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What’s your situation?

  • Published Friday, Sep. 13, 2013, at 1:03 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013, at 3:05 p.m.

Shades of green

Fescue: the choice for darkest green

Bermuda: light green

Zoysia: yellow-green

Buffalo: gray-green

When to plant?

Fescue can be planted in the fall, from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15 (either end of that range may change depending on the weather), or in the spring, in March. Sod can be placed anytime the soil is not frozen and you are able to keep it watered.

Warm-season grasses are planted by seed in May and by sod, sprig or plug in June (when the plant material is available from garden and sod retailers).

What’s your soil type?

Sandy: Bermuda is best able to tolerate sandy soil and grow back quickly once it gets some water. Buffalo cannot take sandy soil; it doesn’t need a lot of water, but (or because?) it needs to mine the moisture that clay soil holds. In very sandy soil, be sure to mulch-mow and let grass clippings fall to build up the organic content.

Loam: Can take any type of grass.

Clay: Can take any type of grass, but because of compaction problems, it can encourage thatch in warm-season grasses. If possible before planting a new lawn in heavy clay, till up the area when the soil is not too wet to break up the compaction, working in organic matter as far down as possible. Be sure not to work the soil so much that you pulverize it. Once your lawn is in, core-aerate every year, mulch-mow and let the grass clippings fall on the lawn to build up the organic content, and watch when you water to be sure that the water is going into the lawn and not running off.

Does your lawn get at least six hours of sun?

If not, warm-season grass will not do well in your yard. Fescue is the choice for shade, and Kentucky bluegrass can be part of the blend for areas that are very shady. Bluegrass generally can’t take our summer heat, but it may do well in the right microclimate.

Do you have the icky soil of a newly built house?

Fescue is most tolerant of it. It can take the widest range of soil pH.

Is there a homeowners association covenant that restricts what kind of grass you can plant?

Some associations are strict about requiring fescue, and some don’t care.

What type of grass do your next-door neighbors have?

Bermuda in one lawn usually leads to Bermuda in the adjoining lawn. Be aware of how your neighbors’ lawns are affecting yours, and of how any choices you make may affect your neighbors because of Bermuda creep.

Do you have a high-traffic yard where dogs and/or children wear the lawn down and you need to plant anew?

You’ll need to go with sod or keep the traffic off the area until a new lawn is established, or it never will be. Your best choice is Bermuda, because it’s fast to come back from damage (ever tried to kill it?); fescue is the second choice, but it can thin out at times. Zoysia grows slowly, so you’d have to plant sod if you went with it. Buffalo is not tolerant of a lot of traffic.

Do you have chronic problems getting grass established?

Get a soil test if you haven’t already. You do this by taking samples of your soil to the Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road, and it is sent off for analysis. The cost is $18.50. For instructions on how to collect your samples, go to www.sedgwick.ksu.edu, then click on “Lawn and Garden,” and then “Fertilizing & Soil Testing.”

When do you want your grass to be green?

Cool-season grasses stay greenest the longest, from about March through November. Warm-season grasses are green from about May through September. But fescue will turn brown in the summer if you let it go dormant, cutting into its streak. If you keep it watered and/or fertilized too much, it also can turn brown in summer from the disease of brown patch. Warm-season grasses usually maintain some semblance of green in the summer even if they’re not watered.

Source: Sedgwick County extension agent Rebecca McMahon

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