Lawn being wateredFall is the ideal time to plant grass seed. Here are some thoughts about turf grass varieties and some terminology that will be helpful.

Rhizomatous grass spreads by underground rhizomes and is the type that will creep into your flowerbeds. It has the ability to repair itself quickly. A bunch grass is just that, a small bunch. It fills in nicely but takes more seed at planting. It needs to be reseeded if repair is necessary.

Endophytes is fungus that lives within the blades of certain grasses. This fungus produces chemicals that are toxic to many pests, including billbugs, which increases grass survival. Possibly Toxic to grazing animals.

Here are some characteristics of some common turf varieties in the Treasure Valley.

Kentucky Blue Grass: Requires full sun. Not shade tolerant. Moderately tolerant of traffic ( dogs and kids will easily wear a path). Requires high rates of water and fertilizer. Has a shallow, rhizomatous root system. It is susceptible to billbugs and fungal diseases. The seed is slow to establish and the grass is not drought tolerant. Consequently, it is usually mixed with other grass varieties. However, give Kentucky Blue what it wants and it’s a beautiful lawn.

Perennial Rye Grass: Has moderate shade tolerance. Fairly high traffic tolerance makes it good for a yard with a lot of activity. This seed germinates quickly and the blade is fine textured. The Perennial Rye has a fibrous root system that has a moderate water requirement. Because there are endophytes in this grass, it resists insects and is good at avoiding a lot of fungal diseases. Because of the characteristics of Rye, it is usually blended with Kentucky Blue Grass.

Creeping Red Fescue: This is the most shade tolerant of the grasses. A good grass to use under trees. It is slightly rhizomatous, but is not as invasive as Kentucky Blue Grass. Low maintenance, this grass is used often in natural settings and is planted as a monoculture (meaning not mixed with other seed varieties) and is left mostly uncut.

It mixes well with other turf grasses and when combined with a sun loving variety, you’ve got all light situations covered.

This grass is not drought tolerant and has a hard time recovering from drought stress.

Turf Type Tall Fescue: The Turf Type Fescue should be given serious consideration! This grass was developed for use in home landscapes to be slow growing and drought tolerant. This means less watering and less mowing for us. This is a bunch grass that can grow an incredibly deep root system, which makes it the most drought tolerant of the grasses. It also has good traffic tolerance so it is desirable where there is high activity. This fescue requires a moderate amount of fertilizer. Fairly high in entophytes, this grass resists a wide variety of chewing insects, including billbug.

Choosing the right grass for the environment will make your yard work a lot easier.

  1. Cheryl says:

    This is very useful information for general grasses and landscaping but what about pasture grasses for a grazing pasture for horses (not for hay production)? What and when is the best? And how much water does it require?

  2. Debbie says:

    Hi Cheryl, The problem is, I do horticulture and aboriculture and don’t know much about horses or grazing animals at all, so I honestly can’t tell you what they need in a pasture grass. I do know it’s not as easy as just throwing some seed out. This publication from Oregon State has good, detailed information on horse management, with one section specifically about pastures. I hope this link works, if not, google horse pastures for Southern Idaho and look for this publication. Click on quick view. I hope you find this helpful. Thanks for reading and responding! Debbie.
    Managing Small-acreage Horse Farms…/ec1610.pdf
    File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View

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