We need to replace the back lawn. I have a sod catalog from Delta
Bluegrass (http://www.deltabluegrass.com /) that offers 10-12
varieties. Each one is rated on a scale of 0-10 for tolerance to
drought, disease, wear, shade, and heat.
We live in a temperate climate (San Francisco Bay Area), so heat
tolerance is not an issue. It will get watered so drought tolerance is
not an issue. It gets only moderate to low traffic so that's not an
That leaves disease and shade. Most of the lawn (75%) gets at least
2-3 hours of sun each day; somewhat more in the summer. One end gets
maybe half that. I'm not sure if that qualifies as full sun, partial
sun, or what.
The sod company offers both single variety sods as well as blends. I
am thinking the single variety sods would be better because the blends
will tend to turn into single varieties over time. Right?
Here are the ones I am considering:
1. 100% Bolero Dwarf Fescue.
They claim that it is a new fescue that looks like Kentucky bluegrass.
2. Bluegrass. A 4-way bluegrass blend.
Said to be best in cooler coastal and mountain climates of California.
We are neither coastal or mountainous. It can get into the 90s for a
3. 100% Rye.
Said to be designed for golf courses.
Does anyone have any experience with any of thse grasses?
Few if any of us have experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. I
suggest you contact your local county extension office and ask them. Their
advice is free and of high quality, it also reflects your local conditions.
BTW they are good for many other growing questions. They also offer some
services like soil testing that they may charge a nominal fee for.
the actual conditions in your yard will make or break your grass......
east -west exposure? North south? where exactly in bay area
Lawn on the south side of the house or north?
Woodside is much different than Berkeley Hills
I live in Orange County & struggle with a very rare ground cover that
I use as a lawn.
Winters are tough on it because plants (tall south property line
hedge), building (garage on south property line) & fence (south
so in the winter about 10' of lawn never gets direct sun. Grows
great in the summer & in the front yard
IMO (I'm just guessing) that you would be best served by the most shade
resistant grass. Only 2 or 3 hourrs of sun is pretty skimpy.
I suggest you check with a good local nursery that knows your area &
be prepared to show a plot sketch (w/ North drawn on it) to show your
The hardier will survive.
I always get them mixed up but your latitude or longitude is about similar
to Kentucky. I have no experience with the particular variety of fescue or
rye that you mention. The rye grasses tend to have a course blade.
Speaking as a heart of the Bluegrass person, plant the fescue. Fescue makes
for a much hardier lawn. There is very little difference in the peak spring
and fall months between the bluegrass and fescue but in those dry summers
the fescue is a clear winner. The roots tend to go much deeper. I have
reseeded my bluegrass lawn with Rebel fescue for the last 8 years and am
very pleased with the results. You do need to mow the fescue on a very
regular basis to keep it looking sharp. Once a week is good here during the
peak growing season. Every 5 days with a lot of rain.
To double check what I have said ask the person selling the sod what they
have in their yard or would sell their parents.
For further information, check with stores that
provide lawn and garden care and have their own
mixtures of grass. Also, look on the boxes of
grass seed (regardless of store) of national lawn
and garden supply companies such as Vigoro and
Ortho. They will provide the appropriate mixtures
for the area.
San Francisco IS considered coastal and a few days
of 90 degrees don't mean much. Bluegrass--fescue
mixtures are fairly standard throughout the cooler
parts (an SF is one of the cooler parts) of the
west and northwest and even here in Boise. BTW,
much of the blue grass seed is produced in
northern Idaho which can have much higher and much
lower temperatures than SF. Most good mixtures
include several varieties of bluegrass and 2-3
varieties of fescue and possibly some rye. Such a
mixture allows the most vigorous varieties to
prevail and a good mixture keeps the lawn from
becoming a monoculture.
I actually bought some sod from deltabluegrass last year. I got what they
called Renegade (used at oakland stadium). A premium blend of the dwarf
fescue and 20% bluegrass (if I recall correctly). A bit more $ than the
standard grades but I only had 200SF to cover.
At first there were a few small patches that didn't take (I think the dog
contributed) but now it has filled in. The blend shows off the bluegrass in
the winter when it is rainier and the fescue does better in the summer.
After 1 year, it is starting to behave well except for a patch that got
killed by some stuff left on top too long.
Looks good too, grows at a moderate pace and never sends up tall seed stalks
(even in the corner where my mower can't reach). Unmowed, 8"-10" max
Only problem with a premium grass from a farm, is if you need to patch,
getting a small matching quantity might be difficult. The sales person said
they might put a small order on a truck otherwise scheduled for my area but
I have yet to test that promise.
Since the climate at the farm is similar to most of the bay area, anything
they grow should grow well in your yard. I simply relied on the salesperson
to recommend the best blend for my part sun part shade lawn.
I forget which but some of the farms sell a no mow variety. It grows about
6-8" and falls over. Pretty neat for low traffic.
I spoke to a sales rep yesterday. When I described my situation, he
recommended either the Shade Blend or the 100% Rye.
Then he gave me some information that may make it work. He said that
one way to make shady areas work is to let them grow taller. If they
have longer leaves, they can capture more of the limited sun that is
available. Makes sense. He recommended leaving it 1.5"-2" long. That
seems doable, so I'll try it.
He also suggested I have the installer add some gypsum to the soil
preparation to break up the heavy clay we have in this area.
He said that to keep it looking good, we should reseed the 100%
1-2/year and the Shade Blend every 1-2 years.
We are going to order the Shade Blend and see what happens.
Cutting it longer and adding gypsum to clay soil
are good advice. However, if you need to reseed
every 1-2 years, that is evidence that what you
plant is not appropriate. If the grass is not
appropriate it will let you know by being very
thin, longer cut will help but it will still be
thin. As someone else pointed out, a different
ground cover might be best.
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