By Lance Forsee, owner of Colonial Lawn & Garden – as featured in the Giant Nickel in March of 2017
“A rose is a rose” – Poetic yes, far from true when talking roses or lawns! Folks innocently apply this mindset when it comes to their lawn… or that of their neighbors – “I want my lawn to look like the Joneses next door… but it never does, why?” Turf grasses are not all the same! We can nurture the grasses comprising our lawns to be the best they can be, but what they can be is limited by the genetic makeup of the plant. Turf varieties vary greatly throughout the northwest, and have improved tremendously over the past few years. The first grouping we use to differentiate grass types is between “warm season” and “cool season” types.
Warm season grasses thrive in heat, but go fully dormant (brown) at the first frost and don’t green up until late spring. Think Zoysia or Bermuda grasses. Unfortunately, too many have bought into the ubiquitous magazine advertisements promoting Zoysia – “never needs watering, crowds out weeds, seldom needs mowing…” Some truth, however, if it sounds too good to be true… it most likely isn’t. If you have Zoysia or Bermuda, you will know what I mean. Deeply rooted, with shallow creeping stolons that attempt to take over the whole neighborhood!
Cool season varieties are best suited for central Washington lawns. They do not go truly dormant in the winter. Being “cool season” they do slow down when temperatures approach triple digits. Within the cool season group, we have a sundry of species from which to choose; we have fine fescue, turf-type tall fescue, bent, rye and Kentucky Blue grass. Within each species exist hundreds of individual cultivars. Turf breeders never rest their quest to develop the perfect turf. However, each cultivar will have its strength and weaknesses. Therefore, for YOU to have the “perfect lawn,” you must choose the best grass or mixture of grasses suitable for your environment, sun/shade, intended use and maintenance commitment. To appeal to the varying needs of the masses, most seed packages will be a mixture of fescue, rye and Kentucky Blue grass. Survival of the fittest dictates which species thrives in the environment. A little on-line research will reveal the characteristics of each brand of seed.
Improved elite Kentucky Blue grass is by far my personal favorite. I recommend a three-way blend of top performers. Kentucky Blue grass is not without fault; it is a slow germinator and susceptible to disease, such as necrotic ring spot. Gratefully newer hybrids are more resistant. That said, a monoculture stand of Kentucky Blue grass is hard to beat when maintained at a high level. My second choice, and really the best choice for most lawns in our region, is an 80/20 mix of improved Kentucky Blue and perennial type rye grass. This combo establishes quicker and is more disease resistant than straight Kentucky Blue. Whatever choice you make, look for “improved” varieties. More expensive, but the cost differential is insignificant in the life of your lawn.
Conclusion: If your lawn is not meeting your expectations, despite expert care, consider renovation with newer, improved varieties. You will be amazed and the neighbors will be the ones asking, “why can’t my lawn look like yours?”
For more information, give us a call. We love talking about turf and landscape solutions.