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Got brown grass? Here's a sod story
0403GrassZoysia
Zoysia, like this JaMur variety, is drought tolerant and gaining in popularity in the area.

It won't be long until your lawn will be bright green and needing to be cut, edged and fertilized.

But with so many types of grasses out there, learning some of the basics will ensure you will have a beautiful lawn this spring and summer.

In North Georgia there are three main types of grasses that can survive through the cool winters and hot summers: Bermuda, fescue and zoysia. But there are a few questions to ask before choosing the perfect grass for your lawn.

"The first question we ask people when they call is how much shade do you have because grass is very widely based on their tolerance for lack of sunlight," said Aaron McWhorter, owner and president of North Georgia Turf Inc., which is based in Whitesburg but has an operation in Clarkesville. "Bermudas as a general rule have to have almost full sunlight ... then you get into the zoysias.

"The wide blade zoysias have to have more sunlight than the narrow blade zoysia."

Zoysia is the newest grass on the turf scene in our area. What makes zoysia grass so attractive is that it is the most drought tolerant grass available.

"We've had some of it for about four years maybe," said McWhorter, who sells the JaMur zoysia variety at North Georgia Turf. "It's a variety that was developed originally from the United States Department of Agriculture research station. It's a medium, wide blade. It stands very vertical. It's real easy to mow with a home-owner rotary mower, very low fertilizer, it's a low maintenance type grass."

North Georgia is in the transition region where grass is concerned, according to the United States National Arboretum.

"North Georgia is located within a turf transition zone," said Chip Morris, owner of Landscape Management Co. in Gainesville. "Our temperatures and rainfall allow both cool season and warm season grasses."

The transition zone region runs through the central part of the country and includes parts of Georgia.

"Fescue is a cool season grass and does much better September through early May," McWhorter said. "From May to September fescue doesn't like a lot of heat or hot sunshine. It likes shade and it likes a cooler place."

Morris agreed that fescue is the best cool-season grass for our area.

"Fescue performs best in our cooler months during the fall and spring," he said. "The optimum time for seeding fescue is in the fall so that the young plants have plenty of time to establish a deep root system. ... Spring is another good time for seeding but you must plant early in March or April to give plants time to develop a root system before hot temperatures."

Morris also said that fescue can be sodded during cooler months for an instant fescue lawn.

For a lawn that has lots of sun, go for warm-season grasses like zoysia and Bermuda.

"Both these grasses will go dormant during the fall and green up again when the soil warms in the spring," Morris said. "Bermuda is a good choice for a play area because it grows quickly and will recover from damage in a short amount of time."

McWhorter said one reason why Bermuda is so popular is because it is the cheapest to produce.

"Probably about 70 percent of everything sold in North Georgia is Bermuda grass.

If you wanted to seed your yard with Bermuda or fescue right now, you might need to hold off just a couple of months said Todd Brown, general manager at The Fockele Garden Co. in Gainesville.

"It's not a good time with seed, but most people when they think of seeding, they think of seeding fescue. And that's done typically in September, October," he said. "If you were going to seed Bermuda grass you can do that, but the time to do that is in early summer, late May, June, July because it's a warm season grass."

Although Brown added that because of the drought conditions in our area that have lasted several years there is a trend of getting away from large, luscious lawns.

"One of the things we do a lot as a company is try to replace lawns that require so much water and so much maintenance and care, fertilizer, mowing each week," he said. "We replace those with drought-tolerant ground covers, shrubs, trees, mulches, even hardscape items like patios and pathways."

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