NC SODDED GRASS TYPES
Warm Season Grasses
Bermudagrass spreads by stolons and rhizomes, and it can invade flowerbeds and other
areas because it has runners that spread rapidly both above and below ground. But
bermudagrass is extremely drought tolerant, grows rapidly on any type of soil except
where drainage is poor, and makes a good turf if fertilized and mowed low and often.
It forms a dense, durable surface when grown in full sunlight. The majority of cultivars
will not tolerate shade. Bermudagrass is well adapted to sandy soils. Bermudagrass
withstands wear and traffic, and recovers rapidly from injury.
Bermudagrass lawns perform best when mowed at 0.75 to 1 inch using a reel mower.
However, good performance can be achieved with a rotary mower with sharp blades
set as low as possible without scalping. Uneven ground can make mowing below 1 inch
difficult. For this reason, a 1- to 2-inch mowing height is recommended when using
a rotary mower. For best results, bermudagrass should be mowed often (at least twice
per week), especially at the lower mowing heights.
Centipedegrass spreads by stolons. Centipedegrass is a slow growing, apple-green,
coarsely leaved turfgrass that is best used as a low maintenance, general purpose
turf. It requires little fertilizer once established (0.5 to 1 pound of nitrogen
per 1,000 sq ft per year) and infrequent mowing, and it grows well on acidic soils
in full sun to partial shade. It does not tolerate traffic, compaction, high soil
pH, high soil phosphorus, excessive thatch, drought, or heavy shade.
It should be mowed when it attains 1 inch in height and no higher than 1.5 inches.
Centipedegrass can become thatchy, especially when mowed high and infrequently or
when heavily fertilized. Thatch may need to be removed every two to three years,
but care should be taken because the stems can easily be torn from the ground, leaving
TifBlair, an improved cultivar from the University of Georgia, is quicker to establish
and more cold tolerant then common centipedegrass. It also retains its green color
later in the fall.
St. Augustinegrass spreads by stolons. St. Augustinegrass is a fast-growing turfgrass
best adapted to the coastal plain. It has a medium- to dark-green color and very
coarsely textured leaves. With proper maintenance, it will provide a dense, lush
lawn. St. Augustinegrass is very shade and salt tolerant but is considered the least
cold tolerant lawn grass. The cultivar Raleigh has the best cold tolerance and is
well adapted for the eastern side of the piedmont and the western side of the coastal
Seed is unavailable, so cultivars must be vegetatively planted. St. Augustinegrass
grows best in fertile, well-drained soils.
Because St. Augustinegrass is fast growing, it needs to be mowed frequently at 2.5
to 4 inches during the growing season using a rotary mower. It should never receive
more than 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft annually. At high rates of fertilization
and irrigation, thatch buildup may become a problem. St. Augustinegrass is not tolerant
of heavy traffic, compaction, or cold weather.
Zoysiagrass spreads by stolons and rhizomes, but it is easier to keep out of flowerbeds
than bermudagrass. Zoysiagrass produces a very dense, wear-tolerant lawn that grows
well in full sun and light shade. It has stiff leaves that produce a very dense
turf, which people often describe as feeling like “walking on a cushion.” Zoysiagrass
grows more slowly than bermudagrass, and thus requires less frequent mowing. But
because the leaves are stiff, mowing can be difficult unless the mower blades are
sharp. The finer-textured zoysiagrasses ideally should be mowed with a reel mower,
whereas the coarser-textured zoysiagrasses can be mowed with a rotary mower. Zoysiagrass
is very drought resistant. It rarely needs irrigation to survive in North Carolina.
Bluegrass produces a high-quality, medium- to fine-textured turf, at least when
grown in the right climate. In North Carolina, it is well suited for the mountains
and can be grown in combination with tall fescue in the piedmont. It is not suitable
for use in the coastal plain. Bluegrass prefers fertile, limed, well-drained soils
in sun or light shade. Excellent sod results from rhizomes (underground stems) that
spread, with most cultivars recuperating from and tolerating pest control measures
and moderate levels of traffic. Many new cultivars with improved color, texture,
and pest resistance are now commercially available.
As with most cool-season grasses, it is best to broaden the genetic base by planting
a blend of two to three cultivars rather than seeding a single cultivar. It is also
common for bluegrass to be seeded in combination with tall fescue. The tall fescue
enhances drought and heat tolerance, whereas the bluegrass provides finer texture
and greater recuperative potential. Generally, bluegrass grows better than tall
fescue in moderate shade. When mixed with tall fescue, bluegrass tends to dominate
where the soil is limed and the turf is adequately fertilized and mowed fairly short.
Bluegrass should be mowed at a height of 1.5 to 2.5 inches when planted alone. It
should be mowed at 2.5 inches or higher when mixed with tall fescue. Seeding rates
range from 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 sq ft. Higher rates can result in weak, thin
stands that are more susceptible to disease and high temperature stress. Even though
bluegrass may turn brown during a two- to four-week summer drought, it is not necessary
to irrigate. Bluegrass recovers well from most droughts, and watering will often
increase disease problems.
Creeping bentgrass is used exclusively on golf courses in North Carolina. It is
never used for commercial, residential, or recreational turf other than golf courses.
Establishing a healthy, attractive lawn means planting the best grass for your site
at the right time and in a careful manner. The type of grass and the planting method
you select will determine the best time of year to plant. Site and soil preparation,
including fertilization, are especially important.
STILL NOT SURE WHICH GRASS IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
CHOSING A SOD GRASS
Tall fescue is best adapted to the mountains and piedmont but can be successfully
maintained on the heavy silt loams in the coastal plain. It is a reliable performer
and easily started from seed. It is the best grass to plant if you want a year-round
green lawn. Tall fescue thrives in sun or medium shade. It will not perform well
in full sun in the coastal plain, especially if the soil is sandy. It can be seeded
by itself or mixed with Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, or both, particularly where
shade is a concern. Tall fescue is a bunch-type grass, so damaged or bare areas
will need to be re-seeded. It exhibits good disease resistance, drought tolerance,
and cold tolerance; tolerates moderate traffic; and persists with minimum care.
Several improved tall fescue cultivars have been developed that are more shade tolerant,
denser, and finer textured than Kentucky 31, a commonly used older cultivar. These
characteristics become more evident as the turf matures and the maintenance level
increases. Research has shown that some of these improved cultivars also have darker
green color, improved disease tolerance, lower growth habit, better wear tolerance,
and drought tolerance.
Experts recommend that a blend of two or three cultivars be planted rather than
seeding just a single cultivar. This broadens the genetic base and gives the turf
a better chance of withstanding a variety of challenges. Use a seeding rate of 6
pounds per 1,000 square feet (sq ft). Don’t assume more is better. Higher seeding
rates can result in weak, thin stands that are more susceptible to disease and high
The tall fescues perform best when mowed at a height of 3 inches, and should never
be mowed shorter than 2.5 inches. Tall fescue may turn brown, yet can often survive
short periods of drought. Under certain circumstances, some tall fescue may be lost
if a drought exceeds three weeks. To maintain a green lawn, it is best to irrigate,
if possible, during periods of drought.