The Grass Is Greener

I’ve never been much of a lawn person – grass just never captured my attention. In my mind, if you were planting a lawn, you bought seed, spread it on the soil and watered it until it started to grow. Once it was growing, you were done.

While I wouldn’t say that I’ve developed a love of turf, I do have a greater appreciation for what goes into growing a good lawn. The inherent problem with turf is that it’s a monoculture (the practice of growing a single kind of plant in a given location). Monocultures are hard to maintain because everything in nature wants you’re monoculture to become a polyculture! Every weed that takes root in the lawn is nature’s little challenge to your monoculture of grass. A monoculture needs special care in order for it to flourish.

The foundation of a good lawn is choosing the right seed for the monoculture. I had always thought that grass seed was grass seed – there wasn’t that much difference – but I’ve realized that this isn’t true.

Last fall I replaced the strip of grass growing between the road  and the sidewalk. It had been planted by the people who put in the sidewalk and it was slowly dying. Others in the neighborhood had grass in this same location and theirs was growing fine. I wondered why one lawn would be growing while another was dying. I came to the conclusion that it had to be because of the kind of grass that was growing in each of the lawns. Whatever seed the sidewalk installers used in that space between the road and the sidewalk led to a lawn that couldn’t survive the stresses of the location.

This set me on a quest to learn about grass seed. I found that there are a lot of different seed mixtures available to homeowners. Most of them contain a combination of the standard grasses for the northeast: rye grass, fescue and bluegrass. But within these three types of grass there are different varieties of each which are better suited to different locations. So this time, instead of buying a generic grass seed mix, I went to a local store that had seed formulated for this part of Pennsylvania. It was more expensive but I thought the specialized mixture might be worth the extra cost.

It was a little slow to come up but I expected that – the better lawn grasses tend to germinate more slowly. The grass has filled in and is growing well. Every time I mow the lawn I notice the difference between this grass and the next door neighbor’s grass. Their grass has a coarse texture while the grass I planted has very fine leaves. It’s obvious that we used very different seed mixes! Also the new grass is a deeper green – this might be due to the kind of grass that’s growing, fertilizer usage or a combination of both. All I know is that the new grass I planted looks really good.

Time will tell if this special grass seed was worth the price. Summer drought will be the test to see if it’ll survive. But for now, I’m pleased with the results – the grass is greener on my side of the fence.

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