This area of North Carolina is considered a transitional zone where both warm season and cool season grasses are grown. The predominant grass in the Triangle area is tall fescue, a cool season grass. Tall fescue is considered the best choice for our transition zone. There are many tall turf cultivars that provide good texture, color and wear tolerance as well as good resistance to disease and insects. Tall fescue is the favored grass in the Triangle area because it maintains a green look year round.

What is the difference between warm season and cool season grasses?

There are many different grass varieties but there are basically just two broad categories or grass types. They are either “cool season” or “warm season” grasses. Warm season grasses like, bermuda and zoysia, grow mostly from June through September during the hot summer months. Cool season grasses like tall fescue, grow mostly in the spring and fall when air temperatures are cooler.

Tall fescue is a perennial bunch-type grass that grows rapidly in the spring and fall. A bunch grass lawn is a collection of individual plants growing in bunches. Bermuda is a warm season grass that spreads by sending out rhizomes and stolons. Warm season grasses creepers. They differ in cutting habits, looks, nutrient management, growth cycles, water requirements and a couple of other things. Deciding what grass is right depends on several factors. First and foremost is what look do you like? Remember tall fescue stays green year round and bermuda goes dormant in the winter, resulting in a sandy tan color. You can grow either grass in the Triangle area with success, only warm season grasses should be grown down at the beach.

My fescue does not look good so should I plant bermuda grass instead? I hear it is drought tolerant?

This is a question we commonly hear when new customers with fescue lawns are disappointed with the look of their lawns. It sounds like an easy proposition, but switching from a cool season grass to a warm season grass or vice-versa is not nearly as easy as it sounds. Should you switch? To be honest, probably not. Very often the dissatisfaction comes from problems in the lawn that can be solved or at least better understood. These include issues like compaction, lack of sunlight, a mossy environment, too much sunlight, heavily sloped lawns, ponding, heavy traffic the list goes on. Once we understand the problem, many things can be done to improve the look and health of your lawn. There are some instances when we tell people that certain areas of their lawns are just battlegrounds with no winner or losers. These areas struggle and may be better suited as a natural areas. To answer the other part of that question “is Bermuda drought tolerant”, well, to a certain degree. While Bermuda is much more tolerant of very hot, dry conditions compared to fescue, it actually needs to be irrigated just like fescue. If you’re going to go through the expense and hassle of installing a nice hybrid Bermuda lawn, then you’ll need irrigate it properly.