Best Grass Types for Toledo

Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio, with colorful landscaping in front of the building

Has your Frogtown lawn seen better days? We’ve got four grass choices to get your lawn hopping. 

  • Fine fescues
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Turf-type tall fescue

1. Fine fescues

Fine fescues are known for their shade tolerance and ability to grow well in infertile, acidic soils. These grasses are often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass to form a sun/shade mix for lawns with partial shade. The fine fescues will, over time, predominate in the shade while the Kentucky bluegrass will become prevalent in the sunny areas of the lawn.

Some claim that tall fescue has better shade performance, but fine fescues are still a popular addition in cool-season grass mixes. They require little nitrogen and don’t usually form thatch. Fine fescues are considered low-maintenance grass.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunch-type grass. Creeping red fescue is an exception: It forms short rhizomes.
  • Shade tolerance: Tolerates partial shade
  • Drought tolerance: Generally high but depends on the species 
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Low
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate
  • Mowing height: 2.5-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low to moderate

Other notes: Endophyte-enhanced varieties help strengthen this grass against surface insects.

2. Kentucky bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass (KBG) is one of the most popular cool-season grass species. KBG is a high-maintenance grass, though, so if you plant this grass (or a KBG mix), be prepared to put in the work. 

Here are a few maintenance tips to consider: Kentucky bluegrass tends to develop thatch, which will have to be removed regularly to avoid pest and water filtration issues. It requires regular nitrogen fertilization — anywhere from 2-5 pounds per 1,000 square feet per year, depending on the level of maintenance you want to do. Finally, if you want to keep your KBG lawn green during the heat of the summer, expect to irrigate the lawn regularly. 

Remember, as with most cool-season grasses, KBG is often seeded in a mix to take advantage of the strengths of other grass types and help you have a thriving lawn that is more stress- and disease-tolerant.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Moderate to high. Turns brown (dormant) quickly if not watered during the hotter months, but recovers soon after watering resumes.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: Moderate, but its rhizomes (underground stems) help it to self-repair from any damage
  • Maintenance needs: High
  • Mowing height: 2.5-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: Moderate to high

Other notes: For the best results, KBG needs fertile, moist, well-drained soil.

3. Perennial ryegrass

We’ll go over perennial ryegrass as a standalone grass so you can get to know it a little better, but it’s not recommended to seed this grass on its own in a home lawn. It works best in a mix where other grasses predominate

Perennial ryegrass is often included in grass mixtures to act as a “nurse grass” because it establishes so quickly. Its quick establishment controls erosion and weeds while the other grasses germinate, grow, and establish themselves. Perennial ryegrass prefers full sun and has excellent foot traffic tolerance but does not recover on its own since it is a bunching (not a spreading) grass.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Bunching grass — no stolons or rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Low
  • Drought tolerance: Low    
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High, but doesn’t recover on its own — you’ll need to reseed
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate to high
  • Mowing height: 2.5-3 inches
  • Potential for disease: High

Other notes: The Ohio State University recommends planting endophyte-enhanced seeds and only choosing cultivars that are resistant to gray leaf spot.

4. Turf-type tall fescue

According to one Ohio State University (OSU) factsheet, turf-type tall fescue (TTTF) may be the best choice for a naturally managed lawn in Ohio. Due to its distinct appearance, OSU recommends seeding TTTF as a monostand; in other words, not mixed with other species of grass.

Unlike KBG, TTTF will grow in low fertility or compacted soils. This species germinates relatively quickly, tolerates high levels of foot traffic, and has a lower rate of disease and insect issues than KBG. It beats out fine fescues in the shade tolerance category and has a deep root system. Its deep roots help it to survive droughts without supplemental irrigation, though it may go dormant during extended periods of drought.

  • Classification: Cool-season grass
  • Spreads by: Most cultivars are bunching grasses; a few cultivars have short rhizomes
  • Shade tolerance: Tolerates partial shade
  • Drought tolerance: High, but since it is a bunching grass, it won’t recover on its own. You’ll need to overseed if bare spots appear.
  • Foot traffic tolerance: High
  • Maintenance needs: Low to moderate
  • Mowing height: 2.5-4 inches
  • Potential for disease: Low to moderate

Other notes: Endophyte-enhanced varieties are common and help protect against insects such as billbug larvae, sod webworms, chinch bugs, and cutworms.

How to select the best grass type for your Toledo lawn

Now that you’re aware of your options, It’s important to take a minute to consider your lawn and its individual needs:

  • How much traffic do you have on the lawn? 
    • Fine fescue falls at the bottom of the traffic tolerance list. Kentucky bluegrass has a moderate wear tolerance but gets high marks on its ability to recover due to its aggressive rhizomes. Perennial ryegrass and TTTF may have a slightly higher wear tolerance than KBG, but they won’t recover like KBG since, as bunching grasses, they don’t spread. Plan to overseed these two bunching grasses if bare spots appear.
  • Does your lawn get full sun, full shade, or a little of both?
    • Fine fescues and turf-type tall fescues can handle partial shade. Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass are better for full-sun lawns.
  • How much time and money do you want to spend maintaining your lawn (or paying someone else to do it for you)?
    • Turf-type tall fescue and fine fescues are the best options for a lower-maintenance lawn. Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrasses require more of your time and money.
  • Do you have watering restrictions, or do you prefer a lawn that doesn’t require supplemental watering?
    • Fine fescues and turf-type tall fescues are the best grass types if you live in an area with summer droughts.

If your weekend to-do list is weighing you down, lighten your load. Contact one of our Toledo lawn care professionals who will take care of your lawn so you can spend your free time doing what matters most.

Main Photo Credit: Pixabay

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