Understanding the different types of grasses found in lawns across the UK (or whichever country you live in) can go a long way in helping you ensure you are taking proper care of your garden.
With this knowledge you will find it easier to identify which grasses you actually have in your own garden, therefore you will know how to treat your lawn more effectively and you will be able to make better judgements when making soil amendments.
All the grasses may not apply to you, but I think they are worth knowing about anyway… you know, just in case.
Below I have ran through 4 main grass types found in the UK.
This particular strain of perennial ryegrass has a short growth period and has the ability to grow more tillers (stem of the grass shoots) which make for a thicker lawn. Not only that but it is cheaper than most other types of grass and it is very resistant to wear, so it can be used by a variety of different homeowners. It also recovers very quickly so is great for a busy lawn with lots of traffic.
Although, it does come with a few downsides.
It requires quite a bit of mowing each week (around twice per week), you need to apply a substantial amount of fertiliser to keep it growing healthily and it produces loads of grass clippings, which as I am sure you know, can be a pain to dispose of.
On the upside is that it does cope very well in shade.
So, you are going to need to commit some effort to reap the benefits of this grass type, but it could be totally worth it!
It is very dark in colour, which makes it a very attractive addition to any turf mix, and you can sometimes see a purple or reddish colouration at its base.
Annual Meadow Grass
You will most often see this type of grass on golf courses and bowling greens. It tends to avoid acidic soils, as well as soils that are low in phosphate. Annual meadow grass is particularly sensitive to drought, which is why you most commonly see them in areas which are regularly maintained.
Because of its ability to produce large amounts of seed and that it has a very dense, shallow rooting system, annual meadow grass can grow and survive in the harshest of environments, like cracks in pavements. This is the reason why it is classed as a weed grass.
A big problem with this type of grass is that it gets very weak during the winter and then reproduces during the spring/summer (that is why it is called an “Annual” Meadow Grass). This means you will be left with loads of little seeds lying all over your lawn, which I guess you can imagine doesn’t look very nice.
This grass tends to look lighter than most others, especially during times of low fertility and drought.
All of its grass shoots are grown from the base of the plant, which makes them easy to see.
Smooth-Stalked Meadow Grass
This is a similar variety to the above and is what Americans call Kentucky Bluegrass. It is also a durable and hardy grass with a slightly darker green colour. It can handle dry spells well thanks to a large root system.
One of the benefits of this type of grass is that it attracts wildlife to your garden. If this is something that appeals to you as you relax outdoors, then this is an option to consider.
If you have a particularly shaded garden then this is the type of grass you will want to consider having.
As it is fine leaved, slow growing and naturally deep-rooted you will find red fescue grasses most commonly in places such as campsites, resorts, golf courses and bowling greens.
Not only that but it is much lower maintenance than the other grass types available, so it could be a good choice if you don’t spend as much time on your lawn as you would like. It needs less watering and fertiliser as well as less mowing.
Although if you live in a warm climate then you will want to watch out, this grass doesn’t cope too well in areas with warm temperatures.
Another thing to watch out for it that it is not as wear resistant as other grasses and it can take some time to germinate.
Slender Creeping Red Fescue
This variety is a bit more slender than the normal Red Fescue, and grows pretty well in bad weather. It is also fairly low maintenance but does prefer well drained soil.
It can handle shade and grows and spreads quickly, so a good option for developing new lawns.
This type of grass is known for two reasons:
- having a lot of roots, and
- having a long lifespan (over two years)
This means it can thrive in nutrient poor soil and can be found in a variety of different terrains such as damp soils, meadows, acidic grassland and rough ground.
The fact that it can survive in the most difficult of conditions is why it is seen throughout the entire UK.
How to Select the Correct Lawn Grass for Your Garden
You do not always have a choice and might have to make do with the lawn that is already in your garden. Hopefully, it is a suitable variety, and if it works and looks good that is great. You simply need to maintain it correctly.
If you are planting a new lawn for a new property, a new garden area or because you are doing a big garden overhaul, you want to choose the correct one.
Lawn covers a large part of most gardens and is often the first thing you or others see when looking at the garden. You want it to look spectacular. You also do not want to have to spend hours every few days to keep it looking good, so the choice of grass type is important.
The above descriptions of the most popular UK grasses should give you a few ideas, but here are the specific things to consider before making your selection:
Ornamental or Durable Grass?
If you have pets or kids that like to play on the lawn, or it sees a lot of traffic for other reasons, you want a grass that is tough and durable. A fast-growing grass will handle the traffic and recover quickly. This will allow it to remain looking good despite the traffic, provided it is correctly maintained.
If you have a quiet garden that does not get a lot of traffic, you can consider a more ornamental grass.
Think about the type of lawn mower you have, and realistically how often you will be able to mow. As you have seen above, some grass types require regular mowing whereas others can go longer between cuts. Be honest with yourself and give this factor some thought as it is critical.
You need to balance the importance of looks with the time, effort, equipment and money needed to keep certain grass types near perfect. If you go for a golf green type grass it could look great, but will be time-consuming and expensive to maintain.
Some grasses are quite fussy while others will grow in poor soil. Understand the quality, drainage and acidity of the soil and compare this to the factors mentioned for the various grass varieties we discussed above. Take a look at my article – Lawn Soil Testing Advice.
Soil condition will have a major impact on the success of your grass, and this is why the lawn at two adjacent houses with the same type of grass could look completely different. The soil condition can be changed and improved, but the process takes effort and money. For more information on caring for your lawn and fertilising see my article – Lawn Care for Beginners.
The amount of rainfall and temperature, both high and low, should also be taken into account when choosing the ideal lawn for your garden.
Again, some grasses can handle shade while others will not grow well at all in the shade. If you have large shaded areas look for a grass that will thrive under these conditions.
Now you should have a bit of a better understanding of the grass types available, what grass you have in your garden, how to treat it properly and if you need to make any amendments, you should be confident in doing so.
If you have any questions or comments you would like to share, please put them in the comment box below and I will be happy to answer.