For Release April 3, 2001

A Grass Seed Primer

AGRI-VIEWS
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

After the extreme weather of last summer, many lawns needed some reseeding or over seeding. We would normally do that in the fall, but the fall weather wasnít that great either. So that has pushed everything in to this spring. Now the spring weather has been slow in arriving and everyone has been reluctant to plant grass in cold wet soils. But April has arrived with warmer weather and everyone is ready to go.

If you walk into the grass seed section at most stores you are likely to get overwhelmed by the choices available. You can find some pure seed, and then mixes galore and prices covering the entire range. Let me start by saying that grass seed is like a lot of other items. You get what you pay for. Cheap grass seed is just that, cheap. It most likely isnít that great!

What kind of grass do we recommend for this area? If you are starting with seed, then I encourage planting tall fescue or Kentucky bluegrass. While Zoysia and Bermudagrass will do well here, there simply arenít reliable seeded varieties yet available. Colbert Hills Golf Course has created a high level of awareness about seeded zoysia, but thereís a lot we still donít know about seeded zoysia in Kansas lawns. This winter will have put it to a real test! Buffalograss can be started from seed, but it has very limited applications this far east in Kansas.

As you start picking up bags of grass seed, look for the label for the listing of varieties. You do not want ryegrass, either annual or perennial. Annual ryegrass will die in the fall. Perennial ryegrass will survive until the next hot dry summer, maybe. Ryegrass sprouts fast and creates a lot of green in a hurry, but it is not a survivor.

There are also several types of fescue that you do not want. Look for tall fescue in the list. You do not want creeping, red, sheep, hard or chewings fescue. These are like ryegrass in that they donít do well with hot, dry conditions, especially when accompanied by wind!

Kentucky Bluegrass is okay, but generally has a higher maintenance requirement than tall fescue. Planting rate is two to three pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet. Varieties that have tested well at K-State over the years include: Apollo, American, Unique, Showcase, Brilliant, and Jefferson. There are a few varieties to avoid, including: Park and Kenblue.

The original tall fescue was Kentucky-31 or just K-31. While it is a tough grass that will survive abuse, there are many other improved tall fescues I would rather see you use in your yard. K-31 is fine for a large, low maintenance area, but not your front yard!

We have a broad selection of improved tall fescues to choose from. Blends of three or more of the following varieties would be excellent choices and are available locally. Varieties to consider: Apache II, Coyote, Duster, Falcon II, Jaguar 3, Aztec II, Tar Heel, Shenandoah II, Rembrandt, Masterpiece, Millennium, Wolfpack, Olympic Gold, Crossfire II, Plantation, Bonsai 2000, Watchdog, Rebel 2000 and Arid 3. Plant these varieties at six to seven pounds per 1,000 square feet. Mowing height is very critical to the health of all lawns. Mow bluegrass lawns at 2.75 to 3 inches, tall fescues at 3 to 3.5 inches.

Most lawns took a real beating last year and look sort of rough right now. But with a little time and effort from you, and some cooperation from Mother Nature, we can have those lawns back in good shape by early summer!

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