A solid lawn landscaping plan cannot be improvised. Most people want a grass lawn that is dense and strong, like a green carpet. This goal is easily attainable for those of us who have ideal grass growing conditions, but for many of us the dream of a perfect lawn will always remain a dream.
On this page, you will find basic information on how to grow the best possible grass lawn, but you will also find a few alternatives to grass. These should really be useful should you come to the conclusion that you will never be able to achieve that perfect grass lawn.
Let’s start by talking grass and by considering which conditions are best to grow a perfect grass lawn.
Most people think that growing healthy, good looking grass is quite simple. Not so. Turf grass can be capricious. Those rolling hills where grass seems to grow so well, all have two things in common: lots of sun and just the right amount of water. Plus, if you were to look up close at the grass that grows on those hills, you would find a mix of grasses and other plants, such as sedges and wildflowers, that you would not necessarily want to have on your yard. Lawn landscaping in towns and suburbs has little to do with countryside landscapes.
For the purpose of lawn landscaping, you could say there are two main groups of turf grasses:
- Grasses adapted to grow in more temperate conditions, or if you will locations farther from the equator, such as the northern part of the United States, Canada and Europe. The best known are Bluegrass (Poa), Ryegrass (Lolium) and Fescue (Festuca).
- Grasses adapted to warmer climates. These are more resistant to heat, sun and drought. The best known are Zoysiagrass (Zoysia), Bermudagrass (Cynodon) and St. Augustine Grass or Buffalo Grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum).
The garden centers in your area probably sell grass seeds adapted to your climate, so you don’t have to worry too much about that.
All grass varieties need some sun to grow and the most desirable varieties, those which look the best, are strong, resistant and rustic, need a fair amount (at least four hours) of direct sunlight. But there are ones that can survive with much less sun and others that can also survive excessive exposure to direct sunlight. But grass that has no direct sunlight will never look great, no matter what variety and no matter how much fertilizer you use.
Since lawn grass has short roots, it can only get water if it is close below the surface. So a regular supply of water is necessary. Then again, if the ground is too soggy, various types of fungus and moss may grow and claim the place as their own. Note that there are some types of grasses that are able to survive drought conditions.
Choosing the right type of turf grass
It is essential that you take into consideration how much sun and water your grass will get. And you may need to be quite specific about this. If parts of your yard get more than four hours of direct sunlight and others less than two, a single type of grass may not do the job. If you have drawn up a landscaping plan, you probably have identified locations with more or less sun and water. This will come in really handy as you try to make decisions about what to grow where.
- Those spots that get a lot of sun should get sun grass, such as Bluegrass for cooler climates and Bermuda Grass for warmer climates.
- Those spots that get only a little sun should get shade grass, such as Red Fescue for cooler climates and Zoysiagrass for warmer climates.
- Those spots that get too little sun or too much water should probably get shade loving or water loving plants, such as wet shade shrubs or shade ground covers.
Starting a grass lawn
The first questions you should ask yourself before starting a lawn landscaping project are the following:
- Do I like the features of my yard? Do I want to make changes to the way it looks? If so, what changes do I want to make?
- Is the soil right to grow grass? Do I need to change part of the soil or add new soil? You should know that grass does not grow ell on soil contains too much sand or clay.
- Are the sun and water conditions generally right on my yard? Are there locations where they aren’t?
- Will I install a watering system?
- Finally, do I want to seed or sod? Note that it is relatively easy to find grass seeds for shaded areas but the same cannot be said for sods. So if your grass lawn looks bad because it doesn’t get enough sun and you’re thinking “My grass lawn looks bad but I’ll just have it all replaced by sods”, you’re in for a bad surprise. In a few very short years you’ll be back where you started.
Taking care of your grass lawn
A successful lawn landscaping project involves lots of lawn care. So you will have to mow that beautiful lawn regularly with a mower that has a sharp blade, you will have to weed it of course and you will probably need to fertilize it occasionally. The Sensible Gardener has a list of 10 tips for you that will ensure you have the best looking lawn.
Lawn landscaping problems
A grass lawn growing in bad conditions will have many problems. In many cases, the grass will be sparse and weeds and moss will be fierce competitors. To learn how to fight back, visit our page on Lawn problems. And if your problem can’t be fixed because you don’t have good grass growing conditions, then maybe you should think grass replacement.