How To Choose The Best Grass Seed For Northern Lawns

How do you know which grass seed to buy when you’re standing in the lawncare aisle of the hardware store or garden center? There’s usually a dizzying array of packages with headlines like Sunny Mix, Shaded Lawns, Bluegrass Mix, Fast Growing, Playground Mix, etc. And there’s a wide variety of prices, some expensive, some cheap. How do you know which will give you the best lawn?

Whether we’re seeding a whole new lawn, or just repairing spots, we’d like the grass to look beautiful and develop into a long-lasting lawn. When surveying grass seed packages and comparing prices, the inexpensive types are poor investments, because the cheap grass ingredients aren’t best-suited for long-term lawn beauty.

Instead of using price as the guideline, look at the ingredient label instead. Most grass seed packages are mixtures of several types of grass species. The label tells what’s in the blend by percentages. Kentucky Bluegrass is the grass species best adapted to Northern climates, and is the region’s predominant lawn grass. Choose grass seed mixes that contain at least 30% to 60% Kentucky Bluegrass. There are many Kentucky Bluegrass cultivars, so you will usually find names like Kenblue Kentucky Bluegrass or Glade Kentucky Bluegrass, but look for the Kentucky Bluegrass key words. Many mixes contain several Kentucky Bluegrass cultivars, so add up the percentages to determine the 30 to 60% guideline.

Very few lawns are seeded with straight Kentucky Bluegrass cultivars. Most lawns perform best with a mixture of grass types, and besides Kentucky Bluegrass, the other desirable grasses are the fescues, which are present in smaller quantities than the Bluegrass. Named varieties of Creeping Red Fescue are the best shade-tolerant grass. For shaded lawn areas, select grass seed mixes that contain 15% to 30% Creeping Red Fescue.

Ryegrasses are also found in lawnseed mixes. Be cautious of mixes containing high percentages of annual ryegrass, which is a fast-growing grass, but it’s annual, meaning it will grow for one season, then die when winter comes. It’s cheap, so inexpensive blends often contain high percentages of annual ryegrass. A small percentage is ok.

Kentucky Bluegrass seed doesn’t germinate until soil temperature reaches about 50 degrees, so wait until early May to spread grass seed, otherwise it can be lost to wind and birds.

Happy Gardening! 

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