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K-State Turf and Landscape Blog


The Art of Knowing Your Seed Label

(By Evan Alderman, KSU Turfgrass MS Student; Ross Braun, KSU Turfgrass PhD Student; and Jared Hoyle, KSU Turfgrass Research and Extension)

Do you enjoy having a nice green lawn, but didn’t have time to get your fall seeding done? Don’t fret, there is still time. Although the optimal time of year to seed cool season grass species is during the fall months, there is still time for you to get a great looking lawn for this summer. Now before you go to your local garden supply store and pick up some seed, there are several things you should take into account before making your purchase. The art of knowing your seed label begins now.

Turfgrass Species and Cultivar

seedSo you walk into your local garden supply store and you look at all of your options for potential seed you can use and you say to yourself “I really want a lush green lawn fast”. So you pick up a bag that says something along the lines of “quick establishment”, since that is what you want. Although this bag of seed sounds like a great option, you probably should check out the seed label before making this purchase. In the image is a picture of a seed bag with those claims. As you can see this bag contains 90.50% annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum) and only 5.97% perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). Now as a turfgrass scientist I can assure you that you may have a great looking lawn temporarily, but annual ryegrass should not be a long term solution. Which is why Rule #1 for the art of knowing your seed label is know what turfgrass species performs best in your area. For much of the state of Kansas, tall fescue (Lolium arundinacea) is the predominant species in most home lawns. Tall fescue is able to handle most of the drought conditions that Kansas likely endures.

Rule #2 for the art of knowing your seed labels is also knowing which species cultivars grow best in your area of the country. One of the best options for knowing which turfgrass cultivars perform best in your area is the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (www.ntep.org). On their website, there is data available for homeowners to look at from many different university studies involving different turfgrass species and cultivars. This information will help you make an informed decision on what turfgrass species and cultivar will work best for you, this is a step in the right direction for achieving that lush green lawn you are wanting.

Other Seed Label Information

Although some of the most important information on the seed label is the turfgrass species and variety, there are several other pieces of information on the label that can be helpful. Rule #3, look at the percent germination for all turfgrass species on the seed label. Just because that type of seed is on the label doesn’t mean all of it will germinate. Thus it is important to look at the germination rate, and chose a bag of seed that has a high germination percentage. Rule #4, although the bag of turf seed you are going to by mostly contains grass seed, bags of seed can also can weed seed. It is very important to look at the percentage of weed seed in your bag of seed, if that percentage is high, I would probably pass on that bag and look for another one with a lower percent of weed seed. If a seed label has 0.5% weed seed then that equals approximately 12 to 16 weeds being planted per square foot. A seed label with <0.01 weed seed is good but 0% is best. This also applies to the “other crop” section of the label. Lastly, Rule #5, consider the seed testing date on the seed label. As with anything, turfgrass seed can get old, this will highly effect the germination percentage from that bag of seed. It is recommended to use newer seed and avoid anything over one year past the testing date.

Utilizing these five rules will help you make an informed decision for planting a lush green lawn this spring.

Always remember to READ THE LABEL for the correct rate, turfgrass tolerance, and specific instructions before application!!!

***Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for identification purposes and does not imply recommendation or endorsement, nor is criticism implied of similar products not mentioned by Kansas State University.***

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Already thinking about re-seeding? Choose the right cultivars!

(by Ward Upham and Jared Hoyle, KSU Research and Extension)

Though several cool-season grasses are grown in Kansas, tall fescue is considered the best adapted and is recommended for home lawns. The cultivar K-31 is the old standby and has been used for years. However, there is a myriad of newer cultivars that have improved color, density and a finer leaf texture. Most of these newer varieties are very close to one another in quality.  Each year the National Turfgrass Evaluation Trial rates tall fescue varieties for color, greenup, quality and texture. Quality ratings are taken once a month from March through October. K-31 consistently rates at the bottom. The recommended cultivars were 3rd Millennium, Braveheart, Bullseye, Catalyst, Cochise, Corona, Escalade, Faith, Falcon V, Firecracker, Firenza, Jamboree, LS 1200, Monet, Mustang, Raptor II, Rhambler SRP, RK5, Shenandoah III, Shenandoah Elite, Sidewinder, Spyder LS, Talladega, Turbo and Wolfpack II. There are a number of other cultivars that did not make this list but should do well in Kansas. Go to http://ntep.org/data/tf06/tf06_12-10f/tf0612ft04.txt . Any variety with a mean rating of 6.0 or above should be fine. K-31 has a rating of 4.1. Keep in mind that mixes of several varieties may allow you to take advantage of differing strengths. It is not necessary for mixes to contain only the varieties mentioned above.  Though K-31 may still be a good choice for large, open areas, the new cultivars will give better performance for those who desire a high-quality turf.

Though Kentucky bluegrass is not as heat and drought tolerant as tall fescue and the warm-season grasses, it is commonly used in northeastern Kansas, where there is sufficient annual rainfall. It is also grown under irrigation in northwestern Kansas where the higher elevation allows for cooler summer night temperatures. The following cultivars have performed well compared to other bluegrasses in this region. Use this list as a guide. Omission does not necessarily mean that a cultivar will not perform well. Recommended cultivars for high-quality lawns, where visual appearance is the prime concern, include Alexa II, Aura, Award, Bewitched, Barrister, Belissimo, Beyond, Diva, Everest, Everglade, Excursion, Ginney II, Granite, Impact, Midnight, NuChicago, NuGlade, NuDestiny, Rhapsody, Rhythm, Rugby, Skye, Solar Eclipse, STR 2485, Sudden Impact, Washington and Zifandel. Such lawns should receive 4 to 5 pounds nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year and would typically be irrigated during dry periods to prevent drought stress.  Cultivars that do relatively well under a low-maintenance program with limited watering often differ from those that do well under higher inputs. Good choices for low maintenance include Baron, Baronie, Caliber, Canterbury, Dragon, Eagleton, Envicta, Kenblue, North Star, and South Dakota. Instead of the 4 to 5 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year, low-maintenance program would include 1 to 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. Obviously, a low-input lawn will not be as attractive as a higher-input lawn, but you can expect the cultivars listed above to look fairly good in the spring and fall, while going dormant in the summer.