No one type of grass is best suited to all situations. A number of factors should be considered before deciding which lawn grass to plant. Your decision should be based on region, environment, intended use, possible wear at the site, and desired appearance.

North Carolina is in a transition zone for warm-season and cool-season grasses. In some parts of the state you can grow either grass type. In some areas one grass type will perform much better than the other.

Cool-season grasses grow best in the spring and fall and less actively in the summer. They stay reasonably green in the winter. They are the best choice for the western part of the state. Tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, and ryegrass are common cool season lawn grasses.

Warm-season grasses grow best in the summer, and go dormant after the first heavy frost. They are the best choice for the eastern and southern portions of the state.

In the piedmont region either grass type can be grown, but neither is ideal for all situations. Microclimates should influence your choice. A cool-season grass should do well on a north facing slope or in light shade. A warm-season grass should be considered for a hot southern or western exposure especially if there is a slope. Environmental factors to consider include soil type, temperature, available moisture and the amount of sunlight the grass will receive.

Regardless of the region, the characteristics of the site and your goals will determine which type of lawn grass is best. Choose a grass that meets your preference for color, density, and texture. A tough, aggressive, wear tolerant grass is best where heavy traffic is expected. Take into consideration the amount of time, effort, and money you are willing to spend for turfgrass maintenance.

Cool-season grasses are very different from warm-season grasses. To gain a better understanding lets look at how temperature influences plant growth. Cool-season grass foliage grows between 40°and 90°F with maximum growth occurring at 60 to 70°F. Roots grow at temperatures between 33 and 77°F. Warm-season grass foliage grows between 70 and 120°F with the best growth occurring between 80 to 95°F. Roots grow at temperatures between 64 and 110°F. Mowing, planting, and fertilization practices are based on these temperature differences for cool- and warm-season grasses.

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© Erv Evans, Consumer Horticulturalist
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