Not all grasses are created equal. In Idaho, most home lawns are composed of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, fine fescue or a combination of the four. These grasses are classified as cool-season turfgrasses and are well adapted to northern regions of the U.S. They grow rapidly in the spring and fall when soil temperatures are around 55 – 65° F. Their growth is slower in the summer as both air and soil temperatures rises. These four grasses differ in their adaptation to shade and cold temperature, as well as in their color, texture, maintenance requirements, and growth habit.
Their are two basic growth paterns of lawn grasses, bunch-type and spreading, and the growth habit affects how quickly they spread into bare areas. Bunch-type grasses grow in clumps and spread very slowly by tillers, which are secondary stems that grow vertically from the base of the plant. Spreading type grasses, in addition to tillers, produce stems that grow horizontally either underground (rhizomes) or aboveground (stolons), and can fill in bare or damaged areas much more quickly than bunch-type grasses.
So which grass should you plant if you are establishing a new lawn, renovating or re-seeding an existing lawn? Unfortunately, the answer is, “it depends.” There are many important factors that need to be considered such as the intended use of the lawn, the amount of care it will receive, and the environment. Will it be a showcase lawn for the neighbors to admire, or will it be the type of lawn that violates your subdivisions landscape covenants? Do you have pets? Will you have lots of barbeques and foot traffic on the lawn? Once you have determined the quality level and intended use, you can choose the grass best suited to your specific needs. Even if you already have a lawn established, it is important to know what type of grass you have so that you can fine tune your management practices to best suit the needs of that particular grass.
Click on the links above to find descriptions of the four most common lawn grasses in Idaho including information about adaptation, identification characteristics, growth habit, advantages, disadvantages, management considerations, and variety selection.