Best Grass Types for Albany

Front-facing view of SUNY plaza In Albany, NY

Is your Albany lawn in need of a face-lift? If you’d like to plant new grass, you’ve probably wondered which grass type is best for your lawn. Here are four cool-season grasses to choose from:

  • Fine fescues
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Turf-type tall fescue

We’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each grass type individually, but you’ll often find cool-season grasses sold in mixes at the home improvement store. This is because cool-season grasses often perform best when two or more species are combined.

1. Fine fescues

Got shade? Fine fescues to the rescue! Fine fescues are a group of grasses (creeping red, chewings, sheep, and hard fescue) that can handle some shade. These grasses are often used in a cool-season grass mix for lawns with partial shade.

Fine fescues are considered low-maintenance grass because they require little or no fertilizer and grow slowly. This is a plus because you don’t have to mow as often but is also a downside because this means a slow recovery time after stress or wear.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass  
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type grasses with one exception: creeping red fescues possess rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate to high
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; High thatch levels can decrease its drought tolerance, so check thatch levels periodically.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing height: 2 inches or taller
  • Potential for disease: Low to moderate

Other notes: May require dethatching periodically. Fine fescues can be susceptible to red thread and leaf spot during wet conditions. White grubs may find this grass desirable as well.

2. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is a popular, higher-maintenance turfgrass in Albany. This species needs full sun and prefers fertile, well-drained soil. It can stay green in higher summer temps but will require supplemental irrigation to do so. In addition, plan to fertilize your Kentucky bluegrass lawn several times throughout the growing season.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; goes brown quickly during the summer if not irrigated, but its rhizomes help it to recover quickly once cooler temperatures and rains return.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high
  • Mowing height: 3 inches or taller
  • Potential for disease: Moderate to high

Other notes: Plan to dethatch periodically, especially if you apply high amounts of fertilizer. Prone to fungal diseases, white grubs, and billbugs. Disease-resistant cultivars are available.

3. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is a common addition to cool-season grass mixes. It is often included in mixes with Kentucky bluegrass (KBG) because it germinates much faster than KBG, providing a full lawn in about two weeks. Perennial ryegrass prefers full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. This grass is less prone to develop diseases when homeowners follow good lawn care practices (water in the early morning, cut at the right height, fertilize well, and don’t plant this grass in shade). 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type grass
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Low
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low to moderate; tolerates wear better than KBG, but it will not recover like KBG, and bare spots will need to be re-seeded
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate — requires medium to high levels of fertilization
  • Mowing height: 2-2.5 inches or taller for best results; tolerates mowing as low as ¾ inch
  • Potential for disease: In less than ideal conditions, this grass is prone to fungal disease; can be susceptible to surface and below-ground insects

Other notes: Perennial ryegrass is quite competitive, so if you are establishing a new KBG/perennial ryegrass lawn, keep the percentage of perennial ryegrass under 20% of the total seed mix if you want KBG to predominate over time. Consider an endophyte-enhanced variety to help this grass resist surface insects like sod webworm and chinch bugs.

4. Turf-type tall fescue

Turf-type tall fescue (TTTF) is another popular cool-season grass. It requires regular fertilization to help head off common diseases and grows quickly in ideal conditions, so plan to mow more frequently during peak season. Plan to overseed regularly if you have a high-traffic lawn; as a bunch-type grass, TTTF doesn’t recover well after wear.

Turf-type tall fescue is usually seeded on its own or in a mix with less than 10% of another cool-season grass because of its comparatively wide leaves.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type grass
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: Low to moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate   
  • Maintenance needs: Regular fertilization and mowing
  • Mowing height: Minimum of 2 inches, but 3 or more inches is preferred.
  • Potential for disease: Moderate

Other notes: Produces little to no thatch. TTTF may suffer from brown patch, Pythium diseases, and rust.

How to select the best grass type for your Albany lawn

Before you head to the home improvement store to pick up seed, ask yourself a few questions about your lawn. This will help you choose the best grass for your lawn’s needs. And don’t forget to contact the Albany County Cooperative Extension office to speak with a local expert if you need further advice.

  • What kind of sun or shade do I have in the lawn? 
    • Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass work best in lawns with full sun. If you have partial shade, consider fine fescues or turf-type tall fescue.
  • Do you have droughts during the summer season?
    • Kentucky bluegrass recovers quickly from drought once watering and cooler temperatures resume, but it goes brown without supplemental summer watering. Turf-type tall fescue and fine fescues have low to moderate drought tolerance.
  • What level of maintenance do you want to pay for or do yourself?
    • Fine fescue is the only cool-season grass on this list that is low maintenance. The other grasses require at least a moderate level of care.
  • What level of foot traffic do you have on the lawn?
    • Fine fescue is a good choice for a lawn or a part of the lawn that gets no foot traffic from people or pets. Kentucky bluegrass can recover from some wear on its own, but turf-type tall fescue will require overseeding if the traffic levels get too high.

If you’d rather spend your time enjoying Albany’s numerous outdoor concerts, kayaking on the Hudson River, or buzzing along the city’s Capital Craft Beverage Trail, let one of our Albany lawn care pros take the heat out of manicuring your lawn this mowing season.

Main Photo Credit: Silvia.gualdi | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.