5 Best Grass Types for Rochester

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A shot of High Falls in Rochester, NY, with city building in the background

Residents enjoy Rochester’s mild temperatures and balanced mix of rain and shine. Rochester’s climate patterns are par for the course in New England, so homeowners in upstate New York should stick to cool-season grass types such as Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.

Cornell University recommends that homeowners choose from the following five grass types for that stand-out lawn.

Which grass is best for my Rochester lawn?

1. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is a popular pick for lawns throughout New England, and Rochester is no exception. Its biology makes it resilient to foot traffic, and its dark-green color has a special appeal among Rochester residents. Kentucky bluegrass can easily recover from damage. Plus, it spreads without a problem. Its downsides include year-long maintenance and poor performance in droughts and shade.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes (underground stems)
  • Shade tolerance: Low, prefers sunlight.
  • Drought tolerance: Low
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: High
  • Mowing height: 2-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Susceptible to diseases such as leaf spot, dollar spot, and necrotic ring spot

Other Notes: Remember that Kentucky bluegrass can bounce back from wear-and-tear. If your little ones love to run around outside, this grass variety won’t have any problem maintaining its beautiful appearance.

2. Fine-leaf fescues

Fine-leaf fescues can grow in places where Kentucky bluegrass struggles, including infertile, acidic soils. Although fine-leaf fescues were once a popular choice for seed mixes, homeowners who are interested in a low-maintenance, low-mowing solution are welcome to consider a 100% blend. Varieties such as chewings fescue have a dense appearance, whereas creeping red grows more finely. Overall, fine fescues are easy to maintain and can grow almost anywhere, but they’re a weaker group that takes time to grow

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Depends on the variant (creeping red fescue uses rhizomes, whereas sheep fescue grows in bunches)
  • Shade tolerance: High
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs:  Low
  • Mowing height: 2 inches and higher
  • Potential for disease: Moderate

Other Notes: Fine fescues have a low tolerance for foot traffic. If you’re thinking of hosting some outdoor dinner parties or kickball tournaments, consider another species.

3. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass boasts a rapid growth rate and a strong defense against wear and tear. Homeowners who grow ryegrass are fond of its quick germination, even if its rate of spread is lower than other varieties. For best results, make sure perennial ryegrass gets plenty of sunshine in its diet.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunches
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs:  Moderate to High
  • Mowing height: 1.5-2.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: High, including brown patch, red thread, and rust

Other Notes: Perennial ryegrass is especially tolerant of your outdoor activities, but it is not competitive enough to reclaim open spaces before other species. Consider regular overseeding to give this type the upper hand.

4. Tall fescue

If your property is prone to droughts and overheating, consider turf-type tall fescue as a solution. This grass can retain its lovely green coat even when other species lay dormant. Homeowners and property managers alike are equally fond of its wear tolerance, too.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunches, occasionally rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs:  Low 
  • Mowing height: 2-3 inches
  • Potential for disease:  Low

Other Notes: Growing tall fescue means you can save time and money by not having to worry about a state-of-the-art irrigation system. Feel free to take advantage of its foot traffic tolerance and instead invest in more outdoor amenities.

5. Creeping bentgrass

Creeping bentgrass is a hole-in-one for Rochester’s putting greens. An excellent choice for golf courses, creeping bentgrass can handle close mowing while still providing that trademark uniformity. As a commercial-grade turfgrass, it requires more routine maintenance on a much tighter schedule than you would have with simpler lawns such as Kentucky bluegrass. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Stolons
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: Poor
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs:  Very high
  • Mowing height: Between 0.125 and 0.5 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate

Other Notes: On top of all the expected maintenance, creeping bentgrass’ growth patterns will invite frequent dethatching into your schedule.

How to select the best grass type for your lawn

Before we step foot onto your new lawn, there are still some factors you need to consider. These characteristics are unique to your property and will help you fine-tune your eventual selection. 

  • How much sunlight does your property receive?
    • Properties that are well-shaded should plan accordingly. If shade is your main concern, consider species such as fine-leaf fescues, which thrive in shady yards.
  • How much foot traffic does your lawn endure?
    • If you have kids, dogs, or host a lot of gatherings in your backyard, you want grass that will stand up to foot traffic. Creeping bentgrass — which is so sturdy that it is used on putting greens — will be your best choice.
  • Do you get enough rain or do you need to choose a drought-tolerant species? 
    • If you don’t want to worry about rainfall or watering, choose drought-tolerant turf-type tall fescue.

Fun in the sun

There are many things to consider when deciding on the best grass type for your lawn. If you like to spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying your yard but not a lot of time maintaining it, be sure it is grass that fits your lifestyle. Picking the right one now saves a lot of frustration down the road.

Need someone dedicated to all things lawn care with a knack for service? Contact a Rochester lawn pro today for help with installations and maintenance.

Main Photo Credit: Vernaccia | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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