4 Best Grass Types for Syracuse

Syracuse University grounds, NY

Since Syracuse enjoys a relatively short warm season, you want your grass to look its best when everyone is outdoors, but which grass is best? Four cool-season grass types work well in Syracuse:

Although we’ll discuss each grass separately, cool-season grasses are most often sold as part of a mix, meaning two or more grass species are sold in one bag of seed. This is an advantage for cool-season lawns because it gives your lawn greater resistance to common problems and diseases.

Tall Fescue
Tall fescue
Matt Lavin | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

1. Turf-type tall fescue

Turf-type tall fescue (TTTF) is a popular lawn grass across the northern U.S. With its wide leaves, relatively low upkeep, and moderate tolerance for foot traffic, it is a good choice for many homeowners. Turf-type tall fescue will put down deep roots as long as you mow it tall. (Did you know that taller mowing heights allow for deeper roots?) 

Concerned about aesthetics? Tall fescue stays greener for a longer period than other grasses. It greens-up relatively quickly in the spring and keeps its color longer into the fall.

Unlike many cool-season grasses, TTTF can be seeded at 100%. This grass is sometimes seeded with another species, such as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass, as long as the other grasses are less than 10% of the mixture. Its wide blades don’t mix well with other fine-bladed cool-season species.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type grass
  • Shade tolerance: Moderate
  • Drought tolerance: Low to moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Mow often, fertilize appropriately
  • Mowing height: 2-4 inches; higher is better (allows for deeper roots)
  • Potential for disease: Moderate 

Other notes: Proper nitrogen fertilization is key to avoiding common diseases such as Pythium, brown patch, and rust. Use 2 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year.

Grass Seed Options:
Triple-Play Tall Fescue Grass Seed Blend (5000 sq ft)
Eretz Kentucky 31 K31 Tall Fescue Grass Seed (choose your size)
Pennington The Rebels Tall Fescue Grass Seed Mix (7 lb.)

Fine Fescue - Red Creeping Fescue
Creeping red fescue
Mat Lavin | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

2. Fine fescues

Fine fescues are a group of shade-tolerant grasses that are commonly used in cool-season lawns. You’ll see hard fescue, sheep fescue, Chewings fescue, and creeping red fescue most commonly used in these mixes. As their name suggests, they have very fine blades and are a bunch-type grass, which means they don’t spread laterally. If your soils are less than perfect, fine fescues work well in acidic, infertile soils.

Like TTTF, fine fescues can be seeded by themselves in a shady lawn (or shady area within the lawn). In sunny lawns, it is common to include these grasses as part of a mix with Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. 

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type grass (except creeping red fescue, which may produce rhizomes)
  • Shade tolerance: High
  • Drought tolerance: Low to moderate
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Mowing height: 1.5-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate

Other notes: Fine fescues can develop thatch, so you may need to rent a dethatching machine periodically. White grubs may be an issue, and wet conditions can lead to leaf spot and red thread diseases. Use 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year.

Grass Seed Options:
Outsidepride Legacy Fine Fescue Grass Seed (5 lbs.)
Eretz Creeping Red Fine Fescue Seed (choose your size)
Outsidepride Creeping Red Fine Fescue Grass Seed (25 lbs.)
Outsidepride Hard Fine Fescue Grass Seed (10 lbs.)

Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn
Kentucky bluegrass
Brenda Ryan | Lawn Love

3. Kentucky bluegrass

If you have a sunny lawn and don’t mind putting a little bit of work into it, Kentucky bluegrass (KBG) can produce a beautiful, high-quality home turf. Along with full sun, this grass needs fertile, well-drained soil to support its growth. This grass has aggressive rhizomes, unlike most cool-season grasses, which help it to self-repair if it gets worn in places.

Kentucky bluegrass is usually seeded in a mix with fine fescues and perennial ryegrass. A KBG lawn mix can sustain itself on natural rainfall for most of the year, but you may need to water it during the warmest summer months to keep it from going dormant. To keep it in top form, fertilize regularly during the growing season.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Low — may go brown (dormant) during the summer without supplemental watering, but its rhizomes allow it to green up quickly once rains and cooler temperatures return
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high
  • Mowing height: 2-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate to high

Other notes: Plan to dethatch KBG regularly. This grass is susceptible to white grubs, billbugs, and fungal disease. Some KBG cultivars provide resistance to common diseases. Use 3 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year.

Grass Seed Options:
Jonathan Green (11970) Blue Panther Kentucky Bluegrass Grass Seed (3 lbs.)
SeedRanch Midnight Kentucky Bluegrass Seed (5 lbs.)
– Jacklin Seed – Biltmore Blue Blend – 100% Kentucky Bluegrass (5 lbs.)

Perennial ryegrass flowers. Poaceae prennial grass.
Perennial ryegrass

4. Perennial ryegrass

Perennial ryegrass is often included in cool-season grass mixes in small amounts because it germinates quickly and acts as a nurse grass for the slower-growing grasses. It helps cover the soil and prevent erosion and weeds while the other grasses are germinating. 

Perennial ryegrass and KBG both need full sun and well-drained, fertile soil, which works well since they are often included together in cool-season seed mixes. Follow standard lawn care practices to help this grass resist common fungal disease (water early in the morning, fertilize, plant in full sun, and cut at the proper height).

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type grass
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Low
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low to moderate; will need to be re-seeded if the ground has bare spots since bunch grasses don’t spread
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate
  • Mowing height: 2-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Prone to fungal disease and insects (above and below ground)

Other notes: Choose endophyte-enhanced seed to help perennial ryegrass resist common insects like chinch bugs and sod webworm. Use 2 to 6 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year.

Grass Seed Options:
Outsidepride Perennial Ryegrass Seed (5 lbs.)
Eretz ProTurf Perennial Ryegrass Fine Lawn Seed (choose your size)

How to select the best grass type for your Syracuse lawn

Before you pick up a bag of seed from the local home improvement store, take a few seconds to think about your lawn and its conditions. Choosing the right grass requires you to take your lawn and the grass species into consideration.

  • Does your lawn get full sun or partial shade?
    • Fine fescues excel in shaded areas while the other grasses can tolerate full sun.
  • Does your lawn bear the brunt of get-togethers or pickup soccer games?
    • Most cool-season grasses struggle with heavy foot traffic, but Kentucky bluegrass spreads and self-repairs via its rhizomes, so it is the best choice for lawns that get some traffic from people or pets. 
  • Do you have summer watering restrictions?
    • Most lawns will do fine without too much supplemental watering except during the hottest part of the summer. If you want to keep the lawn green, plan to water during these few weeks.
  • How much maintenance will you hire out or do yourself?
    • Fine fescue and TTTF are relatively low maintenance. KBG and perennial ryegrass require a little more care.

Whether you want to spend your time shopping at Destiny USA or fishing at Onondaga Lake Park, who wants to mow during Syracuse’s short warm season? Our pros do! Let one of our Syracuse lawn pros take care of your mow, edge, and blow while you enjoy doing what matters most.

Main Photo Credit: Syracuse University | Ewen Roberts | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Lawn Love participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Lawn Love may earn revenue from products promoted in this article.

Sarah Bahr

Sarah is a writer who has previously worked in the lawn care industry. In her spare time, she likes to garden, raise chickens, and mow the grass with her battery-powered lawn mower.