Is your lawn a variety of colors right now? Chances are it's because your lawn is made up of a patchwork of grasses.
It is important to know as much as you can about the different types of grasses in your lawn and how they behave so that you know what to expect from them. If the patchy lawn bothers you, you can choose the correct solution.
I've seen a lot of people assume that their dormant Rough Bluegrass is an "insect" problem. They go out an needlessly apply a potentially dangerous insecticide for no reason that doesn't solve their problem. Knowing the types of grass in your lawn really helps you formulate a plan for your lawn. Here are some grass types that you might be seeing right now in Ohio and throughout the midwest.
Rough Bluegrass is a weedy grass type that thrives in wet, shady lawn areas. It has stolons which is a fancy name for an above ground root that allows it to climb over other grasses. That's why you'll see it start in a small patch and get gradually bigger. In the spring, Rough Bluegrass stands out from traditional grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass and Turf Type Tall Fescue because it is lighter in color and typically grows faster and sticks up taller in the spring. The problem with Rough Bluegrass is that when the weather warms up, it goes dormant really early. When it's dormant, it looks dead. You'll see matted down patches of grass that seem to have no life left in them. I've seen people incorrectly assume that they have an insect problem and go out to apply a chemical insecticide to correct the problem. If you know the grass type, you won't be tempted to use the wrong product to solve the wrong problem.
Here's what Rough Bluegrass looks like in the spring in a Tall Fescue Lawn:
Here's what Rough Bluegrass looks like next to Turf Type Tall Fescue in the middle of the summer:
It would be pretty easy to assume that the Rough Bluegrass pictured on the left is dead right? If you have a patch of that in your lawn, you'd imagine that it was insects or disease or something. It turns out, that's just what Rough Bluegrass does in the summer. It will recover on its own when temperatures cool in the fall.
I would NEVER buy any grass seed that contains Rough Bluegrass unless your lawn is really wet and shady. Many "Shade Seed" mixes will contain Poa Trivialis (Rough Bluegrass) and I would avoid those. Rough Bluegrass can also end up mixed in with grass seed that you buy if you're purchasing Kentucky Bluegrass mixes. This is because Rough Bluegrass has a seed that is very similar in size and weight to Kentucky Bluegrass which makes it difficult to sort it out of Kentucky Bluegrass mixes. That's another reason we recommend a primarily Turf Type Tall Fescue seed mix like our Good Nature Tuff Turf. If your lawn is full of Rough Bluegrass, you can either learn to live with it turning brown every summer (much earlier than other grasses) or you can decide to replace it. If you decide to replace it, you'll want to "renovate" your lawn. The best time to Renovate Your Lawn is in the late summer (August/September).
Creeping Bentgrass is similar to Rough Bluegrass (Poa Trivialis) in that it crawls over more desireable grasses in your lawn via above groung roots, called stolons. These stolons are the reason that when you try to rake your lawn it pulls up like a bad comb-over job. Creeping Bentgrass is a finicky grass that when grown under ideal conditions can produce a beautiful lawn. It tolerates short mowing and is used extensively on golf course greens. The problem with creeping bentgrass is that it is susceptible to a variety of diseases and insects and generally struggles during the summer. When creeping bentgrass turns brown and goes dormant during the summer, it tends to be invaded by annual weeds. The bentgrass in the picture below is shorter than the other grasses and has a blueish tint.
Always mistaken for "crabgrass" old fashioned Tall Fescue is a perennial grass that has very coarse leaves and sticks out like a sore thumb in a fine textured lawn - especially when all the fine textured grasses turn brown in the heat of summer and Tall Fescue stays nice and green. If you have a lot of clumps of this grass, I'd recommend overseeding the rest of your lawn with Turf Type Tall Fescue, like our Good Nature Tuff Turf, which will stay greener during the summer and camoflauge the old fashioned Tall Fescue. If you really want to eliminate it, there are a few chemicals that will do the trick, including roundup.
If you can tolerate an imperfect lawn and don't mind the lack of uniformity, it often makes sense just to do the best you can and understand that your lawn will never be perfect with the grass varieties it has. In fact, if you have rough bluegrass or even creeping bent, your lawn will often times look terrible during the summer. There is not much you can do about that other than eliminate your grasses and start over with a new lawn. We call that a lawn renovation.
Please don't hesitate to contact us with questions or comments.