- Bermudagrass loves full sun and has excellent traffic tolerance. It responds quickly to watering after drought and requires frequent mowing. Bermuda grass tends to go dormant during the winter and is often overseeded with ryegrass in the winter to maintain green color. Common Bermuda, Celebration, GN1, Grimes EXP, TexTurf, TifSport, and Tifway 419 are all considered drought-tolerant cultivars.
- St. Augustine grass is a medium green, coarse-leaf grass that prefers dappled shade and is acceptable for moderate traffic. It remains green for the winter months of dormancy but is susceptible to diseases if excessively watered during the winter. Floratam is considered the best drought-resistant cultivar.
- Zoysia grass tolerates sun and shade but is slow growing compared to Bermuda and St. Augustine. Once Zoysia is established, it provides a lush, green carpet of turf. Zoysia tolerates foot traffic well and different cultivars have varying tolerance to drought. El Toro, Empire, Jamur, and Palisades are considered drought resistant cultivars of Zoysia grass.
- Centipede grass is “apple-green” or “lime-green” in color and although slow growing, makes an attractive, low maintenance lawn once established. It prefers full sun or partial shade and tolerates acidic soil, so it is commonly found growing in the dappled shade under pine trees.
- Bahiagrass is a good all-purpose grass with excellent wear tolerance, disease, and insect resistance, and it grows well in infertile soils. It is considered drought-tolerant because of its prolific rooting but can thin out over time and is not suitable for shady areas.
- Drought Tolerant Lawn Grass: Is There A Drought Tolerant Grass For Lawns
- Drought Tolerant Grass Varieties
- Drought Tolerant Grass Alternatives
- Making the Most of the Drought Tolerant Lawn Grass
- Landscape Range Drought Master Lawn Seed
- Which Grass is Best for Horses & What to avoid
- Grasses to Eliminate
- Other grasses best avoided include:
- Solved! The Best Drought-Resistant Grass for Dry Summers
- Choose a grass that thrives in your climate.
- The best drought-resistant grasses for warm-season climates include Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine.
- The best drought-tolerant grasses in cool-season climates include Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, and Kentucky Bluegrass.
- Maintain the drought-hardiness of your lawn by planting in the appropriate growing season and minimizing other sources of stress to your lawn.
- How to Choose Lawn Seed
- Next Step: Preparing The Ground
- Keep California Green with the Best Grass for SoCal
- Our Tops Picks for the Best Grass for Southern California
- The Southern California Challenge
- What You Need to Know about Grass
- Choosing Grasses to Match the Region
- Our Recommendations: Scotts Turf Builder Bermuda Grass Seed Mix Bag and Jonathan Green Kentucky Tall Fescue Grass Seed
- Tame the Dryest Lawns with the Best Grass for Sandy Soil
- Our Top Picks for the Best Grass for Sandy Soil
- What You Need to Know about Soil
- Characteristics of Sandy Soils
- Choosing the Best Grass
- Our Recommendations: Scotts Snap Pac Tall Fescue Grass Seed and Dirty Gardener Majestic Turf Bermuda Grass
- Soil Type
Drought Tolerant Lawn Grass: Is There A Drought Tolerant Grass For Lawns
Water conservation is the responsibility of every citizen, not just in areas with drought or low moisture conditions. Turf lawns are one of the main water-sucking plants in the garden. That green expanse of lawn requires regular moisture, especially in the dry season. Drought resistant grass is an option, but there is no truly drought tolerant grass for lawns. You can make a selection that requires less water than other species or you can choose to use a substitute for grass such as a ground cover, moss or even stepping stones.
Drought Tolerant Grass Varieties
Finding a drought resistant grass type is not as difficult as it used to be. Tighter water restrictions in moisture deficient municipalities have made using drought tolerant lawn grass or alternatives to turf lawns a priority. Fortunately, breeding and technology have come to our rescue and you can now install a lawn that requires less than one quarter of a traditional turf grasses water needs.
Sod selection isn’t only dependent upon water needs. You also need to take into consideration your soil conditions, lighting, use and maintenance issues, and even the visual appearance you require. The local weather conditions are also a consideration. There are cool-season and warm-season grasses, with warm-season varieties more suited to the south and cool types used in the north.
Kentucky bluegrass is a good choice in areas with hot summers and cold winters. It has all around tolerance and produces well even in poor soil with minimal moisture. Tall fescue is a very common wild grass that has been used as turf grass. It responds well to mowing, tolerates shade, develops a deep root system in prepared soil and can handle foot traffic.
A University of California ranking shows the most drought tolerant grass for lawns is hybrid Bermuda grass and then in order:
- Zoysia grass
- Common Bermuda grass
- Seashore paspalum
- St. Augustine grass
- Kikuyu grass
- Tall and Red fescues
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Several Bentgrass species
- Buffalo grass
Drought Tolerant Grass Alternatives
Even the most drought tolerant grass varieties will still need some water to keep it healthy or the grass will lose vigor and leave it open to weeds, insects and diseases. Drought tolerant grass alternatives are another way to reduce water consumption while still getting a beautiful green ground cover.
- Moss – In shady areas, moss is an effective ground cover. It will turn brown in extremely hot weather, but it persists in most cases and renews in fall or when rains return.
- Sedum – Succulents, such as low growing sedum, are perfect as ground cover and require little moisture. They are not at all tolerant of heavy foot traffic but the use of some pavers should help take care of that.
- Thyme – Thyme is a water miser that thrives in bright, dry, sunny conditions. Once it takes off, the plant will create a tight network of color. The best thing about thyme is the variety of colors and variegation, plus the added bonus of flowers.
Other excellent lawn alternatives include:
- Green Carpet Rupturewort
- Kidney Weed
- Blue Star Creeper
- Sedge grass – Carex pansa, Carex glauca
- UC Verde
Making the Most of the Drought Tolerant Lawn Grass
Once you have made your choice, installation and care are two things that must be managed carefully in order to get the best result.
- Amend the planting area and cultivate deeply so roots can penetrate easily.
- Use a starter fertilizer formulated for turfgrass to get it off to a good start. You may choose to use seed or plugs, but in areas with water restrictions, the best bet is to get rolled out sod. This will be sheets of established grass that will take more quickly and root in half the time with no open areas that are prey to weed infestation. Fertilize the next spring with a high nitrogen grass food and keep the mower a setting up to help keep foliage cover over the sensitive root zone.
- Thatch and aerate when needed to establish good percolation and keep excess thatch from preventing new grass growth.
Landscape Range Drought Master Lawn Seed
Landscape Range Drought Master Lawn Seed Blend is ideal for home lawns, or landscaped areas where drought tolerance is required.
Combines drought tolerant cool season grasses as well as summer hardy couchgrass.
Suitable for cool to temperate areas. Can be used in warmer areas for Autumn and Winter sowing.
This blend includes Starter Fertiliser and will provide the required nutrients to enhance strong seedling vigour.
All Landscape Blends contain granular wetting agent to assist in moisture retention and greatly improve water penetration during establishment and assist difficult to wet soils.
Seed Mixture By Count:
- 40% Perennial Ryegrass
- 40% Annual Ryegrass
- 20% Bermuda Couch (unhulled)
- 10% (by weight) Starter Fertiliser
- 20% (by weight) Granular Wetting Agent
This blend contains granular wetting agent to assist with moisture retention. Wetting agent will assist in the plant’s ability to take up moisture from the soil.
- Available in 5kg, 10kg and 20kg Bags
- New Lawns: 4 – 5kg/100m²
- Oversowing: Use approximately half new sowing rate.
Help Sheet: How to Calculate Seed Sowing Rate
Grass Type Characteristics:
- Establishment Rate: Fast
- Drought Tolerance: Good to excellent
- Shade Tolerance: Moderate
- Heat Tolerance: Good to Excellent
- Wear Tolerance: Excellent
To ensure successful germination it is essential to apply a starter fertiliser when sowing your grass seed. Click here to view our Landscape Range Starter Fertiliser.
Apply 2-3kg of fertiliser per 100sqm (20–30 g/m2). Once established (usually after two to three months) your lawn will require a high analysis fertiliser like our Renovator Plus to continue to thrive.
Help Sheets – Click below to view:
Free Step By Step Lawn Guide
Instant Lawn vs Lawn Seed Price Comparison
How to Repair / Overseed a Lawn
Which Grass is Best for Horses & What to avoid
Grasses to Eliminate
It is not a desirable grass as it contains ‘coumarin’ which itself is only harmful if the grass gets a mould on it which converts coumarin to ‘dicoumarol’ which inhibits normal blood clotting. If you have it in your pasture just keep an eye out for any moulds that may develop over summer, (which you need to do on all the grasses anyway).
Rye Grass & Clover
Rye Grass and clover cause a wide array of health and behaviour problems, some of them so common we think they are normal, some way more severe causing frustration, accidents, loss of confidence in people, and unnecessary suffering and euthanasia of horses. Without a doubt, they directly impact your safety, enjoyment and pocket and below are the reasons why…
Invisible and insidious, they are produced by endophytes inside the rye-grass.
Everyone knows about the Lolitrem B which causes the staggers in late summer and autumn. But more harmful is Ergovaline, prevalent at this time of the year.
Ergovaline is a nasty vaso-constricter, cuts off the blood supply to). When the blood supply is constricted to the skin you get heat stress because it raises their core body temperature. When this happens to the uterus you get abortion, to the hind-gut you get colic.
Other lesser symptoms in horses include agitation, sweating for no reason, sweating in the float, running around the paddock for no reason, grumpiness, girthiness, belligerence, bucking, aggressiveness, prolonged gestation, no top-line, hard to keep weight on.
Read more about Mycotoxins…
What about low-endophyte rye-grasses? Still totally unsuitable and here is why…
PHOTODYNAMIC PIGMENTS are the pigments in all varieties of rye-grass, clovers, lucerne, St John’s Wort, Buttercup, plantain, parsley which make them the very dark green color. These pigments fluoresce, are activated by light, and are known to cause photophobia and photosensitisation. This is the true cause of ‘mud-fever’, ‘sunburn’ and I believe head-flicking/shaking syndrome. When you remove these plants from the horse’s diet these conditions go away.
MINERAL IMBALANCES Rye-grass likes a slightly acid soil (5.8) So do all sorts of fungi. The more acid your soil, the more fungi in and around the base of the plants, such as facial ecsma spores, aspergillus, rust moulds and hundreds more. Then when the grass grows quickly, which is often in our climate especially when nitrogen or super is applied, it tends to leave behind the minerals. When you realise what a huge requirement horses have for minerals like calcium/magnesium just to run their large muscles, their brain and their nervous and circulatory systems, you will go to great lengths to ensure your horse doesn’t lack a molecule! It is a waste of money and counter-productive to feed separate minerals in isolation. Whilst you think you are fixing one problem you will be creating another imbalance. Feed mixes that supply everything in the correct balance.
FRUCTANS Whilst clovers and lucerne store their sugars as starch which is easily digestible, all varieties of rye-grass store their sugars as fructans which horses cannot digest. When fructans reach the hind-gut the streptococcus bacteria have a feast, immediately proliferate and devastate the good flora, cause sloppy manures, metabolic chaos and trigger laminitis.
EXCESS CARBOHYDRATE Rye/clover pastures are selected for rapid weight gain and milk production in livestock. The exact opposite of what we want for our horses! Rye/clovers are very high in NSC’s (non-structural carbohydrate or sugars) and when kept at a young stage of growth by grazing they are also low in fibre.
Clovers especially red clover and sub-terranian clover contain phyto-oestrogens which interfere with hormones and reproduction. These can turn mares into nymphomaniacs and geldings into stallions! They also increase the number of services to conceive. There are way safer grasses to feed your horses. If possible change to cocksfoot, brown-top, any of the Poa’s, silver tussock, Yorkshire fog, prairie, or timothy and enjoy horses that are ‘good to go’ all year round!
Kikuyu may harbour mycotoxins and is also an oxalate grass so best avoided totally.
Paspalum seed head
Those little black sticky things are the Ergot of the fungus “Claviceps Paspali”. They are common on the seed heads of paspalum and cause central nervous system derangement! That is hyperexcitability, belligerence, staggering and even convulsions.
Obviously not what you would want your horses to be eating. Since it occurs mainly on the seed head, it is vital not to let Paspalum seed in the spring and summer. Paspalum loves humidity.
If you cannot eliminate it completely or at least manage it so it doesn’t go to seed, then best to make the perimeter track and keep your horse on there.
Sometimes known as Reed Canary Grass
PHALARIS can harbour toxic alkaloids which cause a serious nervous syndrome and Phalaris staggers. Seasonal and weather patterns appear to affect alkaloid concentration, as most toxicity occurs in autumn and in times of drought. Regrowth after grazing or mowing also shows a considerable increase in alkaloids.
Often found on the edges of ditches and lakes. Best eliminated and certainly not to be sown.
Buttercups taking over your pasture is indicative of poor drainage. They are potentially harmful when they first grow but are no longer toxic after a hard frost or when dried in hay.
The consumption of freshly growing buttercups may cause:
- irritation and little sores or blisters around the mouth area
- even colic like symptoms and/or diarrhea
Oxalate grasses for information on ‘living with oxalate grasses’
- Green panic
- Para grass
- Guinea grass
- Signal grass
Other grasses best avoided include:
Cats Ear (looks similar to dandelion)
Solved! The Best Drought-Resistant Grass for Dry Summers
Q: I want to reseed my lawn with a grass that can tolerate the scarce rainfall my region has been getting in recent summers. What’s the best drought-resistant grass?
A: You’re wise to factor drought resistance into your choice of turf. When a dry season strikes, either due to a period of little rainfall or prolonged local watering restrictions, water-loving grasses like Carpet grass will quickly brown and die due to their high watering requirements, shallow roots, or poor ability to go dormant temporarily. Not so with drought-tolerant grasses that can survive and even retain their green good looks during a dry spell—thanks to low watering requirements, efficient root systems, above-or below-ground stems that repair bare or damaged grass patches, and/or the ability to go dormant and recover when water is restored. Read on to learn the best drought-resistant grass to plant for a verdant dry-season turf.
RELATED: 7 Smart Ways to Save Water in the Yard
Choose a grass that thrives in your climate.
Like all turf grasses, drought-resistant grasses fall into two categories: warm-season or cool-season. Choose the right grass for your climate zone to ensure that it grows well in the temperatures in your area.
- Warm-season grasses grow best in areas that see hot summers and milder winters, such as the Deep South and the southeast.
- Cool-season grasses thrive in places with temperate summers and many below- freezing winter days, including Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Great Plains, the upper Midwest, and New England.
- Take your pick of cool-season or warm-season grasses if you live in the “Transition Zone” between the north and south (e.g., from Southern California going east to the Virginias), where both types of grasses grow well.
The best drought-resistant grasses for warm-season climates include Bermuda, Zoysia, and St. Augustine.
- Bermuda grass, known for dense, dark green blades, is touted as the most drought-resistant warm-season grass. As a low water user, it only needs one to 1.25 inches of water weekly from rainfall or irrigation to stay green. Whatever water it does receive, it uses efficiently, as its deep roots, extending up to six feet, can take up water from deep within the ground. After an extended drought of around 50 days, Bermuda grass can also go dormant for up to three to four weeks without dying, which allows it to recover its plus pile and true color when watering is restored. The most drought-tolerant varieties of Bermuda grass include Texturf and Celebration.
- Zoysia grass only needs 0.5 to one inch of water weekly to retain its thick, soft, light to medium green color. It also has the ability to go dormant for three to four weeks without dying after an extended drought of around 30 days, and thanks to far-reaching underground stems called rhizomes, it can self-repair bare or drought-damaged turf. The most drought-resistant Zoysia varieties are El Toro, Jamur, and Palisade.
- St. Augustine grass can endure drought conditions through its above-ground stems called stolons that help repair drought-damaged patches on your lawn. The coarse, light to dark green grass also has minimal irrigation needs of one inch weekly. After around 45 days of drought, Floratam, the most drought-hardy variety, can also go dormant for three to four weeks without dying.
The best drought-tolerant grasses in cool-season climates include Tall Fescue, Fine Fescue, and Kentucky Bluegrass.
- Tall Fescue, a narrow-leaved, dark green grass, is among the best drought-resistant cool-season grasses due to its minimal irrigation needs of one to 1.25 inches of water weekly. It uses water efficiently, as its roots can grow between two to three feet long to access water deep in the soil. The dwarf-type varieties of Tall Fescue are among the most drought-tolerant.
- Fine fescue attributes its drought resistance to low watering requirements, as little as 0.75 to 1 inch of water weekly, and underground rhizomes that help repair drought-damaged grass to restore its thin, deep green blades. Creeping red and Chewings are the most drought-resistant varieties.
- Kentucky Bluegrass needs one to 1.5 inches of water weekly to retain the characteristic bright green to blue-green color of its flat, narrow, or folded leaves. But its underground rhizomes effectively repair drought-damaged turf to recover its color. Huntsville is among the most drought-tolerant of Kentucky Bluegrass varieties.
Maintain the drought-hardiness of your lawn by planting in the appropriate growing season and minimizing other sources of stress to your lawn.
Plant cool-season grasses in the early fall or spring, and warm-season grasses in early summer or spring, to ensure faster seed germination. During dry spells, use the tips below to maintain the health of your drought-resistant grass. If it’s too late in the season to plant grass seeds, or you don’t have the time or desire to reseed your existing lawn, you can also enlist these techniques to make a traditional turf more tolerant of dry conditions:
- Mow minimally. Because mower blades can put additional stress on already drought-damaged turf, mow no more than every 10 to 14 days during a drought, cutting no more than one-third of the height of the grass each time. Be sure to use sharp blades, as dull ones can lead to jagged grass that can easily dry out. And only mow when the soil is dry to avoid soil compaction, which reduces water uptake in the grass.
- Leave grass clippings on the turf (no more than one-half-inch thick) after mowing; as they decompose, they can add moisture to the soil and keep grass from drying out.
- Keep pets and kids off of a drought-stressed lawn, as the weight of foot traffic can increase soil compaction.
- Aerate your lawn biannually to improve water penetration into the roots and encourage healthy grass growth.
- Water grass regularly and deeply during a drought, usually at least every seven to 10 days, each time watering until the top six to eight inches of soil is wet.
- Driving a screwdriver into the soil can help you assess approximately how deeply you watered.
- If you’re under tight watering restrictions, and planted a turf grass such as Bermuda with a strong ability to go dormant, water only high-priority areas of the lawn, such as grass near flower beds in the front yard, and let other areas go dormant, to keep the lawn looking beautiful while conserving water.
RELATED: The 18 Best Things You Can Do for Your Lawn
How to Choose Lawn Seed
Sowing a lawn from seed is the most economical way to transform your garden. The first decision you need to make is an important one:
“Which seed is the right one for your lawn?”
Firstly, you’ll need to find the grass type that grows best in your location and climate. Grasses can be divided into two groups: Cool Season and Warm Season.
Cool Season Grasses:
COOL SEASON GRASSES grow best in temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees celcius and include Ryegrass, Fescues, Bluegrass and Bentgrass.
They’re at their best during the spring and autumn periods, and are suited for the cooler climates, e.g. Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, ACT and some areas of New South Wales.
Cool Season Grass Blends available at Great Aussie Lawns:
Landscape Range Greenland Blend
Rapid Green Budget Blend Lawn Seed
Advanced Seed Bentgrass Penncross Seed
Advanced Seed Dichondra Repens Lawn Seed
Commercial Cool Season Blends:
Championship Range Olympic Gold Premium Turf Rye Blend
League Turf Ryegrass Seed Blend
Championship Range Golf Tees Blend
Championship Range Turf Wicket Blend
Warm Season Grasses:
WARM SEASON GRASSES grow best in temperatures between 25 and 32 degrees celcius and include couch grass, kikuyu, and buffalo grass. They have better heat and drought tolerance than cool season grasses and are suited to temperate areas, e.g. New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. In cooler states warm season grasses can be sown in Spring and Summer months, with care taken to sow them when soil temperatures are up.
Warm Season Grasses available at Great Aussie Lawns:
Advanced Seed La Prima Couch Seed
Advanced Seed Royal Bengal Couch Seed
Landscape Range Turbocote Couch Seed
Landscape Range Turbocote Kikuyu Seed
Is your garden sunny or shady?
If the area is particularly sunny or shady you’ll need to consider the type of seed you choose. If your lawn area receives more than a few hours of sun a day it’s considered sunny lawn. The following products are suited:
Rapid Green Sun and Shade Blend
Choosing Seed by Season:
Warm season grasses should be sown so they can tolerate the heat while establishing. See our State by State Summer sowing recommendations for Victoria, NSW/ACT, Queensland, Tasmania, Northern Territory, WA.
Cool season grasses will grow in Temperate areas of Australia e.g. Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, ACT and some areas of New South Wales. In Northern States the warmer season varieties will grow if temperatures are above 25 degrees celcius. Cool Season grasses can establish through to winter but may not survive the heat of summer in warmer areas. See our State by State Autumn sowing recommendations here.
It is not ideal to grow lawn in Winter in the Temperate areas. In tropical areas and Northern parts of Australia you can continue to grow warm season grasses.
In Temperate areas of Australia it’s possible to begin sowing grasses as the warmth starts to appear in the soil. Soil temperatures need to be around 20 degrees minimum. See our State by State Spring sowing recommendations here.
For Help choosing the right seed call our Lawn Seed Hotline:
(03) 9462 3712
or email: [email protected]
Next Step: Preparing The Ground
Download a full copy of our FREE Step by Step Lawn Guide by clicking here
Keep California Green with the Best Grass for SoCal
Our recommendations for the best grass for Southern California are Scotts Turf Builder Bermuda Grass Seed Mix Bag and Jonathan Green Kentucky Tall Fescue Grass Seed. Both southern and northern California have some of the most diverse ranges of climate in the country. That makes choosing the best grass a tall order. We love Scotts Turf for SoCal grasses, but read on to see some more great options.
Our Tops Picks for the Best Grass for Southern California
- Jonathan Green Kentucky Tall Fescue Grass Seed
- Bonide High Traffic Grass Seed
- Jonathan Green Fast Grow Grass Seed Mixture
- Scotts Turf Builder Bermuda Grass Seed Mix Bag
The Southern California Challenge
The USDA Plant Hardiness Map divides California into southern and northern regions. Southern California lies south of Oakland, Stockton, and Sonora. Within this area, there are a whopping 13 different hardiness zones from 5a to 11a. Extreme low temperatures range from -20 to 45 degrees. With a span of 60 degrees, it’s clear that Southern California has a diverse climate.
Photo by Hans licensed under CC0.
Northern California is equally variable with only one less hardiness zone represented. Choosing the best grass for either portion is a daunting task when dealing with a state that has climates that go the gamut from subarctic to subtropical. A warm and arid Mediterranean climate prevails through most of the state.
The climate of southern California also varies between the eastern and western halves. Coastal areas have the added effects of maritime influences both on temperature and humidity. And while these areas benefit from these moderating effects, regions farther inland are more likely to experience temperature extremes. It’s just another of the many factors that impact grasses.
What You Need to Know about Grass
Despite the diversity of weather conditions, there are a few starting points that can guide the search for the best grass. The division between warm/arid and cool/arid goes almost right down the middle from the north end down to the top of Southern California. Each region has certain grasses that make excellent choices for the demands of the respective conditions.
Warm and Arid Equals Warm-Season Grasses
As a general rule of thumb, warm-season grasses will thrive best in the arid regions of western California. The term refers to the active growing season which occurs during the late spring and summer months. These grasses have a coarse texture that is best kept mowed at about one inch. They go dormant in the winter and will turn brown.
You typically find these grasses planted in lots of a single species rather than a mixture of different plants. While you can plant them as seeds, they’re usually laid down as sod or planted in plugs or sprigs. As you may expect, most varieties have excellent tolerance for both heat and drought. They do best in sunny locations and won’t handle the cold well.
This video by UNL Extension explains how to seed buffalo grass, a common warm-season variety.
Cool and Arid Equals Cool-Season Grasses
The other major category of grasses is a stark departure from warm-season varieties. Instead of a coarse texture, the cool-season grasses are fine. Their optimal temperature ranges from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit versus the 85 to 90 degrees for warm-season grasses. Fall is the best time to plant these grasses. Their growth habit includes both spreading and bunch.
All have an excellent tolerance for cold. These grasses have varying abilities to withstand heat, drought, and shade. Unlike warm-season grasses, you can plant cool-season varieties as seed. Mixtures of different types are common and often preferred over a single-species planting. They will also stay green during the winter if conditions don’t get too dry.
Choosing Grasses to Match the Region
Because of the sharp differences between the western and eastern portions of the state, it makes sense to hone in on two grasses than a single species. Cool and warm-season grasses are too polarized in their tolerance levels to recommend a single one throughout southern California. As you’ll see, each type has pros and cons.
The major types of warm-season grasses include Bermuda grass, buffalo grass, and Zoysia grass. Other common varieties include St. Augustine grass, Bahia grass, and carpet grass. All require relatively low maintenance, a definite selling point. Variations exist with their abilities to handle wear and shade. Depending on your situation, these differences could be a deal breaker.
The major types of cool-season grasses include bentgrass, fescues, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryes. Each type varies in the degree of tolerance to other environmental conditions. While fine fescue does well in shady locations, Kentucky bluegrass prefers sunny areas. Tall fescue is the most tolerant across the board for a number of climate stresses.
Another consideration for choosing a grass for Southern California concerns moisture requirements, given the recent drought. Warm-season grasses have adequate tolerance for dry conditions for the most part. The same, however, cannot be said of all cool-season grasses. Some species such as perennial ryegrass will not thrive without irrigation.
Maintenance and Wear
You should also consider how much care each of the different grasses needs. While Zoysia grass is low maintenance, creeping bentgrass is more of a commitment. Then, there’s the question of wear. If you anticipate your lawn will see a lot of traffic, you should lean toward a grass that can handle this added pressure such as Bermuda grass.
Wear tolerance underscores the fact that local conditions will often dictate a suitable choice for a grass. And as the many hardiness zones indicate, there is a lot of variability within this region that will also play a role in the choice of the best grass.
Our Recommendations: Scotts Turf Builder Bermuda Grass Seed Mix Bag and Jonathan Green Kentucky Tall Fescue Grass Seed
Because of the big divide between warm and cool arid regions, we wanted to select a grass to satisfy the requirements of each one. That left us with both a warm and cool-season choice to cover most of the demands that establishing a lawn presents. Each one features a grass with a reasonable degree of tolerances for a broad range of applications.
Scotts Turf Builder Bermuda Grass Seed Mix Bag impressed us with its emphasis on drought tolerance, making it an excellent choice for the warm and arid regions of western California. We also liked its high tolerance for wear and its quick recovery from heavy use. Bermuda grass can fill in bare spots rapidly to get your lawn established.
Jonathan Green Kentucky Tall Fescue Grass Seed offers a cool-season grass that can take a wide range of environmental challenges. It can handle it all from heat to drought to cold. Its wear tolerance is another welcome perk. While tall fescue has higher moisture requirements, the deep-rooted characteristic of the Jonathan Green product offers a suitable alternative.
With its 13 hardiness zones, Southern California includes a wide variety of diverse habitats. The area has climate extremes on both ends of the spectrum. We opted to choose both a warm and cool-season grass that will fit the bill no matter where you live in the state. Picking grasses with excellent tolerance levels for a variety of environmental conditions makes good sense.
Tame the Dryest Lawns with the Best Grass for Sandy Soil
Our recommendations for the best grass for sandy soil are Scotts Snap Pac Tall Fescue Grass Seed and the Dirty Gardener Majestic Turf Bermuda Grass. Sandy soils are the proverbial double-edged sword. While they drain quickly, they also cannot store nutrients well. Keep reading for a longer list of some fantastic options for sandy soil grasses.
Our Top Picks for the Best Grass for Sandy Soil
- Scotts Snap Pac Tall Fescue Grass Seed
- The Dirty Gardener Majestic Turf Bermuda Grass
- Pennington Smart Seed Tall Fescue Premium Grass Seed Blend
- Zoysia Plug Tray
What You Need to Know about Soil
Scientists describe soils by their general features that include structure, organic matter, pH, and permeability. Sand is one class of soil texture. Based on the diameter of its particles, it is classified as very coarse sand, coarse sand, medium sand, fine sand, or very fine sand. Sandy soils are the end product of the weathering and decomposition of rocks over time.
Photo by PublicDomainPictures licensed under CC0.
The parent material or the source of the weathered rock determines the mineral component of any soil. For sandy soils, that often means quartz, feldspar, or calcium carbonate. The mineral composition can, in turn, influence the soil chemistry and thus, the types of grasses that will thrive in a particular soil type. The same can be said of any soil type.
How Texture Influence Grasses
The texture is the mix of gravel, clay, silt, coarse sand and fine sand that gives a soil its basic look and feel. It directly influences how water and nutrients move through it. Drainage increases with the particle size because there is more room for water to move. It will also influence your choice of a grass. For example, Kentucky bluegrass won’t do well in clay or compacted soils.
Water and Nutrient Movement
Infiltration and permeability are characteristics that define how plants are able to get water and nutrients from the soil. For water to move freely and infiltrate soils, they must be permeable and allow it to occur. It’s a big deal when it comes to grasses and other plants. Soils with low permeability can become waterlogged, which can increase the risk for harmful bacteria growth.
Sandy soils allow for free infiltration and nutrient movement. It’s one reason that golf courses often have these kinds of soils. It suits their purposeâas well as golfersâto keep water from pooling at the soil surface. So, a particular combination of soil type and grass can serve a myriad of functions that you can fine tune to your needs.
Characteristics of Sandy Soils
To determine the best grass for sandy soils, we can begin with its basic features as they may influence your grass choice. Generally, sandy soil drains well and fast. While that has some advantages, it also means that sandy soils don’t store water as well as clay types. Grasses that are drought intolerant may have trouble in these soils.
This video from Catalina Island Marine Institute explains the fascinating process of how sand is formed.
Sandy soils are also well aerated which supports healthy root growth. It is a boon for grasses that cannot tolerate heavy clay soils. However, it comes at a price. It is more difficult for these soils to hang onto organic matter and their nutrients, which can increase the maintenance requirements for grasses that prefer fertile soils.
On the plus side, you’ll find lighter sandy soils easier to work with whether you’re preparing a vegetable garden or planting a new lawn. While the coarser texture of these soils aids aeration, it also means that warm air can permeate the lower levels. That means that you may be able to plant earlier in the season with warmer soil temperatures that grasses need to germinate.
Choosing the Best Grass
There are two things you need to keep in mind when picking the best grass for sandy soils. First, remember that these soils drain rapidly. That means that they may dry out quickly. Second, you’ll have the best success with grasses that are drought tolerant. The combination of fast draining and drought means that your grass must have an excellent tolerance level.
Cool-Season Grasses versus Warm-Season Grasses
Sandy soils occur throughout the country even far from the beach. So it makes sense that the best grass depends on your location. Cool-season grasses are a suitable choice for northern areas below USDA Hardiness Zone 7. Extreme low temperatures for these regions go from 10 degrees Fahrenheit and below. As you may expect, these grasses have excellent cold tolerance.
Warm-season grasses, on the other hand, prefer the higher temperatures of more southerly regions. They are adapted to both heat and drought conditions. They don’t tolerate cold or shade well, which makes sense given their preferences. Drought tolerance in a grass is especially important when both of these factors come into play.
Both types of grasses have the ability to withstand drought to some degree. That becomes important when considering the long-term health of your lawn. A lawn that is stressed is at a greater risk for disease and pests. Warm-season grasses have a low tendency for disease. However, drought certainly isn’t the only factor that comes into play.
That also means that the best grass for sandy soils has to withstand a broad spectrum of environmental conditions. Cool-season grasses have a limited ability to handle heat, whereas the opposite is the case with warm-season species. Thus, our choice for the best grass for sandy soils has to cover both of these scenarios. Hence, we have both a cool and warm-season option.
Our Recommendations: Scotts Snap Pac Tall Fescue Grass Seed and Dirty Gardener Majestic Turf Bermuda Grass
When it comes to choosing the best grass, we quickly realized that we needed choice suited for both northern and southern regions of the country. Drought tolerance ranked as our primary criteria since fast-draining sandy soils would push the envelope on adaptation to these conditions. We settled for the best of both worlds for a suitable grass to meet your needs.
Scotts Snap Pac Tall Fescue Grass Seed offers a lot of the advantages you’ll get from a cool-season grass with suitable tolerance for a variety of environmental conditions. It can handle both the cold and heat as well as drought. It has lower moisture needs than other cool-season species which makes it a good fit for sandy soils. It also handles wear well.
We were torn between several types of warm-season grasses because all of them seemed well adapted to drought. We settled on Bermuda grass for its superior ability to handle dry conditions. The Dirty Gardener Majestic Turf Bermuda Grass offers a similar durable and wear resistance like tall fescue. Given the stress that drought can cause, we opted for this grass.
Sandy soils present a challenge to the home gardener. Their ability to drain water quickly applies to nutrients as well. The best grass for sandy soils needs to be one that can handle a wide array of environmental conditions. And to fulfill everyone’s need for a suitable grass, we picked both a warm and cool-season selection with an emphasis on excellent tolerance.
Different areas across the United States, as well as across our area, have different soil types. Soil type affects how grass is grown, the type of watering practices to follow, as well other factors. To better understand the lawn, it is important to understand the soil beneath it. There are six different types of soil.
Sandy soil can be problematic because of its texture. Sandy soil is composed of larger particles that are dry and gritty to the touch. Sandy soils have poor water retention because they easily drain water. This type of soil is airy and lacks essential nutrients, prohibiting growth of certain plants.
Clay soil is composed of fine particles that are smooth when dry but sticky when wet. Clay retains water well but drains the water poorly which can be problematic during spring time rains. Clay soils are also very compacted and have less space for air to pass through. Clay soil is however very rich in nutrients.
Silty soil is made of tiny particles that are not grainy or rocky. When wet, silty soil is very slippery and will retain water very well. This soil is good for agriculture purposes because it is extremely fertile but is easily compacted.
Loamy soil is a mix of sandy, silty, and clay soils. Loamy soil drains water as well as retains water and nutrients. It is a fertile soil that is soft and crumbly and well aerated. It is a very easy soil to work with for agricultural purposes.
Chalky soil is light in color and composed of stony particles. It is poor in nutrients and will get very warm and severely dry out in the summer months. Chalky soil is rich in lime and very alkaline.
Peat soil is a dark brown, soft, spongy soil that contains acidic water and is rich in organic matter. Peat soil is able to retain water, store nutrients however is not fertile. It does improve soil buffering and is often mixed into soil to improve structure.
Sum it up
Knowing which soil type you have of is the key to determine which plants and which type of lawn will best withstand your area. Each soil type has different benefits and downfalls and cannot be treated equally due to the differences in texture, compaction, as well as water and nutrient retention.
It is always a good idea to consult with a lawn care professional and ask any questions you may have. Look around, ask friends or family, and research companies on the Better Business Bureau to find a company that you can trust.
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