Does your Cincinnati lawn need a fresh look? Whether you need to install a new lawn or patch a few bare spots, these four recommended grass types will help you put your best lawn foot forward. 

    All four of these grass types — fine fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and turf-type tall fescue — are considered cool-season grasses, perfect for withstanding our chilly winters. Beyond grass type, there are a few key characteristics you’ll want to consider when choosing the best species for your lawn: 

    • How much shade does your yard get?
    • Do you have a lot of traffic on your lawn?
    • What kind of drought tolerance do you need?
    • How much lawn maintenance do you want to do?

    Now that you’ve thought about these key questions, let’s jump right in and learn more about the four best grass types for your Cincy lawn.

    Which Grass is Best for Your Cincinnati Lawn?

    1. Fine Fescue

    Fine fescue has a fine leaf texture and grows well in acidic soil. It doesn’t need much nitrogen and has little potential for thatch buildup. This species is often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass in yards with partial shade.

    Classification: Cool-season
    Spreads by: Fine fescue is a bunching grass with no stolons or rhizomes. The one exception is creeping red fescue, which has short rhizomes.
    Shade Tolerance: Tolerates partial shade
    Drought tolerance: High
    Foot traffic tolerance: Low
    Maintenance Needs: Low to moderate
    Mowing Height: 2” – 3”
    Potential for Disease: Low to moderate

    Other Notes: Look for seed that is enhanced with endophytes. Endophytes are fungi that create chemicals to repel insects such as chinch bugs, billbugs, and sod webworms.

    2. Kentucky Bluegrass

    Kentucky bluegrass, when well maintained, produces a beautiful, dense stand of grass. When you think of a gorgeous, perfect lawn, you probably think of something that looks like Kentucky bluegrass. 

    Kentucky bluegrass does have its challenges: It is considered a high maintenance grass and requires full sun and regular watering. Consider the pluses and minuses of Kentucky bluegrass to determine if it is best for your lawn.

    Classification: Cool-season
    Spreads by: Rhizomes
    Shade Tolerance: Low – requires sun
    Drought tolerance: Moderate to high*   
    Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate but recuperates quickly        
    Maintenance Needs:  High
    Mowing Height: 2” – 2 1/2”
    Potential for Disease: Moderate to high

    Other Notes: Kentucky bluegrass is susceptible to grubs and diseases that cause thinning in early summer. Too much nitrogen or wet conditions will cause excessive thatch buildup. Yearly aeration may be required.

    * Although Kentucky bluegrass has a moderate to high drought tolerance, it will go dormant and turn brown fairly quickly in the absence of regular watering. However, unlike some other species, its rhizomes help it to recover quickly, in most cases, as soon as regular watering resumes.

    3. Perennial Ryegrass

    Perennial ryegrass is best used as part of a grass mix that includes other grass species, such as Kentucky bluegrass. Perennial ryegrass tolerates both heat and cold well and is quick to establish itself. It can be mowed fairly high and forms a thick canopy that shades the soil and prevents weeds from sprouting.

    Classification: Cool-season
    Spreads by: This is a bunching grass – no stolons or rhizomes. Bare patches will need to be re-seeded.
    Shade Tolerance: Low – requires sun
    Drought tolerance: Moderate
    Foot traffic tolerance: High
    Maintenance Needs:  Moderate to High
    Mowing Height: 2” – 3” 
    Potential for Disease: High

    Other Notes: Use a sharp mower blade for best results. Look for endophyte-enhanced seed to help control insects.

    4. Turf-Type Tall Fescue

    Ohio State University recommends using improved turf-type tall fescue varieties for your yard. 

    Turf-type tall fescue can withstand high amounts of traffic and is resistant to pests and disease. It has a deep root system that withstands drought conditions without much or any watering. 

    Overall, turf-type tall fescue is a great low-maintenance grass, but note that Kentucky 31 (or KY-31) is an older cultivar that is not recommended for the home lawn.

    Classification: Cool-season
    Spreads by: Depends on the variety. Most are bunching while others produce rhizomes.
    Shade Tolerance: Withstands partial shade
    Drought tolerance: High
    Foot traffic tolerance: High
    Maintenance Needs:  Low 
    Mowing Height: 2.5” – 3.5”
    Potential for Disease:  Low to medium

    Other Notes: If you’re using turf-type tall fescue on its own, use a blend of two or three cultivars for best results. Avoid excessive water or fertilization to avoid pest and grass disease issues. Also, consider endophyte-enhanced seed.

    To Mix or Not to Mix?

    Cool-season grass species are often sold in mixes. Grass mixes combine two or more species (such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass) to increase the lawn’s ability to adapt to stress or varied yard conditions, such as sun and shade. 

    These mixes are the norm for cool-season grasses. Choose a mix that is balanced for the conditions in your lawn for the best chance of success.

    Want a pro to help with your new grass project — or to handle the mowing and maintenance of your new lawn? Contact a Cincinnati lawn pro pro today to help you choose, install, mow, or maintain your new grass.

    Main Photo Credit: David Ohmer | Flickr | CC BY 2.0