Best Types of Grass for Middle TN

Grasses in Middle Tennessee

When it comes to choosing the species of grass to plant in their front yard, homeowners in Tennessee can seemingly pick one at random. Because Tennessee lies in what is known as the “transition zone”, residents of the state have the luxury of being able to choose from both warm season and cool season grasses to use in their lawns.

However, there is a significant drawback to this: states in the transition zone such as Tennessee are neither cold enough to fully support cool season grasses nor hot enough to support warm season grasses. This makes lawn care in Tennessee particularly challenging, as there is no species of grass that is particularly suited to growing in such a climate. However, cool season grasses seem to do slightly better than warm season grasses throughout the transition zone climates.

In Tennessee, one strategy to deal with the temperamental climate is to plant a combination of both types of grasses. Having a warm season grass ensures that your lawn will still be green throughout the summer, while having a separate spread of cool season grass will give you coverage and growth even during the winter. Some of the types of cool season grasses used in Tennessee are:

  • Kentucky bluegrass. This is one of the most common species of cool season grass and is also the most widely known variety. As with most cool season grasses, it goes dormant during hot and dry weather as well as extremely cold weather. It is best suited for moderate climates in the transition zone that receive regular rainfall, as its short root system doesn’t suit it for prolonged droughts.
  • Ryegrass. This species germinates and grows quickly, and is often used as a temporary grass while other, slower growing types of grass take root. Ryegrass requires frequent maintenance, as it grows extremely quickly. It also has higher than average needs for watering, fertilization, and pest management. Of all southern grasses, it is the least adapted to droughts and needs very frequent watering – because of this, it is usually the first species of grass to show signs of stress.
  • Zoysia. Originating in East Asia, this is one of the newer species of grass to take hold in North America. It has been the subject of intense marketing campaigns with some companies labeling it as a “miracle grass.” In reality, it is simply a normal species of warm season grass. It grows particularly well during the hot summer months and can be very thick, lush, and green. However, from October to May it loses its color and turns brown. It also establishes itself very slowly, and may take up to two or three years to fully mature.  This species of turf requires full sun and will not tolerate shade.
  • Tall-fescue. This is a strong and durable species of grass that is also low maintenance, and it is known to grow rapidly during the spring and the fall. It is often planted in high trafficked areas, and is great for lawns as it stands up well to frequent wear and tear. It grows equally well in shade or direct sunlight, and it is also more drought and disease resistant than other species like bluegrass or perennial ryegrass.
  • Bermuda. A warm season grass, this variety will thrive in the hot summer months and requires less frequent watering when compared to cool season grasses.  While it will not tolerate much shade this grass will grow thick and full with adequate sunlight exposure and good soil.  Most Tennessee lawns that are “full sun” will have some Bermuda present. Many gardeners perceive this turf as undesirable since it spreads rapidly and is difficult to control.  Though considered a weed by many, a properly maintained Bermuda lawn can be thick and beautiful.

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