Select the right cultivar to set up a successful lawn installation

February 13, 2023 -  By
Property type, amount of traffic and disease history should all factor into the decision to select a turfgrass variety. (Photo: Kevin Morris)

Property type, amount of traffic and disease history should all factor into the decision to select a turfgrass variety. (Photo: Kevin Morris)

From the property’s intended use and environmental factors to maintenance and disease concerns, selecting the best turfgrass cultivar is important to a lawn’s overall health and success. Pros share what to consider and look for to have the best results.

Quality first

Grass species proven and adapted to certain locations and environments will perform better when used in those settings, says Kevin Morris, National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP) executive director. To select the best varieties, consider the property type, amount of traffic and what diseases have caused issues in the past — or common diseases found in local turf. Lawn care operators (LCOs) should choose a cultivar with some level of resistance to that disease.

The quality of the cultivar is another important aspect to consider, Morris says. Certified seed undergoes testing to meet standards under strict conditions. Look for a certification tag on each bag that guarantees the authenticity of the cultivar.

“If you’re going for some level of quality, you need to think about buying certified (seed),” he says. “With grass seeds, you tend to get what you pay for. When you open a bag of seed, you can’t tell what variety it is by looking at it. You need assurance that the cultivar you paid for is what you’re getting.”

Best match

The weather, temperature and other environmental factors should play a role in the selection, says Jeremy Bigler, senior brand manager of Lebanon Seaboard. If using turfgrass cultivars to repair an existing lawn, LCOs should look for options that match the leaf texture and color. Grass mismatched for its environment will struggle to become high-quality turf without significant maintenance. 

“The environment that the grass will be in is key to selecting the right type of grass,” Bigler says. “If a grass that doesn’t tolerate shade well is established in a shady area, the turf will struggle to become healthy, thick and lush. This will make the turf more susceptible to weeds, insects and disease.”

Local university extension offices and local distributors also can provide information on the best types of grasses for a given area. Not only is it important to choose the right seed, but LCOs also should consider the newest varieties. 

“New varieties have the latest genetic developments, and they are more resistant to disease, more drought tolerant and heat tolerant and often require less maintenance than older varieties,” Bigler says.

Advanced genetics

When choosing a turf cultivar, LCOs should look for ones with advanced genetics, such as improved drought tolerance, disease resistance and reduced mowing requirements, says Leah Brilman, Ph.D., director of product management and technical services at DLF.

“Not only will that save LCOs time and money doing maintenance, it will save the customer money and be more environmentally friendly,” Brilman says.

To select the right one, professionals should know the type of turf already on the property, soil type, turfgrass cultivars that thrive in their climate, issues the lawn had, the turf’s intended use, the cultivar’s quality and the customer’s expectations, Brilman says. For example, factors like a history of brown patch, customers who value drought-tolerant turf or areas where children will play would all contribute to the ideal cultivar. 

The speed of establishment for turfgrass cultivars is also important because both professionals and their customers want to see results quickly. Evaluating data from the NTEP’s top-performing blends can be a good starting place. However, LCOs should consider which varieties will thrive in their specific climates.

“The data only shows you so much,” Brilman says. “Look at a cultivar’s performance or talk with your distributor about which ones perform well in your region.” 

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