Every homeowner wants to keep his lawn looking beautiful and lush year-round. Walking across your backyard in bare feet is one of the purest joys of staying outdoors — but not for your lawn.
It is almost impossible to grow healthy grass in high traffic areas, as people and pets walking across your garden or running around a swing set often cause problems, compacting the soil and crushing the grass. For this reason, it can be a good idea to choose a very durable grass type able to withstand even the worst conditions.
So what is the best grass for high traffic areas?
Perennial Ryegrass, Zoysia Grass, Bermuda Grass, Kentucky Bluegrass, and Tall Fescue grass are the best grass varieties for high foot traffic areas. They are also a good choice for dog owners and parents with small kids that spend time outside.
What Type of Grass Should You Choose?
The variety of grass you may plant to withstand high foot traffic depends on the region you live in. There are three main grass areas:
- warm-season (southern U.S.) area.
- cool-season (northern U.S.) area.
- transitional (mid-South) area.
WARM-SEASON AREAS: Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass are the two most traffic-tolerant grass sorts of grass available. Plant plugs or sod of these grasses from late May to early September to build a new lawn.
COOL-SEASON AREAS: Plant mixes of turf-type Perennial Ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, or Tall fescue.
TRANSITIONAL AREAS: Neither cool-season nor warm-season grasses will be happy all the time. If you are going to use your garden lawn all year, planting buffalograss will be the best idea.
However, you may plant Zoysia grass if you plan on using the high-traffic zone of your lawn only during summer. But you will need to overseed it with annual rye in the winter.
What Kind of Grass Is the Most Durable?
Zoysia grass, Common Bermuda, and Hybrid Bermuda grass are the toughest grass varieties that are durable enough to accommodate active sports playing family. Because of their trailing growth habit, they can handle high traffic better than most cool-season grasses (like Fescues).
These grasses also have a higher salt tolerance, and they quickly fill in bare spots caused by dogs’ urine or heavy foot traffic. You may think you need to buy some Bermuda or Zoysia seeds? Not so fast.
Both Zoysia and Bermuda grass are unsuitable in shade areas. They can withstand compaction or dogs’ urine, but they cannot grow in the shade. It is true whether your backyard is shaded due to the compass location, sun’s angle changes, or your garden’s trees.
Moreover, these grass types are only durable during their growing periods: late spring, summer, and early fall. During cold winter months, both Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass go dormant and turn brown. High traffic can quickly wear a muddy pathway through your lawn when the grass is in a dormant state.
The Five Best Grass Types For High Traffic Areas
If you have a shady backyard or a lot of foot traffic on your lawn, you may have trouble with keeping the grass lush and green. The grass types listed below perform better than others under all kinds of stress, including heavy shade, exposure to dog urine, and traffic from pets and children.
1) Perennial Ryegrass
Although this grass variety is native to Europe and Asia, it is quite popular throughout the United States. Still, the homeowners from different regions use it in different ways. I like Perennial Ryegrass for its quick establishment and fast germination that make this grass a valuable part of permanent and temporary lawns.
Perennial Ryegrass will make your lawn lush and green even in winter, as it maintains its color all year round. Depending on your lawn goals and the region you live in, Perennial Ryegrass can be just what you need.
It is a cold-season grass, which means that the Ryegrass peaks in growth during cold seasons, from late fall to early spring. However, it does not tolerate low temperatures as well as Tall Fescue or Kentucky Bluegrass.
Perennial Ryegrass grows best in areas with moderate summers and cool winters. Therefore, this grass has become the most widely used permanent lawn grass in the cool, humid Pacific Northwest.
Zoysia grass grows well in both colder and warmer regions. Light to moderate shade is not a problem for this grass, but it does not tolerate complete shade.
Zoysia is a good choice for lawns that sustain a lot of wear from pets or kids, as it is extremely resistant to high foot traffic. However, the dogs’ urine can damage the grass, so you may need to use specific fertilizers if you have pets.
The reason for that is the slow growth of Zoysia grass, during which it develops a deep root system. Because of such a root structure, the dogs’ urine cannot drain away quickly enough, making the soil salty.
You will find many Zoysia grass types on the market, and all of them have their benefits and drawbacks. I recommend you to consider Emerald Zoysia, Japanese lawngrass, or Manika grass, as these varieties are the most durable.
3) Bermuda grass
Common Bermuda grass is a drought-tolerant lawn type that grows well in full-sun exposure. This coarse-textured grass has a well-developed root system that allows it to stay green even on the hottest days of the year.
Common Bermuda grass has excellent wear resistance, and it forms a dense lawn when growing. Sundevil, which is the most durable Bermudagrass cultivar, can be a good option for your garden.
This grass grows well in high temperatures, so it is mainly used in warm regions. Moreover, Common Bermuda grass tolerates an extensive range of soils. However, it may turn brown during the prolonged cold season.
Common Bermuda grass is durable and can withstand heavy use. It spreads rapidly, and it kills many annoying weeds. Nevertheless, Bermuda grass can become weedy if it grows into garden areas and neighboring places.
Because of its fast growth, this grass produces heavy thatch, and it needs frequent mowing to maintain a beautiful appearance. Also, Bermuda grass requires more nitrogen than Zoysia grass.
4) Tall Fescue
Dwarf Tall Fescues and Tall Fescues are the best cool-season options for sunny areas, as they are durable enough and remain green all year round. However, they may go severely dormant or even die in snowbound communities.
Fescues do not tolerate high foot traffic as well as Bermuda grass or Zoysia grass. Still, they are drought tolerant and have deep roots, so you may use it in your lawn.
Besides, Fescues do not tolerate salt, so dogs’ urine can become a problem. Fortunately, it is not so hard to repair or reseed these unsightly bare spots.
5) Kentucky Bluegrass
Kentucky Bluegrass, which is a cool-season grass type, has exceptional shade tolerance. There are more than one hundred Bluegrass cultivars available, and all of them grow easily from sod or seed.
This grass spreads by rhizomes and tillers, so it fills bare spots quickly and creates a dense sod lawn. It has soft, fine blades that feel pleasant to touch.
Besides, you can improve the hardiness of your lawn by using mixed types of grass. Add 20% Kentucky Bluegrass to the Fescue lawn to make it more resistant to foot traffic and dogs’ urine.
How to Care For Grass That Has High Traffic?
There are several methods to grow healthy grass in areas with heavy foot traffic. They include:
Lawn compaction caused by foot traffic leads to a decrease in grass health as it limits the amount of water, nutrients, and oxygen that can move through the soil. Use a core aerator to remove plugs of soil from the ground so oxygen and moisture can move into the holes. Check out my full article on lawn aeration.
Grass in high traffic areas needs special care. Let it grow as tall as possible, up to four inches, depending on what type of grass you have. Do not add sand to the soil, as it will make it even more compacted.
Minimizing the number of people walking across your lawn is the best way to keep it healthy. Keep them off the lawn when it is wet or during rainy weather, as the wet soil is more easily compacted.
How Do You Fix High Traffic Grass?
You should use the below tips to fix damage to your lawn due to high traffic and prevent future problems.
- Mowing Tips – Try to alternate your mowing pattern every time you cut your grass so as not to walk over the same places over and over again. As was mentioned above, let the grass grow as tall as possible to make it stronger.
- Avoid Wet Grass – Wet grass is very susceptible to traffic damage and tears quite easily, so it is better to take an alternate path.
- Pave It – You may lay a different material in high traffic areas. Consider building a stone pathway over frequently used routes in your garden, as it will help you enhance its look and prevent damage to the grass.
Best Grass For High Traffic And Dogs?
Bermuda grass and Zoysia grass are the best grass types for high traffic and dogs due to their high strength and durability. However, you need to make sure it grows well in your climate. It may be a better idea to choose a less resilient cold-season grass variety if you live in a cold northern region.
Best Grass For High Traffic And Sun?
If you have a lawn that will have high traffic like children or dogs will constantly play on it you have to choose the grass variety wisely or else you will be constantly battling to keep it green and lush.
If you live in an area that has lots of sun and you expect your lawn to have high traffic you had better make the right decision when choosing the grass variety.
The variety of grass I would choose for this situation would be Zoysia as it is very tolerant of high traffic which means it will recover quickly especially if you live somewhere sunny as this variety of grass cannot get enough sun.
The only other good option I would consider for high traffic and sun would be bermuda grass as it is tolerant of high traffic and is very durable, and it will recover quickly and that is the very reason you will find bermuda grass being used on many sports fields.
Best Grass For High Traffic And Shade?
If you have a lawn that will be subjected to partial shade and you expect it will have lots of traffic from kids, dogs, or whatever using it you have to make the right choice otherwise it will be a constant battle and you may end up with a muddy mess instead of a lush lawn.
Tall fescue or hard fescue would be good options that should help your lawn stay lush and green in challenging circumstances. If you don’t want to go for a variety of fescue my backup plan would be to go for a bluegrass variety such as rough bluegrass as it has a reputation for being extremely tolerant of shaded areas.
It is quite hard to prevent damage to your lawn due to heavy traffic, especially if you have pets or kids. However, it will not be a problem if you have the right grass type. Choose one of the above grass varieties and enjoy your time on your lawn!