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Types of Grass For The USA Transition Zone

Helping You Choose A Type of Grass

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Transition Zone Grass Lawn

Traditionally homeowners and turf grass professionals in the Transition Zone usually have to choose the lesser of two evils -- either a lawn or turf grass that's green in the winter (cool season) but is very much at risk of burning up in the summer, or a lawn or turf grass that thrives in summer (warm season), but turns a tan color as it goes dormant over the winter.

That was the way it was -- but there has been a change in climate as well as improvement in the cold tolerances of warm season grass types. Our average temperatures are definitely increasing, making it more difficult to maintain cool-season grasses over the summer in the Transition Zone. If you live in the Northern area of the Transition Zone or still wish to maintain a cool season grass in your area -- perhaps that is what is working for your neighbors -- then Tall Fescue Grass is generally the cool season grass of choice.

With the development of improved, cold tolerant, and great looking warm season grass types such as Zoysia Grass, Yukon Bermuda grass and Riviera Bermuda Grass, there are more people planting these grass types in the transition zone. Zoysia grass will go dormant, into a nice golden brown color, when temperatures decline. While the improved Bermuda Grass varieties will survive as perennials and go dormant to more of a brown color. During winter dormancy a cool season grass can be inter-seeded into the existing lawn for a green color year round if so desired.

Improved varieties of Bermuda grass, such as cold tolerant Yukon Bermuda Grass and Riviera Bermuda Grass, are perennial in most parts of the Transition Zone. With its excellent winter survival and cold tolerance, Yukon bermuda grass seed becomes a stand-alone choice for transition zone plantings. Note that Bermuda grass is a very aggressive grass. It spreads rapidly, tolerates shade well, and can come up on the other side of a 12-inch deep barrier.

As you can see in the maps below, the improved Bermuda Grass varieties will grow in most of the transition zone.

Improved Bermuda Grass Adaptation Map

Map of Cold Tolerant Bermuda Grass For Transition Zone

Transition Zone & Climate Map

Detailed Transition Zone Map

During the summer months, the cool season grasses decline due to the hot weather in Transition zones. Planting one of the more "cold hardy" warm season grasses can help keep your lawn in shape and green through the summer. Cool season grasses may be inter-seeded in these lawns to maintain a green appearance during winter seasons, if your warm season grass goes dormant and you want it to stay green.

The best way to determine a good "warm season" grass to plant in your lawn for summer purposes is to see what your neighbors have good luck with. Areas can vary so much within the transition zone due to temperature and soil differences that using "suggested" grasses for your specific area can be misleading. What works best is usually what others, in your area, plant successfully.

The transition zone of the USA has historically been a somewhat difficult area for residents to choose a grass type that meets their expectations. There is no one type of grass that will do well in all the weather conditions - heat / cold and the soil differences that occur in this area of the USA. This makes for a difficult situation where either more intensive maintenance of a cool season grass is required, or the use of a summer time warm season grass which goes dormant (and brown in color) in the cool days of fall & winter.

These problems have been addressed in the development of improved grass types such as the improved bermuda grass varieties -- Yukon Bermuda Grass, Riviera Bermuda Grass and others.

Which Grass Type is The Best For The Transition Zone

Zoysia, Bermuda and Buffalo grass are three of the more commonly planted warm season grasses used in the cooler transition zone areas. Tall or Fine Fescue grass, Perennial Ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass are also very popular and used quite extensively in the transition zone. While there is no one rule of thumb about which grass works best, warm season grasses seem to be becoming the more popular choices for the majority of lawns planted in the transition zone.

Read More on Grass in The Transition Zone

Warming Up in the Transition Zone - A PDF document.
 

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