The Encyclopedia of Lawn Grasses

    By W.A. Roquemore

    Introduction

    On horses, houses, baseball, and belles there is much disagreement. Select any subject, state a preference and one can find an argument. Except lawn grass. On grass there is surprising unanimity - everyone wants a velvet-like carpet that never needs mowing or watering, performs perfectly on rich or poor soil, in sun or shade, and is deep green 365 days a year.

    We can't offer you such a grass, nor can anyone else. In recent years much money and effort have been spent selecting and breeding better lawn and turf grasses, and several have been developed which are vastly superior to the old ones, but there is no promise or probability that someone will come up with the perfect grass.

    People are surprised to learn that thousands of different Zoysias, Bermudas, and St. Augustines, some good, some poor, but all different, have undergone scientific testing to determine the best strain or strains for turf uses. New ones come along often, but it is usually prudent to let someone else do the experimenting and use what is tried and proven.

    Grass is our business. We attempt herein to provide you with accurate, impartial information that will assist you in selecting, establishing, and maintaining the grass that will produce for you a beautiful Lifetime Lawn.

    1

    Families of Grasses

    JUST A MINUTE! Let's talk frankly and reveal some truths about some nice grasses.

    Just as there are many families of fish such as the bass and the shark, there are many families of grass. Members of the same family may look different, but there are certain general statements that will hold true for all members of any one family .

    There are annual and perennial grasses, terms we will simplify by calling the grasses temporary and permanent. Annual, or temporary grasses, include both those that will die out at the end of their growing season, regardless of what you do for them, and those that will die out due to adverse growing conditions, such as extreme heat or high humidity. Perennial, otherwise known as permanent grasses, are those which, like many trees, live forever under normal conditions.

    The Warm Season Grasses

    Centipede, Bahia, Bermuda, Buffalo, Carpet and Zoysia are grasses that are permanent in the proper environment and that grow well in warm and hot weather.

    The Cool Season Grasses

    Bent, Bluegrass, Fescue, Orchard, Ryegrass, and Timothy (and mixtures thereof) can be permanent if properly cared for in Zones 4 and 5 and parts of Zone 3 (see Zone Map). They often die out or thin out and yield to weeds in Zone 1 and 2 and in hot spots in Zone 3. These grasses grow well and look good during cool, moderately warm and moderately cold weather. They perform poorly in extreme heat combined with high humidity .

    Mixtures or Blends

    Mixtures or blends are combinations of grasses. For years the happy thought has persisted that the proper mixture of cool season and hot climate grasses would provide a healthy and green lawn year 'round. In Zones 1 and 2 such mixtures may look good for the first year but prove a great disappointment in the long run. A blend of Zoysia and Tall Fescue may do well year 'round in Zones 3 and 4, east of the Mississippi River. In the Lower South for a permanent lawn one should choose Bermuda, Centipede, or Zoysia. Bahia and Carpet are satisfactory to some people, but generally poor choices. The improved strains of Buffalo grass appear suited to the arid (extremely dry) regions but are unlikely to perform well elsewhere.

    Improved Strains Offer More Choices

    Breeding, genetic alteration, and selection continue to stretch the cold tolerance of the hot climate grasses and enable survival farther north, and to improve the heat tolerance, disease resistance, and insect resistance of cool season grasses, thus giving newer varieties better performance in the humid South. New varieties provide badly needed options in many localities, but likewise add confusion to the process of selecting the best suited grass. Hundreds of cool season grasses have been registered or patented and seed companies add to the list every year. Which is best for a particular usage perplexes even the experts. 

    The Toughest Decision Zone is Zone 3, where cool season grasses often kill out in the summer and warm season grasses often kill out in the winter. Because of the ease and quickness in establishment, most people in Zone 3 choose cool season grasses. Conversely, since warm weather means outdoor living and long hours of daylight in which to enjoy a lawn, many knowledgeable people in this zone who have the proper conditions for growing them choose the warm season grasses. Those living in Zone 4 and 5 should be extremely cautious in selecting anything but a cool season grass, and those living in Zones 1 and 2 should be wary of anything except warm season grasses.

    Useful in a few instances for ground cover are some plants which are not grasses, such as clovers, dichondra, ivy, and liriope. Except for isolated areas, general lawn uses of these "non grasses" is seldom advisable.

    Artificial turf looks just that: artificial. And it is expensive. However, it may be the best answer in rare instances, and should be considered.

    Consumer articles on lawn selection and care most often deal with cool season grasses but fail to make the distinction. Information and recommendations in these articles are often not appropriate for the warm season grasses and lawn owners in the lower South. Since information relating solely to warm season grasses is scarce, the remainder of this Encyclopedia is therefore dedicated to the warm season grasses.

    We have earned a living for a generation growing and marketing such grasses and still believe that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Our thinking is based on the opinion that most people want an attractive lawn that they can enjoy, rather than a botanical garden that they must slave to keep.

    2

    Selecting a Grass

    In theory many factors should be considered before selecting a grass. In practice the most important factors are frequently overlooked due to involvement with unfamiliar technicalities. To begin logically and simply, consider the following 6 criteria:

    1. Climatic Adaptability

    Changing weather patterns make drawing lines on a map difficult. A good approach is to observe older, established lawns in the area. As previously stated, new varieties and techniques are pushing the limits on what grasses will grow where. This pamphlet carries adequate information to enable you to determine which grasses will grow in your area. Ask yourself: Do you want the most beautiful lawn in town no matter how hard you have to work for it? Or do you prefer an attractive lawn, less demanding of your time and money?

    The Bermudas produce the ultimate in turf, but they require the maximum in care. On the other hand, Centipede makes a good lawn with very little care. Yet Centipede will never equal the Bermudas in appearance, even if it is given as much care as the Bermudas require.

    Grasses requiring much care are generally most unattractive if they are not getting that care. Be honest with yourself and consider how often you will be willing to fertilize, mow, and edge your lawn, and select your grass accordingly .

    2. Shade

    All grasses require a certain minimum of sunlight, but some perform much better under shade than others. All warm season grasses perform satisfactorily in full sun, and yet all of them (except the Bermudas) perform even better with a light canopy of shade such as that provided by Pine trees. (Pine trees permit entry of adequate light, but protect from frost and the bleaching, dehydrating actions of summer sun.)

    Study your lawn area. If you have much shade or will have much shade in years to come, you can eliminate Bermuda grasses.

    To have a good lawn, avoid establishing or keeping too many trees, large or small (especially where they will combine with another tree, your house or a neighbor's building), to permit entry of a reasonable amount of sunlight. On a new lot, removing all but the best tree specimens usually results in a better landscaping appearance.

    Prune the lower limbs of large, heavy-foliage trees to permit entry of direct sunlight at some time of the day or plan to use groundcover or shade-tolerant plants there.

    3. Drought Tolerance

    For good performance all grasses require supplemental watering. At worst, provide a way to water. At best, put in an automatic, underground irrigation system. In most tests, Bermudas and Zoysias perform better than other grasses in drought conditions and require somewhat less supplemental watering. This becomes an important consideration where supplemental watering is impractical.

    4. Salt Spray

    The Zoysias excel in salt tolerance and should be given preference where sea spray wets a lawn. Zoysia generally doesn't perform well on excessively wet areas.

    5. Fertility

    The fertility level of your particular soil is of less importance than was once the case, because lawn fertilizers that will properly feed any grass are now available at moderate cost.

    6. The Years to Come

    Few sensible people would like the idea of getting stuck for life with a car that delivers only five miles per gallon of gas, just because it was cheap or easy to buy.

    Yet, in effect, many people do just that with their lawns. Some grasses, such as common seeded Bermudas and Bahias, are cheap and easy to establish, but every year their frequent mowing requirement and high maintenance cost puts them in the class with a five-mile-per-gallon car.

    They have absolutely no trade-in value and converting a poor lawn to a better grass usually costs more than it would have cost to establish a better grass initially.

    Resist that temptation to give too much consideration to the initial cost. Nothing can wreck a budget quicker than something that will cost more to maintain next year than it cost to acquire this year! If it is not absolutely essential that you skimp on establishment cost, it is far better to buy a small quantity of a better grass, stretch it thin and allow more time for it to cover than to buy something that is cheap now, but costly later.

    Remember:

    Statistics show that good landscaping adds 15% or more to the value of a home. A good lawn alone contributes much of that and adds greatly to the living enjoyment.

    3

    Characteristics of Warm and Cool Season Grasses

    Research in Progress

    In an effort to bring the latest in proven quality lawn grasses to the consumer, Patten Seed Company/Super-Sod, in cooperation with Universities as well as commercial and private breeders, continues to screen new turfgrasses at our farms, and selected test sites, for the southeastern US and similar climates around the world. Because of the location of our farms and their diversity of soils and climate (from the mountains of North Carolina to the sandy Plains of South Georgia) selections meeting our standards will be superior performers in home lawns and commercial landscapes. Selections of Zoysia and Centipede grasses are in the early stages of development. Look for these new and improved selections from Super-Sod in the near future.

    You can see the results of these tests first-hand at our farms and stores in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

    The Bermudas

    Bermudagrasses are thought to be native to Africa, but have spread worldwide where there is adequate rainfall to sustain them and winters are not so severe they are winter killed.

    All Bermudas thrive in hot weather. They grow rapidly and perform poorly under shade.

    Hybrid Bermudas produce denser turf less subject to weed invasion, fewer seed heads, and have good disease resistance.

    All Bermudas spread so rapidly that they are difficult to control in beds, walks, and borders, and if adequately fertilized require very frequent mowing.

    In spite of the apparent disadvantages outlined above, Bermudas are the best answer where good turf is absolutely essential, such as on golf courses and athletic fields.

    Because of the ease and economy of establishment, seeded common Bermudas are frequently used on home lawns in spite of the extremely high maintenance costs.

    Since the few seed produced by hybrid Bermudas either will not grow or will not bring back a true strain of the superior plant, the hybrids must be vegetatively propagated (sprigged, plugged, or sodded). The best known and widely available hybrid Bermudas are:

    Hybrid Bermudas

    • TifTuf™ Bermuda: Developed by Dr. Wayne Hanna and released by The University of Georgia, TifTuf is more shade tolerant than Tifway, plus it's 38% more drought resistant. 
    • Tifway (T-419) Bermuda: Released by Dr. Glenn Burton in 1960, Tifway was an instant winner. Darker green and medium leaf texture, it produces an extremely dense turf with somewhat less fertilizer than any other bermudas. It is a slow rooter, but spreads fairly rapidly. Quality of this commodity product will vary with producer.

    Seeded Bermudas

    A number of improved seeded Bermuda grasses have been released over the past several years. These grasses appear similar in texture to Tifway and other hybrid Bermudas though they appear less vigorous. Seeded bermudas include varieties like Princess, Savannah, and Riviera.

    The Zoysias

    Families of grasses native to many parts of the Orient, Zoysias were first introduced to the United States in the early 1900's.

    In description, any of several strains of Zoysia sound like excellent all-around lawn grasses. They grow slowly and close to the ground, thrive on a wide range of soils, have good shade tolerance, and produce such dense turf that weed invasion is resisted.

    In past years Meyer and Emerald and some strains of Matrella have been the most widely known and available Zoysias used in this country. They must be propagated vegetatively and rooting and growth is slow. Solid sodding is recommended, as is an underground irrigation system. In 1995 the first seed producing hybrid Zoysia grass, Zenith®, was commercially marketed. Today Zenith is the largest selling seeded Zoysia in the world.

    Zoysias grow slowly and require infrequent mowing, but they are so dense that a good sharp mower with adequate power should be used and cutting should be on a regular schedule. If "scalped" in mowing and subjected to other unfavorable treatment, Zoysias are slow to recover.

    • Emerald Zoysia: Emerald Zoysia is the Cadillac of lawn grasses. An artificially bred hybrid released several years after Meyer, Emerald produces an extremely dense, fine-textured turf of true emerald green color. It simply cannot be neglected for long periods of time, but if fertilized once or twice annually, watered as needed and cut regularly, it makes a lawn in sun and/or moderate shade that is the envy of any neighborhood. Emerald is cold hardy, and although all the warm season grasses turn brown after killing frosts, small plots of Emerald will maintain green color throughout most winters as far north as Atlanta in commercial areas where it is well protected and benefits from radiant heating from buildings and asphalt paving. It is especially useful where outstanding appearance is worth a premium, such as patios, around pool decks and small turf islands in shopping centers, apartments, etc. Emerald is used extensively at Disney World where it provides beautiful manicured lawn areas. Well adapted to Zones 1, 2, and 3.
    • Zenith® Zoysia: Zenith® Zoysia is the result of over 50 years of research for a Zoysia with good leaf texture and turf quality that could be propagated from seed. Zenith is a Zoysia japonica hybrid, as is Meyer, and is similar to Meyer in texture and color. Planted shallow on a newly-prepared seedbed and watered frequently, Zenith® germinates in 14 to 21 days. Like all Zoysias, it grows and spreads slowly and therefore seeding rates of one to three pounds per thousand square feet are recommended. Like Meyer, Zenith® will grow in zones 1, 2, 3, and 4.

    The Centipedes

    Centipede was introduced by seed from China in 1919. Medium in texture with a pale to medium green color, Centipede is a slow growing but highly aggressive grass that can be depended upon to produce a good, dense, relatively weed free turf at low maintenance levels.

    In spite of its aggressiveness, Centipede is easily controlled and usually requires edging only once a year around walks and flower beds.

    Although Centipede usually produces a good turf on low fertility and with little management, it responds nicely to good care. It is incapable of producing a high quality turf as the Bermudas and Zoysias, but it frequently looks better than either because the "high brow" grasses are not getting the more exacting care they need.

    Where crabgrass competition is not too severe, Centipede is easily established with seed or sprigs in one growing season. Regular watering is the key to rapid establishment.

    Some of Centipede's most desirable features are not readily apparent. It is one of the few lawn grasses which does not look scalped when cutting is delayed too long and excessive growth removed.

    Centipede is probably the easiest of all the grasses to cut, and any type mower, if sharp, does an easy and attractive cutting job. A good rain or a good soaking enables Centipede to green up rapidly after a brief drought, but because of this asset owners often allow it to suffer severely during droughts. Don't.

    Centipede is not suited to alkaline soils (high pH), and should be limed, and fertilized very sparingly. It has plenty of disease and insect enemies, but is generally more trouble-free than other grasses if watered properly and fertilized sparingly or not at all. Zones 1 and 2.

    • Common Centipede: The selection has been in commercial production for more than 50 years. It is planted on literally millions of home lawns throughout the southeastern US, from Florida to Texas.
    • TifBlair™ Centipede: TifBlair is the first improved hybrid centipedegrass released by Dr. Wayne Hanna of the University of Georgia. TifBlair was selected for its improved cold tolerance in the lower South. This cold hardiness has moved Centipede's area of adapataion to the lower half of Zone 3. This grass grows in almost any soil, in sun or moderate shade. TifBlair carries all of the characteristics of Centipede grass including low maintenance, low fertility, drought tolerance, and less mowing. TifBlair Centipede is considered one of the most Environmentally Friendly warm season grasses you can grow. TifBlair is the first and only Blue Tag Certified Centipede grass and is available in both seed and sod forms. LOOK FOR THE CERTIFICATION TAG WHEN YOU BUY TifBlair.

    Tall Fescue

    Tall Fescue is a medium leaf, dark green, cool season turfgrass best adapted to cooler climates in the Upper South and at sites in higher elevations.

    • Elite Tall Fescue: Super-Sod's Elite Tall Fescue, grown on our farms in the mountains of North Carolina year around and in the winter on our Georgia and South Carolina farms, is a blend of the latest tried-and-true fescue varieties. Multiple varieties are used to enhance sod vigor and provide broader genetic resistance to disease, as well as meet the Super-Sod standards of beauty and durability. Elite Tall Fescue sod can be harvested and installed year round, but is best installed in fall, winter, or spring. Avoid summer installation when possible.

    4

    Establishing a New Lawn

    Like a good house, a good lawn needs a good foundation. If your lot was stripped of topsoil in preparation for building, any grass will perform better if you replace this soil with an improved soil or conditioner. Bulk topsoil (many definitions as to what "top soil" really is) from offsite mined sources can be infested with crabgrass and other weed seed. Blending the subsoil with a weed free, uniform, humus compost like SOIL3 greatly enhances your opportunity for successful establishment and long term enjoyment of your Lifetime Lawn.

    Preparing the Seedbed and Seeding It

    Don't skimp on good seedbed preparation. Refer to:

    Seeding New or Existing Zenith Zoysia Lawns

    Seeding New or Existing TifBlair Centipede Lawns

    Solid Sodding

    Sodding has become a more attractive product for new lawn projects because of the cost efficiency and the immediate groundcover - preventing erosion and bringing mud into the house.

    Typically the sod is harvested in blocks 16" wide and 24" long or in strips 16" wide and 81" long which are rolled for easier handling. The thickness runs 1" to 1-1/2", of which about 1/2" is soil and the remainder is grass, so that for solid sodding the grades around sidewalks and drives should be approximately 1/2" lower than the paving.

    Laying solid sod is fairly simple. Schedule delivery only after you have prepared a seedbed and are ready to install, and then insist on prompt delivery after harvest. Start laying along the longest edge-curb, driveway or building. Stagger blocks or strips as if laying a cement block wall. Butt sod firmly and stretch each piece so that the roots will lay flat against the soil. In dry, hot weather, lightly wet the surface before laying, and soak each small area immediately (within one hour) after laying. Roll the sod once all has been installed to insure good soil root contact.

    Water at least once each afternoon until the sod is firmly rooted.

    HINT: When lawns with steep slopes are seeded, it is a good idea to lay strips of solid sod every six to ten feet across the slope to assist in erosion control. "Nail" the sod to the ground by using long, wooden spikes.

    For more information, read How to Lay Sod.

    5

    Converting Old Lawns

    Owners with unsightly lawns in which the grass is thin and the weeds thick have three courses of action.

    • Live with your existing lawn grass: Play along with what is there. Fertilization, regular watering, and regular mowing will improve the appearance of almost any poor lawn.
    • Till the lawn and start over: Till up what is there, prepare a new seedbed, and start all over with a better grass. This represents more work and expense, but it can be cheaper and much more satisfying in the long run.
    • Convert the existing lawn: Planting and encouraging Zoysia or Centipede to crowd out weeds and other grasses makes it possible to convert an unattractive lawn to a better grass.

    Conversion Techniques

    Plugs

    Cut the lawn closely and rake out the dead thatch. Plug in the same manner as recommended for new lawns. Water thoroughly and keep the lawn closely mowed. After the plugs are rooted and new growth is evident, fertilize sparingly (approximately 10 lbs. per 1,000 square feet of 10-10-10 or similar complete fertilizer once plus ammonium nitrate at three pounds per 1,000 square feet every three weeks).

    Seed - TifBlair™ Centipede

    TifBlair™ Centi-Seed is especially good for converting old lawns. Rent a vertical thinning machine, thin the old lawn, rake out the dead thatch, seed at twice the rate for new lawns, and vertically thin again to mix the seed into the top layer of soil. Water well and regularly. Use little or no fertilizer until late summer, and then apply 10 lbs. complete fertilizer per 1,000 square feet. Mow closely and regularly. Complete instructions for conversion are in the TifBlair™ Centi-Seed package or read Seeding New or Existing TifBlair Centipede Lawns.

    Seed - Zenith® Zoysia

    No grass is likely to produce the miracle of choking out weeds and all other grasses, as advertised by sellers of Zoysia plugs, but thousands of ragged lawns can be converted to Zenith® Zoysia. Begin in April or May by killing existing vegetation with a non-selective weed killer. Once grass is dead mow at lowest height possible and remove the dead debris and thatch. Repeatedly aerify, dethatch, or vigorously rake the area to be planted. Using a broadcast spreader plant Zenith at a rate of one to two pounds per 1,000 square feet then rake the seed into the top layer of soil. Water frequently and begin regular mowing as soon as you have anything to mow. Fertilize per directions for new lawns. Expect an abundant weed crop, but use it to make a green groundcover. An application of weed and feed fertilizer in March of the next year should result in a good Zenith lawn during the second summer. Be patient, follow directions, and you will be rewarded. Complete instructions for conversion are in the Zenith® Zoysiagrass package or read Seeding New or Existing Zenith Zoysia Lawns.

    DO NOT use any type of pre-emerge weed control chemical or weed and feed fertilizer for at least 90 days before seeding TifBlair or Zenith.

    After seeding, do not use any weed control chemical that is not labeled and recommended for Zoysia grass.

    Under favorable conditions, conversion to a better grass can be accomplished in a single season. Generally, a second year is required, but each growing month, the lawn should improve in appearance and your efforts will be well rewarded, even though final results are seldom as good as that of a lawn on a newly prepared seedbed.

    6

    Maintaining Established Lawns

    During the establishment period, fertilization, mowing, and watering are geared to getting the planting to cover the ground as rapidly as practical. Once a good turf is established, fertilize and water only as necessary to maintain a turf tight enough to resist weed invasion and to keep the grass in a healthy condition so that it is producing adequate growth for a fresh, neat appearance.

    Mowing

    Dull mower blades "chew" the grass rather than "clip" it, and leave it with a scared appearance and in unhealthy condition. Always keep your mower blades sharp. Mow Bermuda, Carpet, and Zoysia grasses at about 1.5", Centipede at 2", and Tall Fescue, Bahia, and St. Augustine at about 2.5" to 3". All grasses can be mowed with a rotary mower, but for a finer finish, a reel mower may be used on Bermuda and Zoysia grasses.

    Growth rate of the grasses varies with the presence of moisture, fertility, and temperature. Mowing frequency recommended for best appearance during the peak growing season is every 4 to 7 days for Bermudas, every 5 to 10 days for Bahias, Carpet and St. Augustine, every 7 to 10 days for Zoysia, and every 7 to 14 days for Centipede. Less frequent mowing is needed during the cool weather of spring and fall except for Bahias, Carpet, and seeded Bermudas, which require continued frequent mowing because of the daily production of unsightly seedheads.

    Fertilization

    Fertilize Bermudas, St. Augustines, and Zoysias in spring and the summer at a rate of approximately 15 lbs. complete fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.

    Continue to feed Bermudas during the growing season every 30 to 40 days with approximately two pounds ammonium nitrate per 1,000 square feet. St. Augustines and Zoysias should have one or two supplemental applications of two pounds ammonium nitrate per 1,000 square feet during the summer growing season, best spaced 60 or more days apart. On good soils, Centipede and Carpet will do better if never fertilized. On poor soils, first water well for an extended period of time (several weeks) to be certain that drought is not being confused with hunger. If Centipede continues to appear thin and unthrifty, fertilize with not more than 10 lbs. per 1,000 square feet of a complete fertilizer low in nitrogen. Carpet is usually destroyed by continued fertilization, and if it persists in being thin when well watered, the probabilities are that it is not adapted to your soil.

    Once a turf is mature, it produces an abundance of organic material and there is little reason to buy high-priced organic fertilizers. However, there are new, slow release chemical fertilizers on the market which are advantageous for Bermudas, St. Augustines, and Zoysias during the summer and early fall. Avoid using in early spring.

    Watering

    Frequent, light watering helps the grass to spread more rapidly during the establishment stage. At the same time, frequent light watering will result in a shallow root system and cause the grass to suffer during brief droughts.

    The correct program is to water frequently and lightly during the early establishment stage, and as the turf begins to mature gradually change to less frequent, deeper watering.

    Once a turf is established, water only to prevent damage or poor appearance during dry periods. When the grass begins wilting before noon, it needs water. When you water, really soak the lawn well. Most sprinklers need to be run several hours at each place before moving. Such waterings are healthy for the grass, and last a long time. Dig into the soil with a spade to see what is actually being accomplished with water applied.

    Diseases

    Plants, like animals, are affected with many diseases. Manage the better grasses as recommended and the disease problems will seldom be serious, as the grass will normally outgrow the disease. Proper disease diagnosis and treatment is difficult at best, but chemicals for disease treatment will usually hurt nothing but your pocketbook if the chemicals are correctly used, and may often cure the disease. Solicit the advice of your Cooperative Extension Service, landscaper, or a competent nurseryman, and beware of chemicals that are for purposes other than disease control.

    Insects

    Good garden stores can supply appropriate insecticides, often in needed fertilizers, for controlling ants, mole crickets, and most other small insects.

    Chinch bugs can destroy St. Augustines, but good information on control measures is widely available in areas of severe infestation.

    The Spittle bug can seriously damage any grass, but is not apt to increase population to disastrous levels if the grasses are kept mowed at recommended heights, because the Spittle bug likes tall, thick grass.

    Bill bugs can be a problem in Zoysia and Tifdwarf Bermuda. Use only chemicals to control, and flush deep into the soil by watering.

    Army worms and sod webworms frequently damage Bermudas, but they are easily killed with insecticide and the grass usually recovers after considerable foliage has been eaten by the worms.

    Maintenance Hints

    Cutting: Never mow grass when it is suffering from drought, or the lawn will be discolored and unattractive for several days. During dry seasons, water well a day or two before you expect to mow.

    Watering: The best time to water a new planting is in early afternoon, as it will stay moist throughout the night and early morning. The best time to water established turf is early morning, as this permits the grass to dry and provides fewer hours favorable to the growth of disease causing fungi.

    Fertilizing: There is no way to over-emphasize the importance of fertilizing only after noon when the grass is dry, and then watering well to avoid chemical burn. Fertilizing before a rain or during a rain is asking for trouble, because if the grass is damp, fertilizer particles will stick to the foliage and burn in a matter of minutes.

    Renovation: Soon after a good turf of any grass is matured, a thatch problem develops. Periodic aerification and vertical thinning will benefit almost any lawn. Check with your garden store to see what rental equipment may be available to enable you to renovate your turf.

    7

    The Development Period

    New seedlings or plugs will not begin putting on runners until the plant has developed a good root system. This period (which requires warm weather) may vary from a few days for the fast growing Bermudas to several weeks for slow-growers such as Centipede or the Zoysias.

    High temperatures, adequate moisture, and nitrogen are essential for rapid growth. If any one of these factors is missing the growth will be slow, even though the presence of the other factors will help.

    Do not become discouraged and neglect your lawn in the early stages of development. Given a good start, and good care, these grasses will increase their rate of spread as time goes by.

    Weeds & Herbicides

    Millions of words have been written on weed and crabgrass control and there are hundreds of different herbicides and combinations on the market to control them. The best weed control is a vigorous, dense turf which, in most instances, resists the invasion of weeds. During the establishment period of a new lawn, hand-pulling or hoeing will likely destroy as many grass seedlings as weeds. Herbicides used to control weeds are grouped into two categories:

    • Nonselective, which will kill all plants regardless of species - use only as spot treatments or to control unwanted growth along or in beds, walls and driveways.
    • A selective herbicide will kill certain plants when applied properly without seriously affecting other plants.

    Preemergence herbicides are applied prior to weed seed germination and growth and effect the germination process. Preemerge herbicides are only recommended for lawns that have been established for at least one full growing season. The easiest way to apply a preemerge herbicide is to use a weed and feed fertilizer in the early spring. Never apply a preemerge herbicide, or fertilizer containing one, before seeding or soon after seeding as it will have the same detrimental effect on grass seed.

    Postemerge herbicides are applied directly to actively growing weeds and are specific to weed types such as broadleaf or grassy weeds. Additionally, most postemerge herbicides are specific to certain grass varieties. Always Read and Study Labels before purchasing and Applying Any Herbicide. If you have any doubt seek advice from the Cooperative Extension Service, a reputable lawn and garden store, or a lawn care company.

    The simplest solution for many people is to mow the weeds and make a fairly presentable lawn from them until such time as the permanent grass, given treatment favors it, chokes out the weeds and makes a weed-free lawn. Mow regularly to a height of approximately 1.5" for Bermudas and Zoysias, 2" for Centipede, 2.5" for Tall Fescue, and 3" for St. Augustines. Mow off weed seed heads before the seeds can mature, and do not disturb the soil and hence bring new weed seed to the surface where they can grow.

    Once a dense turf is produced, continued good management will enable it to keep most weeds crowded out.

    8

    Turfgrass Performance Ratings

    Grass Texture Shade Tolerance Soil Preference Fertility Requirement Peak Mowing Requirement Care for Satisfactory Performance Method of Propagation Zone
    TifTuf™ Bermuda Fine Good Any Moderate 4-7 days Low Sod/Sprigs 1, 2, 3
    Shanghai® Bermuda Medium Poor Any Moderate 7-10 days High Sod/Sprigs 1, 2, 3
    Tifway Bermuda Fine Poor Any High 3-6 days High Sod/Sprigs 1, 2, 3
    Tifdwarf Bermuda Very Fine Poor Any High 4-6 days Very High Sod/Sprigs 1
    Tifgreen Bermuda Very Fine Poor Any High 4-6 days Very High Sod/Sprigs 1, 2
    Tifsport® Bermuda Fine Poor Any High 4-6 days High Sod/Sprigs 1, 2, 3
    Seeded Bermuda Variable Poor Any Very High 3-5 days Exceedingly High Seed 1, 2
    Zenith® Zoysia Medium Good Clay/Loam Moderate 7-10 days Moderate Seed/Sod 1, 2, 3, 4
    Compadre™ Zoysia Medium Good Clay/Loam Moderate 7-10 days Moderate Seed/Sod 1, 2, 3, 4
    Emerald Zoysia Fine Good Clay/Loam Moderate 7-10 days Moderate Sod/Sprigs/Plugs 1, 2
    Zeon® Zoysia Fine Good Clay/Loam Moderate 7-10 days Moderate Sod/Sprigs/Plugs 1, 2, 3, 4
    TifBlair™ Centipede Medium Good Clay/Loam Very Low 7-14 days Very Low Seed/Sod/Sprigs 1, 2
    Elite Tall Fescue Medium Good Clay/Loam Moderate 5-7 days High Sod/Seed 2, 3, 4, 5
    Carpet Medium Fair Low, Moist Moderate 7-10 days Moderate Seed 1
    Bahia Coarse Good Any Moderate 5-7 days Moderate to High Seed/Sod 1

    8

    Zone Map

    zone-map

    We've developed our own hardiness zone map that reduces the 11 zones of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map into 5 zones representing turfgrasses hardiness. Why would we do this? Because turfgrasses are generally adaptable to broader ranges of temperatures than flowers, shrubs, and trees, so we widened the zones to make it easier to communicate about turfgrasses.

    • Zone 1 - This zone includes lower coastal North Carolina, coastal South Carolina, coastal and south Georgia, all of Florida, and lower and coastal sections of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. This zone should use the Hot Climate Grasses which include Bermuda, Bahia, Centipede, Carpet, St. Augustine and Zoysia.
    • Zone 2 - This zone goes north of Zone 1 and includes north coastal North Carolina, much of central South Carolina, central Georgia, north and central Alabama, northern Louisiana, south west Tennessee, all except the most northern part of Arkansas, most of central Texas and the southern portion of Oklahoma. This zone should use a limited set of the Hot Climate Grasses including Bermuda, Centipede and Zoysia.
    • Zone 3 - This zone covers much of the middle U.S. including parts of New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, western North Carolina, western Tennessee, western Kentucky, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, southern Missouri, southern Kansas, northern Oklahoma, northern Texas, most of New Mexico, southern Arizona and most of coastal California. This zone should use Cool Season Grasses including Tifway Bermuda, Meyer Zoysia and Zenith Zoysia.
    • Zone 4 - This zone covers a band of the upper central U.S. including parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut, a small portion of southern New York, northern New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, eastern West Virginia, northern Virginia, east Tennessee, central Kentucky, most western Ohio, northern Indiana, southern Michigan, northern Illinois, southern Iowa and northern Missouri, southern Nebraska and northern Kansas, central Colorado, northwest New Mexico, northern Arizona, southeast Utah, the southern tip of Nevada, much of central California, coastal Oregon and south coastal Washington. This zone should use Cool Season Grasses including Meyer Zoysia and Zenith Zoysia.
    • Zone 5 - This zone covers the upper U.S. north of Zone 4 and should use Cool Season Grasses.