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ALASKA HAWAII MIDWEST NORTHEAST PACIFIC NORTHWEST SOUTHEAST SOUTHWEST WEST Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4 Zone 5 Zone 6 Zone 7 Zone 8 Zone 9 Zone 10
What is this To help gardeners understand which plants will grow well for them, the entire USA has been segmented into ‘Plant Hardiness Zones’.

How to Choose the Best Grass Seed

Choosing grass seed can quickly become an overwhelming task. A homeowner might want grass for the lawn, the ornamental garden, erosion control, pasture for livestock, as a weed-suppressing ground cover, or as a nutrient-boosting cover crop. There are different grasses that thrive in different regions and climates, available sunlight, and soil type. With all these factors in mind it can take some thought to choose the best grass seed for your particular need.

Understanding the different types of grass can help you determine how to find what will be best suited for your project. To start, grasses are categorized as either a cool season grass or a warm season grass.

Choose the Best Grass Seed: Understanding Cool Season and Warm Season Grasses

Cool season grasses grow most actively between 60f and 75f.

Northern regions that have a cool spring and autumn with cold winters and moderate summers are dominated by cool season grasses.

Warm season grasses dominate in the southern regions where they thrive in summer temperatures between 80f and 95f.

Understand that this concept does not mean the northern regions only have cool season grasses and the southern regions only have warm season grasses. For the most part, grasses are mixed in the landscape. However, when selecting new seed for your project, cool versus warm season grasses will give you the best starting point.

A great way to get around the warm vs. cool conversation, is to choose a native grass seed mix to plant, as there are mixes created to thrive in every region. Going native often involves less maintenance; because the grass adapted to its particular location over a long period of time, it often does very well with little attention.

Choose the Best Grass Seed for Your Region

Best Grass Seed for Northeast, Midwest, and Pacific Northwest Regions:

Cool season grasses dominate these northern regions. They green up faster in the spring and stay green longer through the autumn, tolerating the cool temperatures and mild frosts. Keep in mind that if the summer temperatures spike and there is a lack of water, these cool season grasses will go dormant. This is the cause of “browning out” on lawns in the heat of summer. With supplemental watering in the peak of summer, however, this dormancy can be avoided. If you don’t supplement watering, don’t worry! Your lawn will green up again once the temperatures cool and the grass comes out of dormancy.

The best time to plant your cool season grass mix is when the air temperature is 65-70o. Planting in the spring when the temperature reaches 60o or planting in the autumn when the days start cool down to 75o are both effective times of year to plant. Because these are cool season grasses that go dormant in the heavy heat, the germination will be very poor if planted in the middle of summer.

Lawn and Turf Grasses for Cool Climates

Bluegrasses, ryegrasses, and fescues are the most reliable grasses for turf. When choosing to seed turf, blended seed mixes are the best option. This allows your lawn to have many different species – a ‘polyculture’, instead of acting as a ‘monoculture’ where only one variety is present. Polycultures, or mixed-specie plantings, offer the best defense against pests and disease.

Having a blend in your lawn also allows different grasses to dominate in the areas that they are best suited to within your lawn. For example, over time shade-loving grasses will dominate the edges and under trees, while the sun-lovers will start do the same in open areas; creating a landscape that is green and thriving in all locations.

Low Work and Water Dwarf Fescue Grass Seed, is a great option for turfgrass in these northern regions. With its blend of fescue varieties, it creates a lush lawn with very little maintenance required.

Another option for your lawn is No Mow Lawn Grass Seed, which blends six different short fescues. These grasses grow very slowly and lush. If you want to avoid mowing, it will give you a soft and waving lawn about 4-6 inches tall. To keep it more formal, mowing only has to occur every 4 to 6 weeks due to the slow growth rate.

Hard Fescue Grass Seeds are ideal for those areas that the mower can’t reach. With a beautiful emerald green color and slow growth rate, it is a great choice to create more naturalized areas that don’t require mowing.

Pasture and Meadow Grasses for Erosion Control in Cool Climates

Our Orchard Grass Seed is a great solution to plant for cool-season livestock grazing, hay production, or erosion control. Getting to about 18” tall, it is also loved by birds for ground nesting, foraging, and winter cover.

Our other mixes for pastures and grazing are specially suited to your needs. Between ,a href="/grass-and-groundcover-seeds/pasture-grass-seeds/sheep-pasture-seed-mix">Sheep Pasture Seed Mix, Cattle Grazing Seed Mix, and Horse Pasture and Hay Seed Mix, there are many options to find the diverse and nutrient rich grasses for your pastures.

Some great options for erosion control or a tall meadow include our Smooth Bromegrass Seeds,and Canada Wild Rye Grass Seeds. These are all tall perennial grasses that function as ground cover soil stabilizers and attract wildlife to your meadow.

Best Grass Seed for Southeast, Southwest, and Western Regions:

Southern regions are dominated by warm season grasses. These are tough and drought-resistant grasses that don’t need a ton of supplemental watering to thrive in the heat. The best planting time for warm season grasses is late spring to early summer. When daytime temperatures reach about 80o, the grass will germinate (sprout) quickly and have the best chance at establishing successfully.

Lawn and Turf Grasses for Warm Climates

Lawns in the southern regions are dominated by bermudagrass, bahiagrass, and buffalo grass. These take longer to green up in the spring and go dormant in the autumn faster than cool season grasses. However, they require very little water to thrive in the extreme heat and drought conditions, as opposed to cool season grasses that will brown out. While many cool season grass lawns function in a blended seed mix, warm season grasses look more appealing as a uniform variety due to their very diverse textures and colors.

Our Buffalo Grass Seeds is a great option for a low maintenance and drought tolerant lawn.

Pasture and Meadow Grasses for Erosion Control in Warm Climates

Switchgrass Shelter Seeds provide a perennial grass that stabilizes soil and will produce pasture hay. Growing 48 to 72 inches tall it attracts wildlife.

Other low maintenance grass seed mixtures are our Short Grass Seed Mixture and Tall Grass Seed Mixture will cover dry areas and wetter areas respectively.

Our Blue Grama Grass Seed is another drought tolerant option that grows up to 24 inches tall. It produces food for and attracts wildlife.

Ornamental Grasses Look Great in any Landscape

Regardless of the region, many ornamental grasses are a combination of cool and warm season grasses. As long as the particular plant will survive in your hardiness zone they are fun to mix and match. Keep in mind their preference for growing; cool season ornamentals will grow earlier in the spring but might turn brown and be ready to be cut back in the summer. Warm season ornamentals will take a longer time to start growing but will fill in to full height once temperatures are hot enough.

Warm Season Ornamentals:

Cool Season Ornamentals:

  • Sheep Fescue - Common on banks and along water for its deep rooted stabilization, it provides neat and tidy clumps of feathery texture that pairs well with flowering perennials.
  • Slender Wheatgrass - Reaching about 2.5’ tall, this is a great option for erosion protection in the spring while the warm season grasses slowly establish.
  • Indian Ricegrass – This cool season bunch grass with delicate foliage gets 1-2’ tall. Very drought tolerant, it has a dainty inflorescence that provides a light and airy look.

Remember that there are no limits to what you plant if the grass will live in your hardiness zone. Next season, pay attention to if you have any grasses that take longer than others to start growing in the spring, or that brown out as soon as the summer heat comes. Now you can identify your garden’s cool and warm season grasses and understand why they grow the way they do!

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