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Grass Seed Mixtures - A Greener View
Q: I have a question regarding grass seed. I've heard that a bag containing various grass species is called a mixture, which would likely work best for most average lawns with various conditions, and that a blend of hybrid grasses (not true species) works best if your yard has the same growing conditions throughout. Is this correct?
A: Yes, you have that correct. Blends are varieties of one species, and mixtures are a combination of species. Lawns look best with a blend of as many varieties of the same kind of grass as possible. Each variety will do a little better or worse for shade, wear and tear, disease resistance, drought resistance, etc., so the whole lawn will stay looking good even when one variety is not doing well or it dies completely.
A seed mixture will have some grass species for the sun and some for the shade, and maybe some for wet or dry conditions, and possibly a grass species with a quick start-up for the short term. Again, the more varieties of each grass species in the bag, the better.
Each grass seed bag will have a list of contents. This allows you to compare bags to see which ones have the varieties you want, the freshest seeds, and the fewest weed seeds, dirt and other debris. It must say on the bag which growing season for which the bag was intended. If properly stored, grass seeds will last for several years with a slow decline in the percent of seeds that will germinate. A germination rate of over 95 percent is typical for new fresh seeds intended for the current growing season.
Q: My landscaper wants to install my new lawn by using sprigs or plugs. Which do you think are best?
A: Lawns can be installed using seeds, sod, sprigs and plugs. Seeds and sod are commonly used, and I think everyone understands the difference. Sod has almost the whole grass plant as it is harvested, and the whole lawn can be covered at once, so you get an instant lawn.
Some lawn grass species rarely produce seeds. This means they have to be installed by sod, sprigs or plugs.
Many species of lawn grass spread by horizontal stems. If the stems are spreading on top of the ground, they are called stolons. And if they are spreading below the surface, they are called rhizomes. Stolons and rhizomes are harvested, and we call them sprigs. They are installed in a new lawn by being spread out and covered with a thin layer of soil or mulch. They will send out roots and start a new lawn within a couple of weeks. If cared for properly, they can cover the whole area in a few months.
Plugs are small pots of grass plants. They may just be in a planting tray and not in a pot, but the whole plant is present. Plugs can be an inch to 3 inches across and either round or square. They are easy to plant. If spaced close together and cared for properly, they can fill in quickly. Sometimes the grass plant at the plug grows several inches taller than the grass spreading across the area between the plugs. This can cause funny-looking mounds for a few weeks as the grass between the plugs begins to fill in.
In terms of expense, all of the methods require the same amount of soil preparation. The care afterward is mostly watering and weeding. There is less watering and weeding with sod than plugs, sprigs and seeding. Sod costs the most and provides an instant lawn. Plugs are the second most expensive, and they grow quickly. Fresh sprigs kept damp will create a lawn this summer.
Email questions to Jeff Rugg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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