4 Best Grass Types for Cleveland

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Aerial view of the Cleveland Indians baseball stadium during a game

If your lawn has been neglected while you’ve been enjoying Cleveland’s lake life, it may be time to refresh it with one of four cool-season grass types

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

Here are a couple of reasons why these are the best grass types for your lawn:

  1. Cool-season grasses are best for Cleveland’s cold winters and mild summers.
  2. These grasses are often planted in a seed or sod mix, so you can take advantage of the strengths of each type while minimizing the weaknesses.

Which grass is best for my Cleveland lawn?

Cool-season grasses thrive in northern Ohio. These grasses enjoy the cooler spring and fall temperatures and may go dormant during the summer if the weather gets too hot.

1. Turf-type tall fescue

Turf-type tall fescue is a great low-to-moderate maintenance lawn grass. This grass is coarse-textured and thrives in full sun but can tolerate some shade. Tall fescue forms deep roots and can survive most droughts. Look for an improved variety with endophytes to use in your lawn. (Older varieties such as Kentucky 31 are not recommended for residential lawns.)

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Most varieties are bunching grasses, but a few varieties have short rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low to moderate shade
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate. Needs as little as 1-2 pounds of nitrogen/1,000 sq. ft./yr. 
  • Recommended mowing height: 2.5 – 4 inches

2. Fine fescues

Fine fescues are known for their use as the shade component of cool-season sun/shade grass mixes. These grasses do well in acidic soils and have a fine texture. It needs little in the way of nitrogen and doesn’t readily accumulate thatch. Endophyte-enhanced seed may help with insect pressure.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: No stolons or rhizomes; this is a bunching grass. One variety, creeping red fescue, has short rhizomes.
  • Shade tolerance: Partial shade
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Needs as little as 1-2 pounds of nitrogen/1,000 sq. ft./yr.
  • Recommended mowing height: 2.5-3 inches

3. Kentucky bluegrass

Under ideal conditions and management, Kentucky bluegrass produces a blue-green lawn that is prized for its classic look. Beauty, as they say, comes at a price, and this applies to Kentucky bluegrass. This grass produces a high-maintenance lawn and requires regular inputs of fertilizer and water to keep it in top condition. Kentucky bluegrass is often mixed with other cool-season grasses to create a stronger lawn that is better at resisting disease and insects.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate to high* 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs:  High — requires regular fertilization, watering, and dethatching as needed
  • Recommended mowing height: 2.5-3 inches

*Kentucky bluegrass will go dormant quickly during a drought, but this doesn’t mean it has died. Its rhizomes help it to recover, in most cases, once rainfall resumes.

4. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is often used in a mix with Kentucky bluegrass. On its own, this grass is hardy in both cold and warm conditions and is quick to establish. If your lawn gets a lot of use during the growing season, perennial ryegrass has a high traffic tolerance. Consider endophyte-enhanced seed to help reduce insect issues, and make sure your mower blade is sharp.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Does not have stolons or rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high – requires from 2-5 pounds of nitrogen/1,000 sq. ft. per year
  • Recommended mowing height: 2.5-3 inches

How to select the best grass type for your lawn

Remember to consider your lawn’s unique needs before deciding which grass is best:

Is your lawn full sun or partial shade?

If you have partial shade in your lawn, choose turf-type tall fescue or a mix with fine fescue. Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass prefer full sun.

Do you want to DIY your lawn care or pay someone else to do it? How much are you willing to do or pay?

Kentucky bluegrass requires the most care while turf-type tall fescue and fine fescues require relatively little.

Does your area have drought or watering restrictions?

All four grasses have high or moderate levels of drought tolerance.

Do you host events or pickup football games on your lawn? (In other words, how much foot traffic does your lawn get?)

Turf-type tall fescue and perennial ryegrass are great for lawns with kids or pets. Fine fescues prefer not to be walked on or trampled through.

Once you’ve learned about the different grass types in your city and considered your property’s unique challenges, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make the best decision for your lawn.

If you’d rather be exploring the plethora of museums, parks, and entertainment options Cleveland has to offer, contact a Cleveland lawn care professional today. Our lawn care pros will mow, rake, and landscape so you can spend your time on what matters most.

Main Photo Credit: John B | Pixabay

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