What and why are grass blends, mixtures & mixed blends needed for?

Grass varieties are developed so lawns have less stress and healthier lives. Each species have different characteristics & tolerance ranges. Some species are shade tolerant, heat tolerant, drought tolerant or better wear/tear tolerance. This is similar to looking at human characteristics too. For example: You may function better when heat/sun is abundant, but your sibling prefers the cool/shady areas. The point is, you're both a blend of your parents characteristics & tolerances, just like the grass. When applying this concept to grasses you get whats called mixtures, blends or mixed blends. This diversity in tolerance levels can make some lawns bold & beautiful and some sick and sparse.  For an easy reminder think of these terms as a type of party.

Blends = Same Bloodline Parties

Mixtures = Small Mixed Bloodline Parties

Mixed Blends = Big Mixed Bloodline Parties

What is a grass blend? 

A simple analogy is: Its the same bloodline having a party..."the Festuca bloodline for example". The same genus but different species. Each species have similar qualities and tolerances. There are many blends such as Blue grass blends, Rye blends and Fescue blends. For this example I used a fine fescue blend. All of these species have a needle like appearance and generally prefer cool shady areas.

Blend Example:

Creeping red fesue

  • Genus: Festuca 
  • Species: rubra

Chewings fescue

  • Genus: Festuca
  • Species: rubra
  • Sub-Species: commutata

Hard fescue

  • Genus: Festuca
  • Species: brevipila

Sheep fescue

  • Genus: Festuca
  • Species: ovina

What is a grass mixture? 

A simple analogy is: Its a party of 2-3 different bloodlines that don't fight with each other. These are what you typically buy at most garden centers. Each grass type has better strengths than the other. Mixtures help to cover all the different tolerance levels found within lawns. 

Mixture Example:

  • Kentucky Blue Grass -  good sun tolerance & moderate shade tolerance
  • Creeping Red Fescue - good shade tolerance & poor sun tolerance
  • Perennial Rye - good wear/tear tolerance & low-moderate sun/shade tolerance

What is a Mixed Blend?

A simple analogy is: Its a huge party with many blends mixed together, and don't fight with each other. These are also purchased at Farm & Garden Centers. Each grass type has better strengths than the other. This army of grass covers almost any  aspect of tolerance. (Each grass listed below has more tolerances than listed. I only listed a few for each grass type. As you can see this mixed blend covers every tolerance in a lawn and much more).

Mixed Blend Example:

  • Kentucky Blue Grass - good sun tolerance & moderate shade tolerance
  • Canada Blue Grass - good sun tolerance & moderate shade tolerance
  • Creeping Red Fescue - good shade and low temperature tolerance, but  prone to heat/sun stress
  • Chewings Fescue - good tolerance to shade, sandy, acidic or infertile soils, and moderate sun tolerance
  • Hard Fescue - good abuse, neglect, shade, and moderate sun tolerance
  • Sheep Fescue - good shade and erosion, with moderate drought tolerance
  • Perennial Rye - good nursing qualities, good wear/tear, with low-moderate sun/shade tolerance
  • Intermediate/Transitional Rye (hybrid) -  good nursing qualities, rapid germination & low heat/drought tolerance

Fine Fescue

There are a few types of fine fescues. Common species in our region are chewings fescue, creeping red fescue, hard fescue, and sheep fescue. There germination rate is usually 7-14 days. These grasses are seen as having ultra thin blades and well adapted for Canadian conditions. FF have a low tolerance to hot/dry periods, and out compete most grasses in the shade. FF prefer cool/shady/moist areas, and do not like excessive amounts of water. Hard fescue, sheep fescue, and chewings fescues are slightly more tolerant in warm/dry areas on a lawn. This gives some fescue species a bit more range in tolerances. Creeping red fescue is more accustomed to cool/damp areas on lawns. The proneness for disease/pests is categorized as moderate and prefers 2-3 feedings per growing season. Watering varies with all species, but 1" per week is optimal for any type of grass.

Tall Fescue

Is a cool season grass which does relatively well in cool or warm areas. Tall fescue germinates in approximately 7-14 days. It grows taller and faster than other species in a lawn. It almost looks like a dwarf version of Smooth Brome or Quack Grass in some cases. The seed arrangements will better help I.D the plant. TF is a bunch grass with no spreading capabilities, but a deep root system (some cultivars may have rhizomes but not Tall F.). Deep roots enable this grass to surpass the dry periods, but it cannot rejuvenate  voids in a lawn unless reseeded. It can tolerate heavy foot traffic, and good for most lawns, sport fields and commercial properties. TF can die from our cold Canadian winters and may require spring seeding. Do not patch areas with just TF, always use a mix or mixed-blend. TF is thicker and taller so areas may look imbalanced for a long time. It has a good shade tolerance, average maintenance levels, and likes 2-4 feedings per growing season. Its proneness for disease/pests is categorized as relatively low. It requires less water but looks much better when watered regularly.

Perennial Rye Grass

Is a cool season grass with poor heat/cold tolerance. This does not mean it can't grow in your lawn. It just prefers middle-moderate temperature ranges.  Its a middle man for other grasses and compliments a lawn for a few reasons. PRG is a bunch grass and a nurse grass. Its known for its strength in wear/tear, shine and fast germination. Germination may occur in as little as 3-10 days. This is why its blended with other species of turf grasses. This nursing grass gets the ball rolling. It helps hold soil in place, and protects seeds requiring time to germinate. PRG has a high content of silica fibers, so grass blades tend to shred when cut. PRG is a great for any lawn, sport field, park, or a nurse grass. It has a moderate shade tolerance and an average level of maintenance. Its proneness for diseases/pests is categorized as high. PRG likes to be fed 3-5 times per growing season and requires adequate water for good looks. If PRG dies out, don't worry, other grasses will fill the void.  

Please Note: Do not use 100% annual rye grass to seed your entire lawn unless your doing it for temporary reasons. Its an annual and dies out in one year. Next season you will need to reseed again. Use it as a light nursing grass or to hold your soil/seed bed down only.

Kentucky Blue Grass

Is a cool season grass, meaning it prefers cooler regions. It can brown up with extreme heat, yet look bold & beautiful when watered properly. Its germination rate is 14-25 days.  It provides a dense quality turf for lawns, sport fields, parks and school yards. KBG has a rhizome stem system. This stem system can naturally repair areas when minor bald spots occur. These underground rhizome buds are alive. This gives KBG good spreading & survival capabilities. It can to lose all foliage form heat, winter dry-out, or mouse/vole damage and still spring back to life. Your lawn may look completely dead, yet emerge quickly after food & water become available. KBG prefers sunny areas with moderate shade tolerance. Areas can become sparse over time where no sun is not available. 

Proneness for disease/pests is categorized as high.  KBG likes to be fed 3-5 times per growing season and needs lots of water for a dense hallmark look.