The Best Grass for Lawns in the Mid-South
on Thursday, February 28, 2019
Residential Property Tips
In the lawn care world, the Mid-South falls into the “Transition Zone.” It’s a region of the United States with what’s known as a transitional climate where it’s not as cold as up north and not as hot and humid as further south.
The Transition Zone is a sweet spot for lawn grass. Both cool-season and warm-season grasses can grow. Unfortunately, neither is ideally suited for the region and many grass varieties can’t survive through all seasons.
That presents a major dilemma for homeowners: What type of grass will grow best on my lawn?
The 5 Best Types of Grass for the Transition Zone
There are thousands of species of grass but the options for your lawn are much more limited. Only 50 or so types of grass can even grow thick enough to establish a good lawn and stand up to regular lawn maintenance. Of those 50, a mix of five warm-season and cool-season grasses are used with success in the Mid-South.
Many lawns in the Mid-South are full of Bermudagrass. This warm-season grass is drought-resistant and heat-tolerant and holds up to heavy traffic.
Bermudagrass is so versatile that it grows in more than 100 different countries. But it does have its downsides. Bermuda requires full sun and good drainage. It’s not the best grass for shady areas or lawns that hold a lot of moisture. It doesn’t tolerate the cold as well as other warm-season grasses and goes dormant when temps drop below 60°F.
2. Kentucky Bluegrass
Kentucky is The Bluegrass State, so this type of grass is widely known. It’s a cool-season grass commonly found in Kentucky and northern states. That makes it better suited to keep growing when temps drop into the 40s and 50s for the winter months.
Kentucky Bluegrass is a perennial, so it comes back year after year. But it’s shallow roots don’t hold up well in heat and drought. As you get south of Kentucky into the warmer climates of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, watering becomes critical to make it through the hot summers without going dormant.
3. Tall Fescue
Another cool-season grass, tall fescue is a lower maintenance option than Kentucky Bluegrass and is more widely planted in Tennessee for that reason. But it’s even less drought-tolerant and has to be supplemented with lots of watering or a warm-season grass to keep your lawn green in the summer months.
Fescue has a coarser texture that can handle the heavy traffic of athletic fields and playgrounds. So if you have active kids, this can help keep your lawn free from the bare spots created by foot traffic and playtime. It also does well in the shade, making it a great choice for yards with a lot of trees.
Perennial ryegrass is a high-maintenance variety. This cool-season grass needs supplemental watering starting in the spring to maintain its greenery in warmer temps.
Aside from watering, ryegrass is quite durable. It grows quickly and stands up to wear and tear better than any other cold-season lawn grass. It’s most commonly used for overseeding a warm-season lawn to keep a beautiful lawn throughout winter.
Zoysia is a more versatile warm-season grass than Bermuda. It grows best in moderate sunlight — perfect for lawns with some tree coverage that provide a mix of sun and shade throughout the day. It forms a dense turf that crowds out weeds, naturally resists disease, and tolerates traffic.
Zoysia’s higher tolerance for cold means it greens up quick in the spring and holds its color longer into the fall. It grows slowly in the months in between, meaning less lawn maintenance. But if you love your mower and hate lawn damage that doesn’t repair itself quickly, Zoysia probably isn’t the right choice for your yard.
How to Choose the Right Lawn Grass
All five varieties of grass are common in the Transition Zone. The best grass for your lawn depends on your location, sun-shade mix, and lawn maintenance preferences. If you live farther south, you’ll probably be happier with a warm-season grass. If your lawn is shady, fescue and Zoysia are your best bets.
Use this guide to weigh the pros and cons of the popular grass varieties in the region and find the one best suited to your lawn.
Everyone wants a lush, green lawn. Choosing a lawn grass that tolerates your climate, holds up to your family’s activities, and fits your preferences is a great first step. With a proper lawn care plan, you can enjoy a beautiful lawn all year long.
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