4 Best Grass Types for Detroit

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Detroit, MI skyline and waterfront

When you live in a city with so many sports teams – Lions, Tigers, Red Wings, and Pistons – there is a lot of team pride and competition in the air. But, are you proud of your lawn? Can it compete with others on your block?

With long summer days and even longer winter months, keeping your Motor City lawn green can be difficult. Planting hardy, cool-season grasses is the answer to your lawn woes. 

These are our top turf choices for the Detroit area: Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and fine fescue. These cool-season grasses can handle the mild, humid summers and stand up well to Detroit’s blustery winters. 

1. Kentucky bluegrass

Commonly found in the northern United States, Kentucky bluegrass originates from Eurasia. It has a signature bright emerald color and smooth-textured leaves.

Kentucky bluegrass is also the most common turfgrass in Michigan, likely due to its high cold tolerance. It’s considered to have the highest cold hardiness of all the cool-season grasses. If properly maintained, Kentucky bluegrass forms a dense, durable lawn.

Kentucky bluegrass is also slower to germinate compared to other cool-season grasses. So using a grass seed blend may get you that lush lawn quicker. Perennial ryegrass and certain fescues typically pair well with Kentucky bluegrass.  

Other notes: To keep your Kentucky bluegrass lawn at the top of its game, it’s recommended that fertilizer be applied four times a season with frequent watering during the summer months.

2. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is one of the fastest-growing and germinating turfgrass. It’s a cool-season grass that is often found in seed blends because it establishes quickly and helps form a lush lawn. It flourishes in climates that have moderate summers and cold winters.

When well maintained, perennial ryegrass has a bold green color that lasts through the winter. Because of its hardiness and ability to withstand wear, perennial ryegrass is a great choice for home lawns, sports fields, and golf courses. 

Perennial ryegrass is often affected by leaf spot and brown patch disease. When perennial ryegrass is under-fertilized, it is more susceptible to certain fungal diseases such as red thread, pink patch, and crown rust. Snowmold, pink mold, and grey mold also can attack ryegrass when planted in areas with lengthy snow cover, like Detroit.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate
  • Mowing height: 1-2 inches
  • Potential for disease: High. Snowmold, pink mold, and grey mold also can invade ryegrass when planted in areas with lengthy snow cover. 

Other notes: Perennial ryegrass requires more nitrogen fertilization compared to other types of grasses.

3. Tall fescue

Native to Europe, tall fescue typically stays green throughout winter and springtime. It has a coarse texture and deep green color. 

Tall fescue is popular because it is a very versatile turfgrass. It is resilient and durable. Its extensive root system can extend up to 3 feet underground, which gives tall fescue the advantage of going long periods without watering. As well as being highly drought tolerant, it is heat and shade tolerant and disease resistant.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing height: No higher than 3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low

Other notes: For best results, it is best to seed tall fescue by itself instead of with other turfgrasses.

4. Fine fescue

Fine fescue is a group of turf grasses that includes sheep fescue, creeping red fescue, Chewings fescue, and hard fescue. 

Each one varies slightly in color and hardiness. Fine fescue has the most shade tolerance of all the cool-season grasses. It is also easy to maintain because it requires little fertilization or moisture and can thrive in poor soil conditions. Fine fescue is best paired with other perennial, cold-weather turfgrasses such as Kentucky bluegrass.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type, rhizomes (creeping red only)
  • Shade tolerance: High
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing eight: 2-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: High; over-fertilization and excess moisture can make fine fescue prone to disease.

Other notes: Fine fescue will develop thatch if seeded by itself.

How to choose the best grass type for your Motor City lawn

The four grass types detailed above are all great options for Detroit homeowners, but you should consider a few things when deciding which one will best suit your lawn:

How much shade or direct sunlight does your lawn get?

Areas with lots of shade throughout the day would be ideal for fescues and Kentucky bluegrass. While lawns with plenty of hours of sunlight should opt for perennial ryegrass.

How is your outdoor space used?

Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, or tall fescue are great choices for active homeowners and pets.

How often is your lawn irrigated?

Fescues and perennial ryegrass require less watering than Kentucky bluegrass and are ideal for water conservation.

Which requires the least maintenance?

A healthy lawn comes with putting in the time and financial resources. Low-maintenance grass types, such as fescues, can cut your cost and save you time.

Now that you know the best grass types and can decide what is best for your yard and lifestyle, it’s time to plant. For the best results, turfgrasses should be planted in late summer and early fall. These cool-season grasses thrive in temperatures below 75 degrees Fahrenheit and above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Do you need help planting your new lawn? Contact a Detroit lawn care company to help with landscape design, installation, and maintenance. 

Main Photo Credit: Patricia Drury | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

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