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What Kind of Grass Seed Should I Use For My Lawn?

There isn’t one right answer for all situations but this article should lead you in the right direction.

Regardless of the conditions, anytime seeding is done, a blend of various varieties of grass seed should be used. This reduces the chance of one grass type being wiped out by an insect or disease problem.  Different grass types also have different traits. For example, one grass type may do better in drought conditions and the other may be more disease resistant. By using a blend of appropriate grasses, you are not gambling that you picked the right one.

The information here is intended for over-seeding established lawns (preferably at the time of an aeration). Lawn aeration with over-seeding repairs bare patches and thin spots in the lawn and also keeps the thatch layer from becoming a problem.


Need help growing grass in the shade?


Grass Seed for Lawns with Heavy Shade

A lawn that receives less than 3-4 hours of full sun is considered “heavy shade”.  In this situation, you should use a blend of fine fescues. Fine fescues are very fine-textured (they have very thin grass blades). They are the best type of grass for shade but, they are weaker than a lot of the lawn grasses that thrive in full sun. Consequently, fine fescues do not hold up very well in heavy-use areas. Three fine fescues that do well in our area are chewings, creeping red and red fescue.  Only use fine fescue in shady areas – they will not do well in full sun.

What if My Lawn Doesn’t Get Any Direct Sun?

In this case, you have to decide if you really want grass in that area, or do you plant something else there – something that is naturally shade tolerant.

Field of Grass

In my case, I have a heavily shaded area where I really want grass. To keep the area looking good, I have it aerated and over-seeded twice a year – in the spring and the fall. The only grass seed that I use is a blend of different fine fescues. Bluegrass, Perennial Rye Grass and Tall Fescue would not survive in the heavy shade.

All turf-type grasses prefer at least some direct sun – even the best ‘shade tolerant’ types. Heavy shade will cause a lawn to thin-out due to the lack of sunlight (which is needed for the plant to produce food). Adding the new seed is needed to replace the grass that has declined. Maintaining grass in heavy shade takes some extra work but, if it is maintained properly, it can be very nice.


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Do you Really want to Fight with Mother Nature?

Sometimes the best option is to avoid a battle. If you are not totally committed to having grass in your heavily shaded areas, you could replace the grass with plants that love these low-light conditions. You could plant ground cover such as pachysandra and myrtle, shrubs such as azaleas and rhododendron – or even hostas and ferns. The natural environment, where all of these plants thrive, is the floor of the forest – a very heavily shaded place.

Grass Seed for Full Sun

For lawns that are in full sun, Perennial Rye Grass is the best option. The newest varieties look very similar to Kentucky Blue Grass but they don’t have the problems you get with Kentucky Bluegrass. Be sure not to purchase Annual Rye Grass which thins out after just a couple seasons. Annual Rye Grass is primarily used on a temporary basis to establish grass quickly to prevent erosion. Annual rye is cheap and is often part of grass seed blends so be sure to read the label carefully.

Grass Seed for Lawns with Sunny and Shady Areas

Since many lawns have both sunny and shady areas, a blend of seed that includes both shade tolerant and full sun grass types can work well. A mix such as 40% Kentucky Bluegrass, 30% fine fescue and 30% perennial ryegrass works well. While Kentucky Bluegrass is more susceptible to insect and disease damage, mixing it with these other species reduces the problems.  Just be careful not to use “Kentucky 31” (also called, “K-31”). This is a very coarse grass that grows into large clumps and most people do not like it.

Although it can be perfectly fine to use a blend that includes seeds for sunny and shady conditions, if you have a very shady area of your lawn, it is best to seed that area with a blend of only shade tolerant seeds. And, vice versa, if your lawn is completely full sun, any shade tolerant seeds in the blend will go to waste.

Grass Seed for Lawns with a Lot of Activity

If your yard has a pack of kids playing on it day after day, you need a tough grass. Tall fescue is a good looking grass that stands up well to excessive activity (to a point, of course). It is also more drought tolerant than the other turf-type grasses mentioned here. The one down side to tall fescue is that it tends to clump – which makes it a little uneven to walk on. The remedy for this is to include some Kentucky Bluegrass which will help ‘knit’ the clumps together.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure what type of seed to use, contact the experts at Green Giant Home & Commercial today for your free quote!


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