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Our Guide To Selecting Grass Seed

08/09/2020 - Featured Products

There’s an impressive array of grass seed mixes available to trade buyers, but which is the best for your project. Guest blogger Robbie Lynn from Premier Lawns in Belfast has written an article to help landscapers negotiate the tricky world of selecting grass seed.

First – know your grass species

Selecting grass seed is really not all that different from selecting any other landscaping material. You need to know where it’s going to be installed, how it will be used, and how the customer plans to maintain it. Only then can you start fussing about the aesthetics.

UK grass seed is normally a mix of 2-4 of the following grass species. Within each species, there will be dozens of named varieties, but unless you are specifying seed for a really specialist application – like a sports stadium or a heritage lawn, you probably don’t need to worry too much about varieties.

If you’re interested in grass seed varieties, grab yourself a copy of the STRI Turfgrass booklet.  The STRI (Sports Turf Research Institute) runs extensive trials every year and lists the results in this, the greenkeepers bible. Grass seed varieties are rated for their fineness of leaf, disease resistance, winter colour, and tolerance to close mowing.

Perennial Ryegrass

This is amongst the most useful grass species for lawns and utility areas. The seed germinates quickly and it roots deep into the ground. Grass blades are usually dark green, shiny on one side, and reasonably disease resistance. A high rate of growth means that it recovers quickly from wear and tear. BUT, perennial ryegrass is not a fan of really close mowing. If your client wants a really short lawn, you’ll probably want to avoid this one.

If your landscaped area will get heavy foot traffic, look out for regenerating perennial ryegrass, it's extra tough and ideal for amenity areas and play areas.  You'll find HERE

The Fescues

Fescue grasses are fine-leaved and form a dense network of roots quite close to the surface of the soil. This grass is popular with turf growers because the root system gives great roll strength. The same root system is also great for soil stabilisation on slopes.

Fescues are quite drought tolerant, they might go brown during drought conditions but they soon bounce back after rainfall. Those slimline leaves and a high shoot density are great for producing a dense sward. Mix fescues with perennial ryegrass for a tough but attractive lawn.

Within the fescue family, you’ll find:

  • Chewings fescue: slightly tuft forming but tolerates close mowing really well.
  • Creeping red fescue: germinates quickly so is great grown alongside perennial ryegrass. Spreads via underground stems known as rhizomes and lends an element of self-repair to a lawn.
  • Hard fescue: A good all-rounder. Drought tolerant, salt-tolerant and can be mown as short as 5mm. Recovers well from stress and is ideal for coastal gardens and roadside verges and slopes.
  • Tall fescue: originally a woodland plant, the plant breeders have worked hard to make this a lawn worthy grass species. Great for shaded lawns, especially if it’s not mown too short.
You'll find fescue grasses featuring in Lawn and Landscape Seed (which is a good all-rounder and great value!) as well as Fine Turf Grass Seed for more formal lawns

The Bent Grasses

These are the supermodels of the grass world. Stunningly beautiful but inclined to be high maintenance.  For golf greens, putting greens, and bowling greens you can’t go wrong with a mix of fescues and bentgrasses but be prepared to mow and feed VERY regularly and keep your eye out for diseases.

Choosing a Grass Seed Mix

You will have heard the old adage “right plant, right place”. It doesn’t only apply to trees and flowers, it’s really relevant to lawn grasses too. The big difference between perennial plants and lawns is that plants can easily be dug up and moved if you make a mistake. Lawns just get harder to manage and potentially less attractive too.

Think about soil type and aspect first. If the lawn is beneath trees or in a shaded garden, choose a seed mix with a decent proportion of fescues.  Likewise, on sandy soil or a garden that’s exposed to drying winds, do what you can to improve the soil and then pick a drought-tolerant seed mix.

Next comes wear and tear. Is your client planning to play rugby on the lawn or is it predominantly ornamental? Occasional visits from the grandchildren won’t put too much strain on a lawn but a loopy Labrador practising retrieves 10 times a day will require a really tough lawn.

Don’t forget the maintenance aspect of the lawn. Realistically, does your client have the expertise to look after a close mown lawn? Typically, fescue and bentgrass based lawns need scarifying once or twice a year, feeding four times a year, regular aeration, and mowing every 2-3 days.  The occasional weed grass will stick out like a sore thumb in a fine lawn and who will be blamed for it? Possibly you!

For an average family lawn, I always advise a ryegrass mix. Read the product description carefully. There is a wide choice of ryegrass varieties out there. Most of them want to be maintained at least 1cm and preferably more. If there’s any danger that your client will want to keep the lawn really short, make sure they understand that these grasses will need extra care in a short mown lawn.

Quick Lawn Seed Selector

I have to say I’m impressed with the grass seed range on the Arbour Landscape Solutions website.  At the time of writing, there are 16 different standard mixes on there. But I’m guessing you only need one of them. So scroll down for my recommendations based on soil type, aspect, and usage.

Grass seeds suitable for a family lawn

First choice:  ALS Lawn and Landscape Grass Seed: A good all-rounder and great value for money. Order online here

For hardwearing lawns where children and pets are playing, go for Tough Turf Grass Seed

Grass seed for amenity spaces

For a high-class finish in parks and gardens, you can't go wrong with Universal Grass Seed. It's a nice mix of fescues and perennial ryegrass that will tolerate mowing as low as 12mm and has some of that regenerating ryegrass for an element of self-repair.

Where your amenity space needs to be lower maintenance, Grass Seed for Road Verges will tolerate some pretty harsh conditions and, if you don't want to mow it, can be left to grow for most of the year.

Grass Seed For Play Areas And Sportsfields

When seeding a large area, budget is important. Ryegrass Seed is fast to establish, makes a durable surface and is incredibly cost-effective.

For a children's play area, you might want something a little softer to sit on. Grass Seed For Lawn and Landscape will come up trumps with its mix of fescues and ryegrass.

For Seeding or Overseeding an Ornamental Lawn

An ornamental lawn is one that takes pride of place in the garden. It's generally mown quite short and very carefully tended with regular aerating, scarifying and lawn treatments.

Fine Turf Grass Seed is 100% fescue. It's relatively slow-growing and should form a beautiful, velvety sward.

Creating an Easy maintenance lawn? Try these seed mixes.

For slopes, soil stablisation and grassy green roofs

Grass Seed for Steep Embankments

Seed for sowing or oversowing a Shaded lawn

As the typical garden gets smaller and the fences get higher, lawns struggle with shaded conditions. Choose a grass seed that is specially adapted to cope with lower light conditions. Like this Grass Seed for Shade. It's a mix of ryegrass and fescue varieties that have been selectively bred for shade tolerance.

When The Soil Is Low In Nutrients and/or Very Dry

These grass seed mixes will do the job

Grass Seed for Dry Soils

Grass Seed for Coastal Areas

As always, if you feel befuddled by the choices out there, talk to someone who understands grass species and grass seeds. I have it on good authority that at least two members of the ALS team have lots of experience with lawns, lawn turf, grass seed and wildflowers. I'm certain that they'll be able to answer your questions.

Sowing the seeds is only the very first step in creating a lawn. If you'd like to learn how to create your perfect lawn, subscribe to my YouTube Channel. I publish new video's on a weekly basis. Each one covers a different aspect of lawn care and garden maintenance and I'd really appreciate your comments on any of them.

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