, north, south, east or west?

There are many different grass varieties but there are basically just two broad categories or grass types. They are either “cool season” or “warm season” grasses. Warm season grasses like, bermuda and zoysia, grow mostly from June through September during the hot summer months. Some warm season grasses grow better in the warm humid atmosphere of the American Southeast. Other warm season grasses grow better in the warm air of the Southwest. Cool season grasses like tall fescue, grow mostly in the spring and fall when air temperatures are cooler. Like warm season grasses some varieties fare much better in different areas. Some cool climate grasses are more suited for the cool humid Northeast while others grow better in the cool arid climate of the Midwest.

Zones for Turf Grass selectionAtlanta, Georgia, home of Precision Lawn Care, is located in a transition zone which reaches from middle Georgia to the Texas Panhandle and up through Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia. Being located in the lower part of this transition zone enables Atlanta residents a great opportunity to choose between the best of warm season grasses and cool season grasses. For that reason the next series of post will deal with the types of turf grasses used in the Atlanta area. This post will deal primarily with cool season grasses while in the next we cover warm season grasses appropriate for the Georgia, Alabama climate.

Cool season grasses include Bent, Bluegrass, Fescue (Creeping Red Fescue, Chewings Fescue, Sheeps Fescue, Hard Fescue, and Tall Fescue*), Orchard, Ryegrass and Timothy and mixtures thereof. In this post we will cover mainly Bluegrass, Fescues and Ryegrass. *Tall Fescue is considered both a cool and warm season grass.

Not all grasses are available as seed – some have to be bought as plugs, or turf. But, most cool climate grasses can be seeded during the cool months of spring and fall when temperatures average 60 – 75 F. When planting cool season grasses in the spring, care should be taken to ensure that the young plants have plenty of time to root before we reach the high temperatures of summer months or your lawn will be injured.

Kentucky Bluegrass
Kentucky bluegrass is the most common cool season grass and probably the best known. There are many varieties which grow well in and north of the upper piedmont areas of Georgia. While it does best in partial shade it does poorly in extremely shady areas. It will grow in open sun if adequate moisture is present. It is not recommended for extremely hot climates and will require supplemental irrigation during hot, dry periods. Kentucky bluegrass creates a high quality lawn. It has been around for many years and is now available in many different blend formulations. Kentucky bluegrass has a moderate growth pattern and does spread and will fill in bare spots.

Fine Fescue
Three grasses go under the common name of fine fescue: chewings fescue, creeping red fescue, and hard fescue. All three survive extreme cold and combine well with other cool-season grasses. Fine Fescues are not normally used in the Atlanta area. Fine Fescues are more cold and shade tolerant than Tall Fescue, but both are used though-out much of the Central to Northern USA states

Tall Fescue
Perhaps the most popular grass in the mountain and upper piedmont areas of Georgia is tall fescue. This is a perennial bunch-type grass that grows rapidly and requires frequent mowing in the spring and fall. Tall fescues are more drought resistant, disease resistant and wear tolerant than many other lawn grasses such as bluegrass or perennial ryegrass because roots penetrate deeper into the soil. Tall fescue needs more water than the warm-season grasses to stay green during the summer. It is quickly established from seed and grows well in full sun as well as moderate shade. Tall fescue will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.

Tall fescues must remain dense to keep blades thin. Proper mowing and fertilizing practices help keep blades thin. Lawns planted in tall fescue tend to thin out and become “clumpy” thus requiring reseeding every other year or more.

Kentucky-31
Kentucky 31 is the old, common variety of tall fescue grown in Georgia. Kentucky 31 is an economical, low maintenance Tall Fescue variety that is unique for its increased heat tolerance when compared to other fescue varieties. It has a coarse texture and light green color, is easy to establish, and tolerates both wear and drought.
Most of the new cultivars referred to as “turf-type” tall fescues have slightly narrower leaf blades, slower vertical growth rates, greater density and shade tolerance than K-31. As a result, if properly managed, most turf-types will produce a better turf than K-31.

Ryegrasses
There are many varieties of perennial ryegrass, and depending upon the environmental conditions, they may behave as an annual or perennial. As its name suggests, annual ryegrass dies as summer approaches. Both are suited for temporary cool-season turfgrasses throughout Georgia. Ryegrass germinates quickly and can be used as a temporary ground cover while the slower growing turf grass plants take hold. Ryegrasses can also be used for overseeding warm season grasses to provide a green cover during the winter. However, overseeding may damage the warm-season grass unless managed correctly in the spring because the ryegrass competes for moisture, sunlight and nutrients.

Things You Should Know About Cool Season Grasses

  • Cool season grasses are suitable for places with cold winters. They are fare well in warm summers that do not get too hot.
  • The grasses require supplemental lawn irrigation.
  • They can withstand some extended periods of drought by going dormant.
  • Cool season grasses will die if the extended droughts go beyond four weeks.
  • The grasses grow actively during the spring and fall when the temperatures of the soil falls to 65 degrees and under.

The most important factor in developing and maintaining an attractive and problem-free lawn is to choose a grass that is adapted to your area and has the qualities you desire. Cool season or warm season varieties work well in the Atlanta area. Need help with your selection, Give us a call!

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