Grasses vary considerably in many ways. They look different, require different climatic conditions, tolerate different kinds of use, and demand varying amounts of care. As you choose a grass for different areas of your property you will have different goals in mind so knowing what the many kinds of grasses have to offer will aid the selection process. While going through the list, remember that not all grasses will grow everywhere, and your choice of lawn grass is limited by climate and soil conditions that are beyond your control.
Here is a list of factors to take into consideration when choosing a grass. It starts with the most important ones that are set by the climate.
Temperature: Some grasses like it warm and others like it cool. Cool weather grasses thrive in the cool, moist environments where summers are warm and short, and winters are cold. They will go dormant and turn brown if the summer becomes hot and will be brown in winter. Warm weather grasses, grow well in heat but don’t like freezing soil temperatures and may turn brown in winter.
Water: Warm weather grasses generally are more drought tolerant than cool weather grasses but cultural practices are important in regard to drought tolerance.
Light: Most grasses thrive in full sun but some can tolerate various amounts of shade better than others.
Disease: Most diseases thrive in warm moist conditions so climate will make a big difference to lawn disease problems but some grasses are more resistant to disease than others. Cultural practices also make a big difference in the appearance and control of disease.
Soil Nutrients: Most grasses need a good supply of nutrients, especially nitrogen, to grow and be green. There are some, however, that are less demanding than others.
Traffic: Play and sports areas need grasses that can take a lot of wear; a lawn that is part of a landscape does not. There are grasses for both areas and ones in between.
Recovery from damage: Your lawn may suffer damage after an active soccer season and you will want it to recover quickly. Some grasses recover more quickly than others.
Estahlishment rate. Some grasses can be established more quickly than others so if you need a new lawn in a hurry, or need a total make over quickly, consider one of those that fill in quickly.
Salt Tolerance: Lawns in coastal or desert areas, or where salts are likely to be put into the atmosphere or soil, need grasses that can tolerate high salt concentrations. There are not many cool weather grasses that tolerate salt but a few warm weather grasses do.
Thatch: Thatch problems lead to other problems that caused the decline of a lawn so if thatch is common in your lawn or area you might want to consider a grass that is slow to produce thatch.
Mowing Height: Some lawns, like a putting green, are cut very short, others like a meadow lawn can be cut long. Generally speaking, cool weather grasses need a higher cutting height than warm weather grasses.
Texture: One of the most beautiful aspects of grass is aesthetic, its texture. Texture is a function of grass leaf width with the thinnest leaves producing the finest texture.
Cost in time and money: Lawns aren’t cheap and some grasses are much more expensive and time consuming to maintain than others.
When you decide on the qualities you desire in a lawn grass remember that you probably can’t have them all. Not all good characteristics are available in a single kind of grass and you will have to make tradeoffs. Some of the warm weather grasses, for example, have unique qualities but since they won’t grow in cold areas you can not take advantage of those unique qualities unless you live in a warm area.
The first decision you have to make is whether your climate will support a cool weather grass or warm weather grass. Trying to grow a grass with the wrong temperature tolerance will end badly. Be realistic and get advice about temperature tolerance from your local extension agent or nursery and then make your other choices.