Whether you're looking to step up your lawn game or you're starting from scratch, here's everything you need to know about grass, including the best types for your region, when to plant, and how to make your lawn worthy of a blue ribbon.
Before you seed or sod your lawn, consider the climate in your region. "Temperature is the biggest consideration," says Scotts Miracle-Gro turf grass scientist Phil Dwyer.
The first step? Determine whether you're located in the North, the South, or the transition zone (according to , the strip of land that "follows the lower elevations of Virginia and North Carolina west through West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas and includes southern Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Kansas"). Then, choose from these options:
North: Kentucky Bluegrass
Cool season grasses do best in more moderate temperatures, and this grass is ideal. "It's great for heavy traffic, it's very durable, and it's self-repairing, Dwyer says.
North: Perennial Ryegrass
This is a popular choice if you want to mix grasses thanks to its ability to grow quickly and hold up under heavy traffic, but it can also be sown on its own.
North: Fine Fescue
This fine grass prefers shade, making it a good option for areas beneath trees. It won't hold up to foot traffic as well as Kentucky bluegrass, but you can use it for filling in areas where other types of grass might not grow.
North/Transition: Tall Fescue
With its deep roots, this type of grass can survive drought periods—great for areas near the transition zone, or places that don't get tons of rain. It also withstands heat well, so it will work in super hot regions.
Transition: Zoysia Grass
This transition zone grass prefers full sun. Its thickness makes it a popular option for golf courses.
Transition: Bermuda Grass
This versatile warm-season grass does well in areas that often reach the upper 80s and 90s, but it can also withstand colder periods. It's common down south and in California.
South: St. Augustine Grass
Even further down south—in parts of southern Texas and Florida—you'll want a grass that can tolerate extreme heat and droughts. This wide-bladed grass is coarse and tough, and can even be grown in soils with some sand.
South: Centipede Grass
Looking for a low-maintenance option? This one's for you! This short, low-growing grass holds its own against pests and is commonly found in the Carolinas, Louisiana, and Mississippi since it can grow in acidic soils.
The best time to lay down grass seed also depends on where you live. In the North, you'll want to wait for warmer soil temperatures (around or above 50 degrees).
You can begin in April or early May and seed until mid June at the latest. But the best time is actually in the fall. "My favorite time is September—there's more rain and cooler temperatures, which helps seeds establish faster," Dwyer says. You should avoid planting grass seed in the summer when it's too hot and they'll struggle to grow.
In the South, avoid seed altogether. Sod words best in this region. Aim for May through June, which is the best time for establishing new grass.
Looking to fill out or refresh your lawn fast? Opt for perennial ryegrass if you live up North, or Bermuda grass (in plugs or sod form) if you live down South. You can also throw down some Bermuda grass seed to fill in bare areas.
Whether you're a lawn care newbie or a seasoned pro, you'll want to follow these best practices to ensure you've got the prettiest lawn on the block:
• Break up soil first. Don't just throw it on top of your dirt or bare lawn. If you just leave it on bare ground, seeds have to work a lot harder to germinate and poke through the top soil. Start with a great healthy seed bed by prepping the site and roughing up the soil.
• Plant a combination of seeds. Most lawns are a mixture of different grass types. Using seed species ensures you get better establishment and a healthier looking lawn.
• Layer on top. Some homeowners lay straw or hay on top of new seeds to keep them in place, but you can also try coconut fiber, which holds moisture in place to nourish seeds.
• Use fertilizer. If your lawn looks thin or bare, you can use , a specially designed product that kills weeds, feeds your grass, and strengthens your lawn all at once.