I Need Help Selecting the Right Grass and Grass Seed

jusncsu82(7/8)April 23, 2014

Hello Everyone:

I'm fairly new to this forum and have a lawn question.

Here's some background on what I'm dealing with. I purchased a new home in the Clayton/Garner, NC (10/15 mins south of Raleigh) area in November 2013. I believe the builder only put down perennial ryegrass, the yard has a gradual slope and I have about 1/2 acre of lawn area. My lawn is fairly patchy throughout. My front yard gets all-day sun, while the back gets a good deal of sun in the morning , but is partially shaded after mid-afternoon. There are a lot of people in my neighborhood that have bermuda, one guy with what I think is zoysia and a couple with what appears to be some type of fescue or fescue/kbg blend.

I've done some research, but I still need some help with grass selection. I want to establish a nice thick lawn that's not going to require an extreme amount of care to keep looking its best (I generally enjoy yard work, but I do have other hobbies). I also need something with good wear tolerance. I don't want to spend thousands of $$$ sodding my yard, and have pretty much limited myself to seeding. Based on what I've researched bermuda, zoysia, tall fescue, or a tall fescue/kbg blend would work in my area. I don't know how realistic it is to seed zoysia, as I want something that's going to grow a little faster and not take years and years to look established (correct me if I'm wrong with any of this). I like the hardiness and quick spreading ability of bermuda. I know it's going to lie dormant (brown) for several months, but I figure after this initial season I can overseed with ryegrass to get year round green. Is bermuda the right choice for me????

If I go with Bermuda what is a decent seed that I can get. I hear Princess and Yukon are good. However, I don't know if I can find those this time of year. I have thought about some other options: La Prima, Riviera, Blackjack, and the Pennington "triangle" blend that the big box store has. What seed should I use? I think I'm fine with using a more middle of the road type seed rather than shelling out $700/800 on Yukon or Princess.

Finally, as far as prep goes (assuming I go with bermuda), in late May/early June I am thinking of simply - cutting the ryegrass as low as I can get it, broadcasting a thin layer of topsoil over the entire yard, broadcast the seed, then another then layer of topsoil, netless grass seed mat for the slopes, water etc. Assuming I provide adequate water, etc. will this work? I've heard some horror stories about tilling, and I don't think I need to aerate.

Thanks in advance for the help!

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If others in your neighborhood grow Bermuda, and it seems to do well there, then yours should too.

With lots of sun, tall fescue will also work, which I personally prefer over Bermuda. It's less invasive, stays green all year when healthy, and because it grows long puts down a deeper root system. It also looks really nice when "striped."

It's been many years since I researched Bermuda, but my memory tells me that it's pretty difficult to grow from seed, albeit not as hard as Zoysia. Fescue is easy to sow, though I wouldn't do it until the fall.

Your plan of cutting short, topdressing, sedding, topdressing sounds viable to me. I would add compost (I like Black Kow) to the topdressing as well. You should also press the seed into the soil. The flat side of a garden rake works fine for relatively small lawns, although you'll want to rent a roller for anything of real size.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 4:22PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I agree (almost) completely with Kluttery. If you have any chance of growing fescue and/or KBG, do that. Zoysia is not nearly the grass it is hyped up to be. Bermuda is a high need grass. If you need it to be green all year, then fescue is your only choice. Seeding rye into bermuda is a royal pain to recover from in the spring. Just stay away.

Seed fescue and/or KBG in the fall. KBG requires full sun, so that might work in your front.

Don't add topsoil unless you need to change your drainage? Why? Because adding topsoil always changes your drainage and usually it did not need changing. You don't need to cover new seed with anything, but if you must for some reason, use compost like Black Kow. The less you use the better.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:39PM
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Thanks for the responses Kluttery and dchall.

I definitely like the look of fescue, however, am I going to have to water it non-stop and go through a huge hassle just to have a shot of it looking decent? I have a buddy who lives in North Raleigh and has fescue, and he's always complaining about the amount of work he has to do to keep it looking good in the summer. I'm not opposed to watering, fertilizing, etc. however, I don't plan on getting an irrigation system.

I mentioned the topsoil mainly because I have a bit of a "clayey" area on the side of my house. This area is also the greatest sloped area in the yard. I thought adding some topsoil could improve the soil quality. If I decide to use compost I'll go with the Black Kow, its only $5 per 50lb bag at Lowes. I would put down a very thin layer.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:38AM
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If I go with fescue, what is a good brand of seed?


    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 11:40AM
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forsheems(Lexington, NC)

Give the Hogan Company out of Tennessee a try.
I used their Hogan's Blend tall fescue last fall and it is absolutely awsome. Price is comparable to the best stuff at Lowe's or Home Depot (think Rebel here) but the quality of the grass is much better. Shipping will cost you a bit but in the end it's well worth the extra money.

Caring for tall fescue doesn't take a lot. Fertilize a couple times a year and water when needed. I've decided to go mostly organic which for me is a little more expensive but I'm already seeing the benefits. Dchall has a watering schedule that he's posted all through the forums that works well. Mowing at 4" will help a lot too. I would suggest doing your research now and put your plan together for this fall.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:02PM
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sloppy_joe(8A/7B NC)

I'm in Apex, NC, and I selected tall fescue/kbg blend in the backyard and am glad I did. (The builder sodded tall fescue out front.) I have endured bermuda grass before and absolutely detest it b/c of it's invasiveness. This is the first fescue lawn I have had and I'm very happy with it. I topdressed with compost because the builder just stripped the topsoil and then laid straw when seeding, and I wanted to build a little soil (but I did the topdressing a few months after seeding).

I have had a hard time finding really good quality seed as well (I just grabbed a bag of seed from HDepot b/c we moved in the fall). But, it looks like outsidepride .com is an option and is pretty reasonable compared to other seed distributors I've seen. Maybe others have better resources, but that's what I've found so far.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 1:11PM
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I think I'm going to hold off, do some more research and go with a fescue/kbg blend in the fall. Thanks again for the advice.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:00AM
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