Seed Selection Guide
Ease of Establishment
It is important to consider environmental conditions at the time of planting. Adequate water is essential, but temperature also plays a pivotal role. Grasses prefer to germinate and establish during periods with warm days and cool nights, and with adequate moisture, most will germinate and establish rapidly. Cold nights in the springtime can slow things way down, and grasses can sometimes be resistant to germinating during periods when the nights are very warm.
Reduced light, reduced air flow, competition for water with tree roots, nutrient & pH issues – conditions in the shade introduce a lot of stress for a grass. Shaded areas should be mowed at a height of at least 3″, and other stresses, such as improper watering practices, and foot traffic, should be avoided to the extent possible. Some areas are just too shady – at least 3 hours of direct sunlight is required for even highly tolerant grasses to persist, and occasional overseeding may be warranted.
Performance Under Low Maintenance
When considering maintenance requirements, it is important to remember that under lower heights of cut and under irrigation, the nitrogen requirement will be higher. All grasses enjoy going uncut, however, turfgrasses have been bred to withstand frequent cutting, some to very low heights. Cutting encourages tillering which helps to promote a highly dense turf. Soil type, mowing height, site conditions, and the amount of wear all help determine the amount of maintenance that will be required.
Turfgrass selection is critical for areas that will receive high traffic. There are wide differences between species and varieties within a specie. In general, it is best to avoid fine fescues altogether. The turf should be maintained in top condition to facilitate wear tolerance and the ability to recuperate quickly. This means maintaining adequate fertility and irrigating to prevent drought stress. Carefully chosen turfgrasses maintained in top condition will create a turf that will hold up well under traffic, and will recover quickly from wear.
Performance Without Irrigation
Grasses have various survival mechanisms for periods of low moisture. Some have deep root systems allowing them access to water that is not available to species with shallower root profiles. Others persist because they go dormant to ride out drier periods. For top performance during drier periods, supplemental water should be considered as added stresses such as lower heights of cut, insect pressures, and traffic can compound the effects of drought. Grasses with endophyte enhancement have an added edge as this feature can aide in performance during dryer periods, by preventing damage from surface feeding insects which can amplify the effects of drought.