What's the best lawn for western Oregon?

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Last Updated: 
July 13, 2006

CORVALLIS - When faced with the task of establishing a new lawn, people want to know what's the best kind of grass to plant? Tom Cook, turf specialist at Oregon State University, is asked this question a lot.

"I rarely give the same answer twice, because the best grass depends on the site, the owner, and a dozen other variables," said Cook.

But hedging aside, Cook says there are several basic grass mixtures that will cover most situations. He has outlined them in a new pamphlet, "Practical Lawn Establishment and Renovation," published by the OSU Extension Service.

Below are just a few grass seed mixtures that Cook recommends for western Oregon lawns.

"The percentages of mixture components are not sacred," Cook said. "You have to be flexible in shopping because every supplier has a different idea of what they want to sell you. The key is to study the label and go for the contents, not the price or the hype."

For general turf on sunny sites:

  • 70-80 percent perennial ryegrass and 20-30 percent fine fescue.

This will make a lawn that is rugged, will tolerate some shade, requires medium to high fertility initially to look good, and is fairly easy to cut, according to Cook.

"Mixtures like this start fast and quickly give a functional lawn," Cook said. "They tend to be hungry for the first year or two since they are initially dominated by perennial ryegrass. By the third year, the fine fescues begin to dominate, particularly if you have not fertilized regularly." This lawn will be susceptible to red thread.

  • 50 percent perennial ryegrass and 50 percent Kentucky bluegrass.

This lawn needs relatively high fertility to look its best. And it requires sun. Plan on mowing at one-and-a-half t two inches and irrigating regularly, according to Cook.

"You probably won't find this mix in the stores, but for people who like the bluegrass look it's a pretty good mix. Initially dominated by ryegrass, the bluegrass shows up in the second or third year. Either of these grasses planted alone tends to be invaded by other grasses rather quickly, which ruins the appearance of the lawn. Mixed together, both grasses hold up better.

"In our trials, this mix was stable after five years," said Cook.

  • 50 percent perennial ryegrass, and 25 percent Kentucky bluegrass and 25 percent fine fescue.

"This sounds like the answer to everyone's prayers," Cook said, "but we've found the fine fescues don't blend well, and the lawn looks patchy. Mixtures similar to this are common in nurseries and discount stores."

For general turf on shady sites:

  • 70 percent fine fescue and 30 percent perennial ryegrass.

This is an easy lawn to maintain with medium to low fertility, occasional irrigation, and mowing at about two inches, according to Cook.

"This mix takes advantage of the natural shade tolerance of the fine fescues and the rapid establishment of the perennial ryegrass," he pointed out. "Fescues do better if the soil is fairly dry with good air movement. In wet shady sites typical of much of western Oregon, the fescues get riddled with fungal diseases."

For more information, check out these publications from OSU Extension Service:

For more information on these publications visit our on-line catalog. Our publications and video catalog at: https://catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/ shows which publications are available on the Web and which can be ordered as printed publications.

Author: Peg Herring
Source: Tom Cook