As the name implies, cool-season grasses like the cooler temperatures of the fall and spring. These seasons are the time when they grow the fastest. They love temperatures between 50 and 80ºF. Depending on the specific variety of cool-season grass, some can grow from zones 1-7. Typically these grasses do best in the Northern regions.
Types of Cool-Season Grasses
There are four varieties of cool-season grasses.
- Fine fescue
- Tall fescue
- Perennial rye
- Kentucky bluegrass
Fine fescue grasses grow best in zones 1-7. This grass performs better in poor soil conditions than other grasses. It does well in the shade and is drought tolerant. It won’t, however, stand up to heavy traffic. This grass is almost maintenance-free, requiring very little fertilizer and watering. In the correct temperatures, it stays green all year round.
Mixes of fine fescue and other grasses are common. Since fine fescue does well in the shade, it counterbalances grasses that do not. During the winter months, people in the southern states overseed their bermudagrass with fine fescue.
Creeping red fescue, chewing fescue, hard fescue, and sheep fescue are fine fescue grasses.
Tall fescue has a coarse texture. Commonly used in sports turf applications and pastures, it withstands heavy traffic. It is suitable for zones 4-7 and prefers sun to medium shade. It is a drought-tolerant and cold-tolerant grass. Because it can tolerate shade, like fine fescue, blends of grasses often include tall fescue in their mixes.
Unlike its name, this grass does not grow tall. It only grows to about 48 inches tall. It grows best in moist and fertile soil.
Perennial ryegrass has a fine texture and is dark green. It tolerates high traffic; thus, it makes an excellent choice for pasture use. This grass prefers milder winters than tall and fine fescue. Therefore, it grows best in zones 3-6. Ryegrass doesn’t like heat, shade, or drought conditions.
Since perennial ryegrass prefers warmer winters, the Southern part of the United States mixes it with bermudagrass.
Kentucky bluegrass has a dark green color and has a boat-shaped leaf tip. This grass spreads quickly due to its lateral growing roots.
Kentucky bluegrass is an excellent choice for pastures and turf applications due to its ability to recover quickly. However, it does require more maintenance than other grasses. It grows in zones 2-6. It prefers full sun and goes dormant during drought conditions.
Planting Cool-Season Grasses
Plant and overseed cool-season grasses during their most active growth period, the fall. Soil temperatures need to be between 50º – 60ºF for the seeds to germinate quickly. Watering and fertilizing are essential to successful germination.
Now that you have a handle on your cool-season grasses. Which one will you choose?
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I have over 30 years of experience in the horticulture and landscaping field. Sharing my knowledge of all this plant-related is a passion of mine. I also enjoy spending time outdoors, whether hiking, canoeing, or sitting by a campfire.