4 Best Grass Types in Seattle

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Skyline of Kerry Park in Seattle, WA

Seattle is known for its cool climate and regular rainfall. If you’re planning on planting some grass, you’ll need a cool-season grass for your lawn. These grass types are well adapted to cooler winters and grow the most in spring and fall. 

We’ve picked out four cool-season grasses that work best for Seattle yards. 

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

Any of these will thrive in the Washington climate, but some may be better suited for your property and lifestyle than others. Read on to find out which turf type will be the best for your next salmon cookout. 

What are the best grass types for my Seattle lawn?

1. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is well-suited to Seattle’s cool temperatures and high humidity. This grass establishes itself quickly and is great for overseeding. Perennial ryegrass is popular because it stands up well to foot traffic

This turf is dark green and prefers direct sunlight, so you won’t want to plant it under an enormous shade tree. You’ll find the most success with nutrient-rich soil and regular watering. 

Perennial ryegrass is vulnerable to some fungal infections, including red thread. However, proper nutrition and fungicides should keep your lawn healthy. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Low 
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate- This turf needs regular watering but can repair itself quickly after a dry spell. 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate; 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: You may need to overseed sometimes to maintain a thick stand of grass. 

2. Kentucky bluegrass

One of the most popular grasses in the United States, Kentucky bluegrass is emerald to blue-green in color. This turf has a high tolerance for foot traffic, making it ideal for anyone who likes to spend a lot of time outdoors. 

Probably the biggest drawback is going to be maintenance. Kentucky bluegrass does best with regular watering and fertilization. You’ll also find this grass needs direct sunlight. 

In Western Washington, Kentucky bluegrass typically isn’t planted as a monostand (a lawn with only one grass type). We recommend planting it in a seed mix with fine fescue.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate 
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate; while the dead patches regrow quickly, this one prefers irrigation
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Very high
  • Maintenance needs: High; needs nutrient-rich soil 
  • Mowing height: 2.5-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate; can catch several grass diseases, including powdery mildew, stripe smut, and necrotic ring

Other notes: This grass type is a favorite for athletic fields because of its high foot traffic tolerance. Keep that in mind if you plan to play sports on your lawn. 

3. Turf-type tall fescue

Turf-type tall fescue was bred from the grasses commonly used to feed foraging animals. This grass is medium to dark green and coarsely textured. 

These grasses thrive in sandy and low-nutrient soils. They’re also hardy in high shade and poorly draining soil. Their deep root system gives them great survivability during a drought. 

Tall fescue has a lower tolerance to foot traffic. If you plan on hosting a lot of parties in your backyard, this might not be your turf.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: High
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low; thrives in low-nutrient soils
  • Mowing height: 3.5-4 inches 
  • Potential for disease: Moderate

Other notes: Because this grass doesn’t bounce back as easily, you may need to occasionally overseed to keep your lawn thick and lush. 

4. Fine fescue

Fine fescues have an early growing season and blend well with other grass types. These grasses are named for their thin blades and soft texture

Fine fescues come in several varieties and tend to be medium to bright green. This turf is ideal for low-light lawns. Anyone whose yard is shaded by large trees or buildings should consider this grass. 

This grass type is popular because it’s relatively low maintenance and has a high drought tolerance. Red thread is the biggest disease threat, but with proper nutrients and fungicides, the danger should be minimal. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type
  • Shade tolerance: Very high 
  • Drought tolerance: High; survives well with minimal watering. 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low 
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing height: 1-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate; most vulnerable to red thread

Other notes: You can find several fine fescue varieties: creeping red, hard, chewings, and sheep.

How to choose the best grass type for your Seattle lawn

Any of these grass types could thrive in your Seattle lawn. However, some may be better picks for your land and lifestyle than others. Here are four key factors to keep in mind when choosing your grass type. 

How much effort are you willing to put into your lawn?

Kentucky bluegrass may take a little work, while tall fescue is perfect for slackers.

How much use do you get out of your lawn?

Yards with high foot traffic need a sturdy turf that regrows quickly, like perennial ryegrass or Kentucky bluegrass. Fine and tall fescues are better for gently used lawns.

What is your soil like?

Kentucky bluegrass prefers high nutrient soil, whereas tall fescue is adaptable to low-quality earth.

How much sun lands on your yard?

If you spend life in the shade, fine fescue will suit you best. If your lawn is sunnier, consider Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. 

When should I plant grass seed in Seattle?

Seattle homeowners should plant new turf between April and May. Spring seeding will give your cool-season grass type plenty of cool weather to begin germination and establish a lawn. The summer heat is not ideal for young grass. If you miss the spring, fall plantings are second-best, up to mid-October. 

Summer planting is doable but not recommended. If you’re trying to plant grass seed in the hotter months, make sure you give your lawn plenty of water to support early growth and prevent dehydration. 

If you need a professional to solve your outdoor needs, we can give you a hand. A local landscaping company can help out with landscape design, installation, or maintenance for your Seattle lawn. 

Main Photo Credit: CommunistSquared | Wikimedia Commons | CC0

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