Cool Season Lawns

Source(s): Gil Landry, PhD., Coordinator – UGA Center for Urban Agriculture, The University of Georgia.


Perhaps the most important factor in developing and maintaining an attractive and problem-free lawn is to choose a grass that is adapted to your area and has the qualities you desire. Cool-season species are better suited to northern areas of the state.

Cool-season grasses grow well during the cool months (60 degrees-75 degrees F) of the year. They may become dormant or injured during the hot months of summer.

Tall Fescue(Festuca arundinacea). Perhaps the most popular grass in the mountain and upper piedmont areas of Georgia is tall fescue. This is a perennial bunch-type grass that grows rapidly and requires frequent mowing in the spring and fall. Tall fescue needs more water than the warm-season grasses to stay green during the summer. It is quickly established from seed and grows well in full sun as well as moderate shade. Tall fescue will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions, but like most turfgrasses grows best with a soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Lawns planted in tall fescue tend to thin out and become “clumpy” thus requiring reseeding every three or more years.

Kentucky-31(K-31). Kentucky 31 is the old, common cultivar or variety of tall fescue grown in Georgia. Most of the new cultivars referred to as “turf-type” tall fescues have slightly narrower leaf blades, slower vertical growth rates, greater density and shade tolerance than K-31. As a result, if properly managed, most turf-types will produce a better turf than K-31. More information can be obtained from Cooperative Extension Service Leaflet No. 354, Tall Fescue Lawn Management.

Kentucky Bluegrass(Poa pratensis). Kentucky bluegrass has a medium leaf texture and a bright, pleasing color. There are many varieties which grow well in and north of the upper piedmont areas of Georgia. Kentucky bluegrass can become semi-dormant during hot weather, and grows best in a fertile soil with a pH of 6 to 7. While it does best in partial shade, it will grow in open sun if adequate moisture is present.

Ryegrasses. Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) and annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) are suited for temporary cool-season turfgrasses throughout Georgia. They can be used as a temporary winter cove on new lawns that have not been permanently established. Ryegrasses are also used for overseeding, that is, to provide a green cover on a warm-season grass during the winter. However, overseeding may damage the warm-season grass unless managed correctly in the spring because the ryegrass competes for moisture, sunlight and nutrients.

There are many varieties of perennial ryegrass, and depending upon the environmental conditions, they may behave as an annual or perennial. As its name suggests, annual ryegrass dies as summer approaches. It is also known as common, winter, domestic, Oregon, and Italian ryegrass.


Resource(s): Lawns in Georgia

Center Publication Number: 128

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