4 Best Grass Types in Providence

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Skyline of Providence, RI

Providence is known for its humid climate and cold, snowy winters. If you want a lush green lawn for that next neighborhood clam bake, you’ll need a good cool-season grass. These grasses are winter-hardy and grow best in the spring and fall. 

Here we’ll break down our top four picks for one of America’s oldest cities: 

  • Perennial ryegrass 
  • Kentucky bluegrass 
  • Tall fescue
  • Fine fescue 

These grass types all thrive in the Rhode Island climate. This guide will help you figure out which is the best grass seed for your soil conditions and lifestyle. 

1. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass has a fine leaf texture and is usually dark green. This grass establishes itself quickly and is ideal for overseeding. 

The rapid growth makes this turf competitive with other grasses. It’s often used by itself or as part of a seed blend. Because it grows quickly, it can repair itself with ease when subjected to heavy foot traffic and wear and tear. 

Perennial ryegrass performs best in well-draining soils. It’s vulnerable to several grass diseases common to Rhode Island, including dollar spot, red thread, and rust. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Low. Perennial ryegrass needs a yard with a lot of sun. 
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate. This grass likes water, but can revive quickly after a dry spell. 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate. This grass prefers nutrient-rich soil. 
  • Mowing height: 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate; vulnerable to dollar spot, red thread, and rust

Other notes: Perennial ryegrass can be susceptible to ice cover injuries and snow mold.  

2. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is popular in Providence because of its cold-weather hardiness. This grass also grows back quickly if damaged, so it’s great for anyone with kids, pets, or who spends a lot of time on their lawn. 

Kentucky bluegrass becomes dormant during an extended drought. But it swiftly recovers to its dark green shade when the temperature drops back down and the moisture returns.

One of the biggest drawbacks? This turf needs a sunny yard and doesn’t perform as well in high shade

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate; prefers direct sunlight
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; bald patches regrow quickly, but this turf prefers irrigation
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Very high
  • Maintenance needs: High; Kentucky bluegrass prefers high-nutrient soils  
  • Mowing height: 2.5-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate; susceptible to several grass ailments, from dollar spot and stripe smut to necrotic ring and summer patch 

Other notes: This turf can be slow to get going with seed. Fortunately, Kentucky bluegrass is widely available as sod. 

3. Tall fescue

Tall fescue is growing in popularity thanks to its low-maintenance needs. If you hate doing yard work, this might be your grass. 

This turf has a coarser texture and is medium to dark green in color. Tall fescue survives well in heat and sandy soil. 

Tall fescue has a low tolerance to foot traffic. This grass is generally poor at repairing itself and may need occasional overseeding to fill in the bald spots. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low; this grass is pretty hardy
  • Mowing height: 3.5-4 inches 
  • Potential for disease: High; vulnerable to brown patch, red thread, and Pythium blight

Other notes: There are a few varieties of tall fescue. Make sure to plant one of the newer turf type tall fescues. The older ones have not been bred for lawns.

4. Fine fescue

There are several varieties of fine fescue. You can choose from creeping red, chewings, and hard fescue. These are called “fine” fescues because their blades are typically thinner, creating a soft texture. 

Like the tall fescue, these grass types are typically low maintenance. They survive in low pH, low nutrient soils and do well in shady yards. These grasses also thrive with low levels of watering. 

You can easily over water or over fertilize tall fescue. It sometimes struggles in hot, humid conditions. These grass types generally range from medium to blue-green. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: High 
  • Drought tolerance: High. 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Low; great in low-nutrient soil
  • Mowing height: 1-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: High; vulnerable to leaf spot, red thread, and dollar spot

Other notes: In hotter weather, this grass can become semi-dormant. It will usually bounce back with the next cold front. 

How to choose the best grass type for your Providence lawn

While any of these grass types would be great for your Providence lawn, there are several important factors to consider when choosing your turf. 

Do you have a sunny yard?

If you get a lot of sun, consider Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. Fine fescue does better in shadier yards.

How much time do you want to invest?

If you don’t mind regular watering and fertilization, a high-maintenance turf like Kentucky bluegrass will suit you well. If you’d prefer low maintenance, consider tall fescue. 

How much foot traffic do you expect on your lawn?

If you have dogs or kids regularly tramping your turf, you’ll want something that can easily regrow. Perennial ryegrass and Kentucky bluegrass are recommended. 

What kind of soil are we working with?

Tall fescues tend to thrive in drier, sandier soil. Fine fescues are good for soils with lower nutrients and pH.

Once you narrow down your criteria, you should be more than ready to pick out the best turf for your yard. 

When should I plant grass seed in Providence?

For a thick, green lawn, we recommend planting between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15. Autumn in Rhode Island is known for cool temperatures and regular rainfall. This is ideal for seed germination and early growth. 

If you plant your grass in spring, expect to have a harder time fighting off weeds. If you missed this year’s planting season but still want a lush green lawn in the summer, we find perennial ryegrass is the best for late planting. 

Would you like a little help with your lawn? We’d be happy to help you find a Providence lawn care professional to give you a hand with landscape design, installation, or maintenance. 

Main Photo Credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

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