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Choosing a Turfgrass

No one type of grass is best suited to all situations. Avoid the trap of letting personal preference and the costs of establishing your lawn become the overriding factors in selecting a grass.

Hot Springs, Ark. – No one type of grass is best suited to all situations. Avoid the trap of letting personal preference and the costs of establishing your lawn become the overriding factors in selecting a grass. Your choice of a lawn grass should be based on climate, sustainability, intended use and desired appearance.

Cool-season and warm-season grasses are grown in Arkansas. Cool-season grasses grow best in the spring and fall but less actively in the summer and stay reasonably green in the winter. Tall fescue is a commonly grown cool-season grass in Arkansas. Warm-season grasses are slow to green up in the spring, grow best in the summer and go dormant after the first heavy frost. Warm-season grasses grown in Arkansas include Bermuda, Centipede, St. Augustine and Zoysia.

Because quality turfgrass requires moisture and a good amount of sunlight, shade and lack of water are often the primary factors that limit growth for home lawns. Other environmental aspects to consider are soil type, drainage, slope and ease of mowing.  Arkansas lies in a transition zone. What this means is that summer in Arkansas is too hot for cool-season grasses to perform well and winters are often cold enough to injure or kill warm-season grasses. Unfortunately, maintaining lawn grasses in the transition zone is more difficult than in many other parts of the United States.

The relative ability of various grasses to withstand drought is often debated among turfgrass experts. Bermuda survives dry soil conditions better than most turfgrasses. Turfgrasses become semi-dormant under drought conditions and then regenerate from crowns, stolons or rhizomes when moisture becomes available. Bermuda and Zoysia are considered fairly drought tolerant but need 1.0 to 1.5 inches of water per week to maintain growth during dry periods. Centipede and St. Augustine are not very drought tolerant and require careful water management during dry periods. Tall fescue requires frequent watering (1.5 to 2.0 inches per week) during the hottest part of the summer to keep it growing.

Turfgrasses need plenty of light to become dense and vigorous. Shade from buildings and trees can prevent turfgrass growth. Shrubs, ground cover and mulches are the best alternatives for shaded areas. The amount of light your lawn gets will vary under different types of trees. Pine trees will permit more light than broadleaf trees. Most of the grasses listed, except Bermuda, will grow in filtered pine tree shade or if they can get at least four hours of full sun per day. Tall fescue and St. Augustine are the most shade-tolerant grasses recommended for Arkansas.        

A higher cutting height is recommended for home lawns. Mowing at lower heights can decrease rooting and overall turf health as well as increase the risk of scalping. Mowing heights of less than 1 inch also require a reel mower for best results. Keeping the blade (bedknife) sharp and adjusting the height of cut is more difficult with reel mowers than with rotary mowers; therefore, they are not recommended for homeowners.

Consider how your lawn will be used.  Will it be more for show or used for an outdoor recreation area? Will there be children and pets playing on it?  If frequent traffic is anticipated, select a turfgrass that will tolerate wear. Centipede and St. Augustine are poor choices for heavily used areas. Good wear tolerance and the ability to recover rapidly make Bermuda a good choice for recreation areas.

Some turfgrasses are limited to vegetative propagation (sod, sprigs, plugs) because they do not produce enough seed to be harvested or the seed is genetically inconsistent with the parent. Recent improvements in plant material however have provided a greater opportunity to establish quality warm-season grasses from seed. With the exception of St. Augustine, all of the warm-season grasses have seed available and improved cultivars.

For more information, contact the Garland County Extension Office at 623-6841 or 922-4703, or email Jimmy Driggers at jdriggers@uaex.edu

EHC Information

Would you be interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? How about forming a club in your community?  EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For more information about how you can be involved in EHC in Garland County, call 623-6841 or email me at jvincent@uaex.edu.

 4-H Information

If you’re between the ages of 5 and 19, you can join 4-H! We have a club for you, or you and a group of friends can organize a club of your own.  For more information on the 4-H program call the Extension office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email lbates@uaex.edu .

Master Gardener Information

If you have an interest in gardening of any type, or would like to learn more in the horticulture field, the monthly Master Gardener meetings are open to the public and guests are always welcome. For information call the Extension office at 623-6841 or 922-4703 or email abates@uaex.edu.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution.

 

By Jimmy Driggers
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jimmy Driggers
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
236 Woodbine Hot Springs AR 71901
(501) 623-6841
jdriggers@uaex.edu

 


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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