The Q&A Archives: Northern MI Lawn Advice

Question: We have just built a new cottage near Clare MI. Our yard, of course, is completely sand. We need to bring in black dirt. What kind of grass seed would you recommend and what type of shrubs and/or perenials? We do not want to spend a lot of time gardening.

Fran of Lansing MI

Answer: Several different kinds of turfgrass will grow well in your area so your choice will depend upon how sunny/shady the area is and how much foot traffic you expect your lawn to receive. Here are your choices:

Kentucky bluegrass: Kentucky bluegrass is the most popular turfgrass species in Michigan. Varieties differ in color, texture, density, tolerance to close mowing, disease and insect resistance. Kentucky bluegrass is best suited to well-drained soils and moderate to high levels of sunlight. With proper management, it will form a
high quality, long-lasting turf. It has an aggressive sodforming nature that allows rapid recovery from injury in heavily trafficked areas. Kentucky bluegrass germinates
and becomes established slowly, so weeds may become a problem if the lawn is seeded in late spring or early summer. For a high quality, weed-free turfgrass, Kentucky bluegrass requires at least four applications of fertilizer per season and frequent irrigation during hot, dry periods. All varieties should be mowed to a height of 2 to 21⁄2 inches or higher.

Tall fescue: Tall fescue in general has low maintenance and fertility requirements and possesses good insect and disease tolerance. It performs best on well-drained soils. It has good drought tolerance and provides moderate to good levels of turfgrass quality with limited maintenance. If you are concerned about conserving water for lawn irrigation, tall fescue is a good choice. Tall fescue is best seeded in a pure stand, not mixed with other turfgrass species.

Perennial ryegrasses: Both perennial and annual (Italian) ryegrasses are used for lawns. Among lawn grass species they germinate the quickest and have the fastest rate of seedling establishment. Perennial and annual ryegrasses are not recommended in pure stands except when quick establishment is needed, as on heavily trafficked areas of athletic fields. The turf quality of annual ryegrass is poor. It is difficult to mow and is useful only as a temporary cover. Both ryegrass species are
susceptible to heat, cold, leaf spot and brown patch disease. On sites where Kentucky bluegrass is the grass of choice, it is beneficial to include 10 to 15 percent perennial ryegrass in the mixture to provide quick soil coverage and improve germination conditions for the bluegrass.

Fine fescue: Red, hard and Chewings fescues are fineleafed turfgrasses that grow well in shady locations with low soil moisture and fertility. Fine fescue should not be seeded in pure stands because it will rapidly develop thatch, which leads to a decline in turf quality. Fine fescue is best used as a companion grass with Kentucky
bluegrass in mixtures containing 85 to 90 percent Kentucky bluegrass and 10 to 15 percent fine fescue for low-maintenance and shaded lawns.

Best wishes with your new lawn!

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