cool-season grass guide

Ultimate Cool-Season Grass Guide

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Did you know that researchers have found that the average person spends 1,248 days performing some form of lawn care? That is a little over three years.

That would be like if someone performed lawn care every single day from January 1st, 2020 to June 2nd, 2023! That is a lot of time spent on lawn care either seeding, mowing, raking, and spraying.

If the average person performed lawn care from the age of 20 to 65, a period of 45 years, then they would be spending half an hour on their lawns per day. That’s is on average.

Then there are some people like me who are obsessed with their lawns.

We like to inspect every square inch of our lawns to check for holes, weeds, measuring the height of the grass, and watering the grass to get that perfect uniform green color.

If the average person spends an average of half an hour a day on lawn care, how long do people who are obsessed with the quality of their lawns spend on lawn care per day?

Regardless if you are the average person or one obsessed with your lawn, here is the ultimate cool-season grass guide for you.

Cool-Season Grass Varieties

Many homeowners who don’t do their homework and purchase the wrong grass type for the region they reside in.

They might live in a warm-season area of the country and purchase cool-season grass seed. Or they may live in a cool-season area and purchase warm-season grass seed and then end up frustrated and confused as to why their lawns aren’t thriving.

Here are six grass cool-season grass varieties to choose from:

  • Annual Ryegrass
  • Creeping Bentgrass
  • Fine Fescue
  • Kentucky Bluegrass
  • Perennial Ryegrass
  • Tall Fescue.

Annual Ryegrass

Annual Ryegrass, also called Italian ryegrass, covers the majority of the United States.

This type of grass improves the quality of the soil and adds organic matter to the soil, suppresses weeds, prevents erosion, and aids in drainage. This type of grass does well in areas with rocky and wet soils, exposed areas, and grass waterways, even though it prefers fertile sandy loam and drained soils.

Avoid mowing this grass closer than three inches. Not typically a type of grass to go on a lawn.

Creeping Bentgrass

Creeping Bentgrass is a specialty grass primarily used as a putting green for a golf course.

While Creeping Bentgrass can be used as a type of grass for a home lawn, there is a lot of skill required to properly maintain this species, which can be rather expensive. Surprisingly, this type of grass is considered a nuisance for most lawns as it is considered an invasive grass type.

It is a cool-season grass which, like most cool-season grasses, does not do well when the weather is too hot or too cold.

Fine Fescue

Fine Fescue is the type of grass that is used as the type of grass for a lawn the most.

It is a grass which is perennial. Annual plants have a life cycle that lasts for only one year while perennials come back each year and don’t have to be replanted and lie dormant for part of the year. If maintained properly, fine fescue can stay green all year long and even has good drought resistance.

It will also thrive in poor soil conditions and requires very little maintenance.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Nope, not talking about Kentucky Bluegrass music, but Kentucky Bluegrass the grass. Kentucky Bluegrass has a gorgeous dark green color that most people think of when they think of grass.

This type of grass grows slower during the summer months due to a low heat tolerance but thrives during the spring, winter, and autumn months. What most people don’t know is that this species of grass can repair injured or damaged spots on its own.

If Kentucky Bluegrass is stressed too much, it becomes vulnerable to weed invasion and disease.

Perennial Ryegrass

As the name suggests, Perennial Ryegrass comes back on its own and doesn’t have to be replanted each year, unlike Annual Ryegrass which has a life cycle of one year and then it dies in winter.

This grass is best for coastal regions and partial shade. Out of all the grass types, it has a high wear tolerance and can tolerate a high amount of foot traffic. In the Pacific Northwest, it is the type which is mostly used as a permanent lawn grass as it is perfect for the cool, humid region.

Tall Fescue

Tall Fescue is a grass that stays green during winter, provided the winter is cool and not too cold.

In California, this is the most common type of lawn grass and has good weed and disease resistance.

Tall fescue has a habit of bunching as it grows, which causes open areas to form. This can be corrected by reseeding the area with more grass seed. When seeded correctly, the tall is uniform in appearance and can also be placed in partially shady areas of the lawn.

Not found what you’re looking for? check out my article on Warm-Season grass.

fescue cool season grass

Lawn Care For Cool-Season Grass

Lawn care for cool-season grass is somewhat different than warm-season grass. With warm-season grass, you don’t have to worry about the effect of de-icing salt on the lawn and snow mold. Let’s start with the summer months.

Summer

Hot temperatures, ice cream, and no school.

While summer is associated more with family vacations, swimming, and a more relaxing time of the year, there are a few things which have to be done for a cool-season lawn. So follow this ultimate cool-season grass guide to see what to do during the summer.

June

Even though there may be rainfall and heavy thunderstorms during this time of year, be sure to provide your lawns with one inch of water per week as it may not rain consistently enough for the health of your grass and it could need more and could become easily parched in the summer heat.

Speaking of heat, raise the height on your mower blades to four inches.

This will encourage deeper growth within the soil and increase the heat resilience of the grass. While it may seem a little high, this helps keep the lawn healthy, kind of like letting the hair on your head grow out long before you cut it.

July

July is the month where you have to be on the lookout for lawn grubs.

Even though they are small and newly hatched, these destructive pests will feed on the roots of the grass right near the surface of the ground. This will impair the health of your lawn and leave bare spots if these insects have their way. They can destroy a lawn very quickly.

Even though you may have to deal with lawn grubs, maintain the taller height of the grass and never cut more than 1/3 of the height of the grass blades in a single mowing. While it may make it harder to find objects lost in between the blades of grass, such as keys, balls, and other objects, it keeps the lawn healthy.

August

August. The month where most students go back to school and is a near-constant reminder that autumn is just around the corner.

Late summer and early autumn is also the best time to seed new lawns as cooler temperatures, moisture, and warmer soil encourages grass growth. This is also a good time to test the soil before adding grass seed. If there are any corrections to be made, then you will know what needs to be done before more grass seed is added.

Be sure to rake any soil which has been compacted. Compacted soil does not allow airflow.

cool season sunset grass

Autumn

Autumn is when temperatures start to cool, kids go back to school, and leaves start to fall from trees. Sweaters, fireplaces, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, there is still plenty of work to do on your lawn.

September

September is a month of transition for both people and grass.

Kids are going back to school, days are getting shorter, and nights are getting colder. September is a good time to fertilize the grass. While you may not know the exact date of the first frost, the rule of thumb is to do it six weeks before the first frost in your region.

When mowing your lawn, it is time to start lowering the mower blades back to regular grass cutting heights. This should be done gradually and not all at once.

October

Now your lawn will need to be watered less often.

Instead of one inch per week, reduce your watering frequency to one inch to every 12 to 14 days. Your grass is responding to the cooler temperatures and getting ready for winter and will need less water.

Be sure to rake any fallen leaves and either mulch them or collect them. If leaves are left unraked, they will prevent airflow to the grass below and suffocate the grass. The time to act upon the results from soil tests taken in August has arrived.

If the test results suggest anything needs to be added to the soil, this would be the best time to do so.

November

Since grass should enter the winter season hydrated, only water your lawn if it is needed.

The soil should not be overly wet once winter arrives. The grass will slow its growth rate until it finally stops growing. People tend to stop mowing, expecting the grass to stop growing earlier. Mowing should be done until it is obvious that the grass has stopped growing.

On the final mowing, the blades of the mower should be lower than normal.

This is to reduce the risk of snow mold.

Winter

Blizzards, cold temperatures, the longest night of the year, and hot cocoa consumption. You probably can’t see your lawn, but you still have to do a few things to take care of your lawn. Here is your ultimate cool-season grass guide for the winter months.

grass winter season

December

Do you want to build a snowman?

You’ll have plenty of time for building snowmen, sledding, and snowball fights since there isn’t much you have to do this month unless you use a lot of de-icing salts.

Your lawnmower and equipment should be put away by now, but at least do it properly. Clean your lawnmower and other lawn tools to prevent rust, and dirt, grass, and mud buildup. Best to get your lawn and garden tools clean now instead of having to take the time to do it when it is time to use them.

January

It’s the beginning of a new year, but to your grass, it is just another day.

Ice melt plays havoc with the health of your lawn, even if it is buried under the snow. The salt buildup will damage grass and any other plants nearby.

This is also the month to get your mower and other lawn tools ready for spring. Sharpen any tools which need to be sharpened and check them for any repair needs. Now is the best time to take them to repair shops as they are not as busy during the winter months.

February

It is the time of year where it is recommended to test the soil of your lawn once more.

This is best done when the soil is not too wet or frozen over. That way, once the results of the soil tests come back, you will have time to make any corrections to the soil as needed.

Healthy lawns only need to be tested every four years, but if there are any problem areas of the lawn, those need to be tested annually or twice a year. As soon as the soil is somewhat thawed, flush any areas that have been affected by salt melt.

If you have yellow grass check out my article on how to make it green again.

Spring

Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. It is also a time of highly inconsistent weather patterns with snow and then thunderstorms happening on the same day.

March

Once the snow has melted and the grass and soil are fairly dry, it is time to rake the lawn once more.

This time it is to remove debris and dead grass, which helps to remove snow mold and other potential fungal diseases and helps to improve the flow of air in the soil. If there is any lawn moss, now is the time to treat it as it is at its most vulnerable and is in an active period of growth.

Now is the time to do soil adjustments as suggested by soil test results.

April

April showers bring May flowers. And lawn growth!

Since there might be some fungal spores laying in wait for the perfect time to attack your lawn, dispose of the clippings when you mow the lawn. At least for the first few mowings.

There might be a few bare spots in need of repair. There are products out there that take care of grass damage from the salt melt, snow removal equipment, etc.

Spring is also one of the best seasons for seeding cool-season lawns.

cool season lawn mowing

May

May is the month where grass clippings can now be left on the lawn if desired.

While people don’t like the look of leftover grass clippings, grass clippings add nutrients back into the soil which improves the soil Happy soil, happy grass, happy lawn. As for fertilization, the soil tests taken in February will inform you of your lawn’s current fertilization needs.

There will be weeds which pop up and they will be tough. It’s your lawn, so you have to be tougher. Weed treatment is at its most effective when the weeds are small and are in the active growing stage.

Check out my article on how to mow patterns on your lawn.

How To Take Care Of Your Lawn Overview

1. Test The Soil of Your Lawn

As mentioned above in this ultimate cool-season grass guide, lawns should be tested every three to four years. If you have already fertilized your lawn, it is best to wait up to eight weeks before taking a soil sample as doing it before then will interfere with the results of the test. An accurate soil sample should be at least six inches deep and should not have any leaves, grass blades, or other organic matter in the sample.

2. Check The Lawn’s Watering Needs

The amount of water your lawn will need varies greatly on many factors such as heat, rainfall, the health of the lawn, and species of the lawn. Cool-season grasses need about 2.5 inches per week during dry, hot weather they only need 1.5 inches per week. Late evening or early morning are the best times of day to prevent evaporation. Be sure to water deeply, which boosts root growth. If footprints stay visible for an hour or more, a sign of being dry, then it is time to water

3. Let The Grass Sleep

If there has been high heat, or a drought, the most natural reaction people have is to water their grass more often. It is actually better for the grass to go dormant and grass can spend 4 weeks in a dormant state before they start to die. The length a plant can stay dormant also relies on the health of the plant, as well as the species.

Some weeds thrive on the reduced water situation, so be sure to remove these to aid the grass before it starts to revive.

4. High, Cool, and Dry

To avoid stressing out your lawn, it is best to mow when it is cool and dry. In the summer, this would be in the early morning after the dew evaporates, but before the sun starts heating up and drying everything out.

5. Sharpen Blades

While it was mentioned above in this ultimate cool-season grass guide that January was the best time to sharpen the blades on your lawnmower and other tools, blade sharpening should take place any time you suspect the blades are getting dull. Dull lawnmower blades actually damage your lawn by pulling up portions of grass, discolors the lawn, and has a very uneven cut.

6. In Autumn Do Autumn Tasks

When it comes to taking care of your yard in autumn, there is often far more to do than simply raking and picking up leaves. Autumn is the best time to transplant shrubs and other perennials, the best time to plant flowers that bloom in the spring, and the best time to get your trees and plants ready for winter.

7. Feed Your Lawn

While watering your lawn is important, every living thing needs water to survive, your lawn also requires food in the form of fertilizer. Preferably the fertilizer is organic and heavy in nitrogen. Bat guano, blood meal, and feather meal are all high in nitrogen. Bat guano from insect-eating bats is one of the best for healthy soil.

8. The Need For Air

Don’t forget that your lawn and soil need airflow as well. While it is recommended to aerate the soil once or twice a year, Some people do it three to four times a year to ensure the soil does not become too compacted. If the soil is not aerated, then water, air, and nutrients have a more difficult time getting to the roots.

9. Prevent Surface Runoff

Preventing surface runoff will go far in keeping soil contaminants out of the water cycle and drinking water. Such contaminants include pesticides, antifreeze, fertilizers, petroleum, and anything else the water comes into contact as it makes its way to a sewer system.

A few ways to help prevent surface runoff is to plant trees, not leave soil exposed and direct downspouts to vegetated areas.

Ensuring a happy, healthy lawn is a commitment in time and energy that many people find to be well worth the investment to ensure the look and well-being of their lawn.

Use this ultimate cool-season grass guide if you are not sure if the grass type you want is what will work for your region.

Also, if you don’t remember what to do in each month, be sure to write down what to do month by month, or even season by season, which will make the art of caring for your lawn easier and more efficient. Here’s to your happy, healthy lawn.

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