Does your lawn need a little seeding TLC? Not all grasses are the same and different varieties will thrive in different climates. So which grass is right for upstate New York lawns?
In New York state, cool season grasses are the most common grasses found. Cool season grasses include varieties like Kentucky Bluegrass, fine fescues, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrasses.
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What are Cool Season Grasses?
Cool season grasses are types that thrive in areas with freezing winters and hot summers. Northern states across the country are typically optimal cool season grass states. These grasses grow best in temperatures ranging from 65-80 degrees F. Due to this, spring and fall are their optimal growing seasons. In upstate New York, grass seed is ideally planted in late summer/early fall. Typically, this window is August 15th to September 15th. Seeding during this period provides an excellent environment for seed germination due to warm soil, cool temps, and steady rain. If you choose to plant in early spring or summer, your lawn is more likely to face a tougher battle with weeds. An early fall seeding is more likely to result in a thicker, more lush lawn for the following year!
Now that we have established what cool season grasses are and when best to plant them, let us examine the most common types found in upstate New York.
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Kentucky Bluegrass (no it isn’t Smurf blue!) is the most common grass found in New York. It is the most tolerant of our examples of the cold New York winters. During the hot, dry summers, it will usually turn brown if irrigation is not provided, but Kentucky Bluegrass revives quickly with the return of rains and cooler weather. This is called dormancy and Kentucky Bluegrass is well-known for being strong enough to survive longer dormancy without lasting damage. There have been developments in varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass that are making it more drought-resistant, making this grass species a contender for perfect year-round grass. Kentucky Bluegrass is prone to disease, however. A mixture of bluegrass types helps fight against disease but be on the lookout for “Leaf Spot”, “Melting Out Disease”, and “Rust” types of disease in your yard. Bluegrass planted in New York is frequently blended with other cool season grasses, specifically perennial ryegrass. As is recommended for mowing cool season grasses, mow Kentucky Bluegrass to a minimum length of three inches.
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Fine Fescue grasses are fine-leaved turf grasses best in shaded, low-moisture soil. These grasses grow best in sandy soils with good drainage so consider topping your soil with a layer of sand to optimize conditions. Too frequent watering, excess fertilizer, and poorly-drained soil lead to this type of grass’ major downfall. Fine fescues are frequently found in mixtures with other cool season grasses instead of being planted solo. Consider these grasses for low-maintenance, shaded yards. Again, mow these grasses to a minimum height of three inches.
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Tall fescues are becoming more and more popular in New York state given their tolerance to disease and optimal growing conditions. Though labeled a cool season grass, this grass does not as readily withstand overly harsh winters so planting them too far north will not yield positive results. It is, however, more heat tolerant. They grow very quickly during their growing seasons and therefore need mowing more frequently than other grass varieties. As it is not compatible with other grasses, plant this type of grass by itself. Tall fescue is more ideal for a transition zone planting and therefore is less likely to be your ideal selection when compared to the previous two grass varieties.
If you are planting new grass this year, remember to plant during the ideal window of late summer to early fall. Consider your lawn and its conditions before choosing which type of grass is right for you. The Kentucky Bluegrass is the most popular and common but that does not mean other cool season grasses will not yield the lawn you desire. Have you considered which grass you will be planting this year? Tell us your preference!