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4 tips for choosing grass varieties

If you drive by a home and see a lush lawn out front, you may wonder how the homeowner achieved such a thick and healthy turf. Although many factors go into creating a beautiful lawn, starting out with the right seed for your location can play a big role.

Some homeowners simply go out and buy whatever grass seed they find. However, if you plant a warm-season grass where it frosts over in the winter, you could end up spending money for nothing -- and finding a dead lawn come springtime. The same can be said for planting a cool-season grass variety where the summer sun will scorch the lawn and kill it off. These are some factors you will need to consider when planting a lawn.

1. Select the right grass seed or mix of grass seed for your climate. Determining your zone area and seeing where your location falls on a Turfgrass Selection Climate Zone map, which gauges temperature as well as climate and rainfall amounts, can help you select a grass seed. For example, bahiagrass, Bermuda and zoysia are better for warmer climates, while bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass may work in cooler-weather to temperate areas.

2. Determine yard needs. Certain homeowners have no problem spending hours upon hours caring for the lawn. Others prefer minimal upkeep, while some can handle moderate maintenance. Homeowners can choose a grass based on how much time they want to spend caring for it. You should also determine how the lawn will be used. Will it be a focal point with no foot traffic? Or will it be a play area for kids and pets? This, too, will help you determine your grass type.

3. Choose the type of grass for your desire of growth and life span. Some grasses spread by creeping or tillering. Tillering happens when the plant extends from the central root, and these grasses are known as "bunch" grasses. Creeping is when grasses send out horizontal roots, essentially runners, from which new plants will arise. There are also wide blades and narrow blades of grass. One last thing to think about is an annual grass or perennial. In general, turfgrasses are perennial, so apart from reseeding dull patches, annual seeding won't be necessary.

4. Go out and buy the grass. Now that you have narrowed down your needs, you can head to a lawn store armed with the information and select the right type of grass for your needs. Consult with an employee if you have difficulty determining the variety of grass you should purchase. Depending on whether you're in a transition zone between two different zones, you may need a combination of seeds for the best balance and look.

After you have selected the grass seed, you will need to follow the manufacturer's recommendation for seeding. Experts advise that the best time for seeding is in the fall when there is still ample water and sunlight, and the grass has yet to go into hibernation. Here's what else you can do.

* Remove rocks and till the soil underneath.

* Add an inch of sand and compost and then till together.

* Next add lime or sulfur to the soil.

* Add a starter fertilizer and rake the lime and fertilizer into the rest of the mix with a metal rake.

* Then apply a thin coating of grass seed and lightly rake it into the soil using an upside-down rake.

* Finally, water the soil 2 to 3 times a day for 5 to 10 minutes to adequately dampen the soil.

Creating a beautiful lawn requires knowledge about climate and weather conditions. Then you can create a lush lawn that is a wonder to behold.