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The Best Grass Type for Your Atlanta Lawn

All Turf
September 6th, 2021

When choosing the best grass type for your Atlanta lawn, you will need to fully understand your options to find the right fit. Choosing the right type of grass is the first step to a healthy lawn. Making the wrong choice can result in wasted money, time, and labor. With Atlanta being in a transition zone, both cool and warm-season grass can thrive in the right environment. But each type of grass has different needs and characteristics to flourish. Always check your drainage routes throughout the lawn. Too much drainage can affect the turf negatively by washing away seed or oversaturating the area. Before you decide on your grass type, drainage issues must also be corrected or the same issues with turf decline could keep recurring regardless of what grass type you choose.

When to Plant a New Grass Type

The first thing you need to know before deciding what grass to plant is how much sunlight your turf receives. Picking the proper turf type will directly impact the overall health of your lawn. Turf is divided into two categories: cool-season grasses and warm-season grasses. Cool-season grasses are planted in the fall of the year and thrive during late fall to early spring. These include tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and ryegrass. The ideal planting dates are September through October. In some cases, tall fescue can be planted in early spring, but the success of the seed is usually not as great as when done in the fall. Warm-season turf should be planted or ideally sodded in the late spring and early summer. The planting dates for Bermuda, zoysia, and centipede are May, June, and July. It is recommended you plant these types of turf as sod not seed for a better establishment success rate.  A sodded lawn gives almost instant establishment.

Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Grass Type

It can be difficult to determine the shade that your lawn receives. Use these examples as a guideline.

Full sunlight: six to eight hours of direct sunlight throughout the entire day.
Light shade: four to six hours of sunlight that comes through the canopy of any surrounding trees or it could also be four to six hours of direct sunlight.
Partial shade: eight hours of sunlight filtered through any existing canopy OR four hours of direct sunlight throughout the entire day.
Shade: The only contact the turf has with the sun is through any kind of canopy. The turf never receives any direct sunlight.
Heavy shade: No direct sunlight touches the grass all day, such as the shade under a large tree or the shade between two houses where shadows prevent sunlight from reaching the turf at all.

No grass will grow well in shade or dense shade. If you have a shady spot, it will be extremely difficult to ever get grass to thrive in this area. To save yourself some grief, try extended the bedding area under the tree, putting down rocks, or making some kind of small patio or walkway.

Grass Types to Consider for Atlanta Lawns

Bermudagrass

  • Light level: full sun, 6-8 hours of direct sunlight
  • Dormant Season: winter
  • Weather: cold, heat, and drought tolerant
  • Traffic: Heavy traffic, used for recreational fields, golf courses, etc.
  • Watering/Mowing: Quick growing, weekly mowing is recommended, sometimes twice weekly during peak growing season. Mowing 1-2 inches. Water 2 inches a week.
  • Other Characteristics: Recovers quickly, quick growing, spreading grass-type, best to plant in late spring-early summer, most common

Zoysia 

  • Light level: full to light shade, shade tolerant, 6-8 hours of filtered sunlight through the moderate tree canopy
  • Dormant Season: winter
  • Weather: cold, heat, and drought tolerant
  • Traffic: Moderate to heavy traffic
  • Watering/Mowing: Mowing 1-2 inches. Water 2 inches per week
  • Other Characteristics: spreading grass-type, best to plant in spring, needs spring aeration annually

Tall Fescue

  • Light Level: Shade tolerant, partial or complete shade
  • Dormant season: Peak growing season through cool season, fall-early spring
  • Weather: Best in cool weather, also heat tolerant, and able to survive in transition zones with hot summers with the right care.
  • Traffic: Moderate traffic
  • Watering/Mowing: 2-4 in mowing, raise height .5 inches in hot weather
  • Other: Needs fall aeration and seeding annually

Centipedegrass

  • Light Level: Full sun to light shade
  • Dormant season: Winter
  • Weather: Heat and drought tolerance, low tolerance for cold temps and wet soils
  • Traffic: moderate traffic
  • Watering/Mowing: Slow growth rate, less frequent mowing schedule, mowing height of 1.5-2 inches, watering 1 in per week
  • Other: Low maintenance, less fertilization than other grass types, aeration during the active growing season 

St. Augustine Grass

  • Light Level: Full sun to light shade
  • Dormant season: Winter
  • Weather: Heat tolerant, moderate cool tolerance
  • Traffic: low traffic, easily compacted
  • Watering/Mowing: weekly mowing 1-2 inches in height. Water 1.5-2 inches a week.
  • Other: Low maintenance, less fertilization than other grass types, aeration during the active growing season

Maintenance for Your New Lawn

Once you have established what turf type best fits your lawn, now it is up to you, the homeowner for proper maintenance. It is crucial whether you planted sod or seed that you water your lawn properly. If you had your fescue seeded by All Turf, you would have received an all-encompassing guide on aftercare once the seeding has been completed. The Fescue seed will not establish without proper watering. The same goes for warm-season turf. If sod was installed by a licensed company, they would have left you detailed instructions on proper post-care for your new sod. Your service technician or the office staff is always available to answer any questions about care for your turf, old or new. It is not recommended to mow new turf, sod, or seed until the seed is at least two inches tall or the sod is well-established testing with the tug method. The tug method is simply pulling on the new sod to see if it has been established into the ground. Once established you will still want to wait until you at least get between 1-2 inches of new growth before you start mowing. Doing it too soon, in either case, could result in damage to the new turf.