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University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Garden > SULIS > Maintenance > Sustainable Lawn care Information Series > Establishing a New Lawn to Achieve Sustainability > Establishment by Seed

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Establishment by Seed

In the upper Midwest, Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, and some of the perennial ryegrass cultivars are recommended. However, before a seed mix is chosen, the site location and user expectations should also be evaluated. Factors to consider include the amount of shade present and how much wear and tear the lawn will receive. Another factor to consider is the level of maintenance the person is willing to perform. For example, will the desired lawn be a showcase and green throughout the season (high maintenance), or is a healthy lawn with a minimum of fuss (low maintenance) preferred? These are important questions to consider when choosing grasses.

Specific turfgrass species

  • A Kentucky bluegrass blend containing at least two or three varieties is a good choice for sunny lawns. The benefits of a blend are that each variety may be different in its resistance to various diseases and environmental tolerances, such as drought and shade.

  • Some turf-type perennial ryegrasses have been used in home lawns for durability and foot traffic tolerance. To grow well, many perennial ryegrasses require more fertilizer and water than do the Kentucky bluegrass/fine fescue lawns. When mixed with Kentucky bluegrass for higher maintenance lawns, the percentage of perennial ryegrass in the mix should be about 10 to 15 percent. This will limit the amount of early grass seedling competition of perennial ryegrass against the Kentucky bluegrass.

  • Fine fescues are often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass in areas that have more shade. For theses areas, use a mix consisting of about 60 percent fine fescues and 40 percent Kentucky bluegrass. Fine fescues can also be added to a bluegrass mix to lend increased drought tolerance in sunnier locations.

  • For lower maintenance lawns, mixtures of common Kentucky bluegrass varieties and fine fescues will offer a durable lawn.

  • No more than 5 percent to 10 percent of any grass seed mix should be made of Italian or annual ryegrass. These plants are annuals and will not come back after the first winter. Also, due to their rapid germination and early seedling growth, they can overpower the more desirable lawn grasses that take a longer time to germinate, grow and become established.

The availability of specific varieties will vary from year to year; however, within a particular kind of grass (e.g., fine fescue or improved Kentucky bluegrass), many varieties will perform satisfactorily under average lawn care practices.

Your local seed distributor, garden center, or university extension educator can help you evaluate the best varieties for your lawn. Some varieties can be special ordered, but usually at a higher cost. For a complete discussion regarding adaptability of lawn grasses to Minnesota and to specific site conditions see Turfgrass Selection for Sustainable Lawns.

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