I recently attended a Turf Education Day sponsored by the Illinois Professional Lawn Care Association, Illinois Landscape Contractors Association and Chicago Botanic Gardens. One of the presentations, If Your Turf Looks Tired…Transform That Turf!!!!, was presented by Eric Draper, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University Extension. During the presentation, Draper explained the difference between the terms “blend” and “mix” in regards to grass seed and what to consider before seeding a lawn . A blend of grasses is the combination of two or more cultivars of the same species. In other words, mixing Victa and Vantage bluegrass would be considered a blend of grasses. A mix is when you combine two or more species of grass, such as bluegrass and ryegrass.
This is helpful when you are choosing grass seed at a garden center or home improvement center. If your lawn is mostly one species of grass, you would want to purchase a grass seed blend. If your lawn is a comprised of different species, then you would want a grass seed mix that would match what you have in your lawn.
Another thing Draper discussed related to grass seeding was the growth habits of the grass you are using along with the germination rates of those grasses. This discussion is more directed toward cool-season grasses as most warm season grasses are installed vegetatively (sprigging) or with sod. The majority of cool season grasses have either a bunch-growth habit or a spread through underground roots called rhizomes.
Perennial ryegrass and turf-type tall fescue both have bunch-growth habits and are slow to fill in an area. Bluegrass has rhizomes and is quick at filling in bare areas.
What type of grass should you plant in your lawn?
It depends on what you are looking for out of your lawn. Ryegrass has great recuperative properties, but doesn’t handle the heat or drought very well and is slow to fill in an area. Tall fescue can handle the heat, is okay with drought, but takes a while to establish. Bluegrass fills in areas very well, but it is the least heat and drought tolerant. So based on this, it seems that the best choice would be a mix of two or three of these grass species.
One thing that most people don’t take into consideration is that ryegrass germinates in 7 days, tall fescue germinates in 10 days and bluegrass takes 28 days to germinate. If you want a mostly bluegrass lawn, mixing too much ryegrass or tall fescue with it will limit the ability of the bluegrass to germinate. The other problem is that most people are not dedicated enough to keep the area watered sufficiently for 28 days.
Based on this information, if you are going to use a mix of grasses and want the majority of it to be bluegrass, then don’t use more than about 20% ryegrass or tall fescue and be prepared to keep the area moist for at least 28 days.