Choosing Seed for the Home Lawn [video]

In the below video, UNH Cooperative Extension Field Specialist Margaret Hagan describes the importance of choosing the right seed for your lawn needs. See below for the entire video transcript.



Video Script

Hello I'm Margaret Hagen, a field specialist for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. Today we're going to talk about choosing seed for the lawn. Choosing seed for a new lawn that's just being established or for the renovation of an existing lawn is one of the most important decisions you'll make in this process.Choosing the wrong seed or poor quality seed will lead to a poor quality lawn. Choosing the proper type of seed for various things in your landscape like the site, soil drainage, amount of sun and shade, will save you much time and effort and dollars in the long run.

Seed mixes tend to be made up of three types of grasses Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and fine fescues or tall fescues. Generally speaking, grass seed mixes will contain more than one species of grass seed and the mix combined will tend to get you a tightly-knit dense lawn. When you purchase grass seed you not only need to look at what you're going to use it for and the kind of site you have but you also might want to consider the grass seed types that are actually in the bag. A very broad generalization would put your intended lawn in a low, medium or high maintenance category. Grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass tend to require a little bit more maintenance in the way of fertilizer and watering. Grasses that are used for shade and high-traffic areas generally belong in the fescue family and they don't require nearly as much fertilizer or watering.

The bag you see here, Agway Sunny Green, is designed for a site that gets full sunlight all day. The seed mix contains about 75% Kentucky bluegrass which does very well in full sun, about 15% fine fescues and the remainder is perennial ryegrass. Mixes of seed tend to knit your entire lawn together and if you have problems with insects or disease usually only one species will be affected. This Lucille lawn seed mix for shady areas that you're seeing here is comprised more than 50% of fescues. Fescues do really well in shady areas about 25% that mixes perennial rye and the remainder is Kentucky bluegrass.

The Scott's classic grass seed mix you see here is designed for a mix of sun and shade and the seed mix combination is about one-third each of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescues. The Jonathan green black beauty grass seed blend you see pictured here is comprised of one hundred percent tall turf type fescue seeds. This blend is designed to carry high traffic from playing children to vehicles to heavily trodden pathways. This Scott's EZ seed Sun and shade mix is designed for the convenience of the consumer. It contains the seed mulch and fertilizer all designed to help get that patched area up and growing quickly. The seed mix is comprised about equal parts of Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescues, and perennial ryegrass.

The seed label or tag provides valuable information you'll need to select high quality grass seed and should be read before you make purchase. It's often found on the back of the bag. By federal law the following information must be included: the name and address of the label, the cultivars. The simplest tip is to look for cultivars or cultivated variety names. Named cultivars have superior characteristics not found in the common type. For example don't look only for creeping red fescue but for a named variety like boreal creeping red fescue. Name varieties are more likely to survive and thrive under stressful conditions. Purity: the percent by weight of a particular cultivar seed. Germination: the percent of pure seed that germinates under ideal conditions. Simple guidelines are never to purchase feed with less than 70% germination. A higher germination percentage is better. Crop is a seed of any other commercially grown grass crop. Crop could include grasses such as orchard grass, timothy, clover or bent grass. High quality turf grass seed should contain no other crop seed or at the most 1%. Weeds, the percent by weight of weed seed. This is any seed that is not pure or crop seeds. Ideally seed should contain no weed seed but some weed seed always seems to find its way through the screening process. So look for a value less than 1%. Inert materials are the percent by weight of materials other than seed. This might include chaff, corn cob, sand, or soil. Look for a value of less than 4%. Noxious weeds: these are the weeds that are particularly difficult to control and are declared noxious by some states. It is illegal to sell seed that contains noxious weeds. If noxious weeds are present they may be listed by name. The date tested: this is the date the seed was tested. Look for seed that was tested within the previous 12 months. Grass seed that is older than 12 months tends to have a lower germination rate.

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Next, watch our video on seeding new lawns.