Grass Seed Buying Guide

Grass Seed
  • What to Consider

  • Fresh grass makes any yard look elegant. And even though growing a successful lawn seems like an easy task, the tricky part is to choose the right grass. With many options and brands out there, it is easy to get lost. This guide will lead you through the important things to help you find the best grass seed for your needs.  Remember that the top-quality seeds, while they may be a bit more pricey, are always worth your effort.

  • The Importance of Your Climate Zone

  • Discovering the best grass for your needs can be confusing because of all the conditions you need to take into consideration.  Grass seed types are determined by your physical climate zone. There are two categories of grass seeds - warm season grass and cold season grass - which suit different climates.

    Warm season grass seeds prosper in southern countries and in warm climates, while cool season grass seeds better grow in northern countries and cold climates. Warm season grass can only reach its full potential during summer time and cool season grasses look the best during fall.  In addition, cool season grass demands less maintenance.

    Warm Season Grass

    What is important about the warm season grass is that it can survive during the dreadful heat of summer. It can also resist deterioration, so if your lawn is brown and dull during every summer, this is your best call.

    Speaking of grass seed type, Bermuda is the most popular choice. It is quality grass seeds that can remain beautiful during droughts and does not require any special maintenance. You can often see it in sports fields, parks, and utility turf fields. It is also the best option for full sun because it cannot reach the full potential in shade.

    Bermuda is an inexpensive brand and can grow quickly. Compared to many other brands, it can survive longer without any help. Homeowners choose it due to its quality, simplicity and charming look, which made Bermuda seeds the most popular in the US. If you live in warm regions, these seeds are perfect to fit your needs.

    If you do not like Bermuda, Zoysia is also a great option. Just like Bermuda, Zoysia does not require any special care and it grows quickly.  It is very dense which means you will not be mowing the lawn often. Zoysia seeds are known to produce gorgeous grasses perfect for homeowners.

    Zoysia performs better than Bermuda in humid conditions and should be planted in warm areas or it will lose the color. If you need disease resistant grass seeds that are very easy to care, this is a great choice.

    The last brand that is worth your attention is St. Augustine that is perfect for hot and humid climates. It has the highest heat resistance among these three and has dark green grass that needs medium care. However, it is now very drought resistant.

    St. Augustine is not perfect for sports due to the coarse texture and is mostly used in home lawns. It has the highest shade tolerance which is perfect if you have trees or something else growing nearby.

    Cool Season Grass

    Cool season grasses cannot tolerate heat and grow good in mild weather. This is why it is perfect for fall, and many people plant it before winter arrives.

    Speaking of brands, Kentucky Bluegrass is the most popular grass seeds because of its ability to grow under harsh conditions and strength. Even though it requires better care than warm season grass, it is perfect for home lawns. Rich, dense and nicely textured, this grass is what many homeowners look for. Besides, it has the strong root system that is perfect against droughts.

    Another popular choice is Perennial Ryegrass that is highly resistant for foot traffic and is often used for sports fields and golf courses. It can endure heavy use, which is important for anyone with dogs. It is also the best choice for shade. It grows quickly, and homeowners use it to hide patches while another grass seeds are slowly growing. Perennial ryegrass is often mixed with other grass seeds to produce a multifunctional lawn.

    The last but not least is Tall fescue, which is more drought resistant that other two grasses. This is optimal for warmer but not very hot areas. The Tall fescue grows quickly during fall and can adapt to weather conditions. In the US, it is popular in the eastern part of the country, for example, in Ohio.

    Grass Seed Mixtures

    Depending on your specific needs, there are seeds mixtures on the market that are developed to repair damaged lawns or for areas with drought. These mixtures combine different seed types in one package, and specialists compare weaknesses and strengths of every type to help lawns stay fresh all year round. For example, there are lawn repair mixtures that can correct lawn issues.

  • Key Words Often Seen on Grass Bags

  • Almost any seed bag you find in a store has specific key words that should help you choose the right seed type.

    Seed bag that has "fast grass" on it often contains annual ryegrass. This can germinate rapidly and grow within a couple of months but it also dies in the winter and leaves the area bare. Sometimes, this grass can last for two years, but normally it lasts only for one year. Many homeowners use annual ryegrass to nurse crops for the desired grass species.

    Another word you should search for it "tough". Some seed bags also say "high traffic areas". It means that the bag has tall fescue. As it was mentioned before, tall fescue is deep-rooted and drought-tolerant type of seeds. Many homeowners establish their lawns with tall fescue, but you should also be careful when reseeding your lawn. If you use another type of grass, tall fescue's texture differs a lot and results in the uneven surface.

    It is wise to try it on a small area first to see how it works out. Most of tall fescues have narrow leaves that are much different from leaves in other grass, so make sure it blends nicely.

    If you need shade-resistant grass, look for a mix of Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues (for example, sheep or hard fescue). Fine fescues have fine leaves and do well in shady lawns. If you live in the sunny area, search for mixes that have perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and creeping red fescue.

  • Reading the Seed Label

  • If you want to choose quality grass, you should learn to read labels. These labels (also called tags) can be found on the back of the bag. These labels have necessary information such as purity, cultivars, crop seed, inert material, date tasted, and weed seed, to name a few.

    • When it comes to cultivars just look at its names (like tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass).
    • Purity is the percentage of the weight of the seed. For example, Kentucky bluegrass has 75% purity rate.
    • Germination is the percentage of seed that germinates under the right conditions. Avoid seeds with less than 70% germination. The higher it is the better.
    • Crop refers to the seed of a commercially grown crop. This can be something like bentgrass, timothy, or clover. If you buy quality turfgrass, it should not have any crop seed.
    • Weed refers to the percent by weight of the seed. It refers to any seed that is not crop seed. When you buy quality grass, it should not have any weed seed. Sometimes, weed seed finds its way to the bag, so 1% is also fine.

    Inert is the percentage by weight of anything else in a bag other than seeds. This can be corn cobs, chaff, sand and so on. Quality grass should not contain more than 4% inert.

    Noxious weeds

    Noxious weeds are very hard to control and are considered illegal in many states in the US. It many countries, you cannot sell seed with noxious weeds. If they are there, the bag should have their names printed somewhere.

    Date tested

    Look for quality seeds that were tested less than 12 months ago.

  • Watch Deep Planting

  • Do not plant grass seed deep. Cover larger seeds with a thin layer of soil to provide contact with it for faster growth. Small seeds require partial covering during rainy seasons. For example, if you have a 1,000 sq.ft. lawn you will need 4 pounds of seed.

    Remember: heavy seeding will not help if you have poor quality seeds, and poorly prepared lawn will not help if you get quality seeds. The best option is to get seeds that fit your needs and plant them in prepared seedbeds.

    If you have it, use a mechanical spreader. Anyway, whether you plant by spreader or hand, sow by dividing your seeds and spreading them in one direction, then the second part crosswise to the first one. This simple technique ensures even coverage and decreases the chance of missed spots.