Michigan’s northern climate has the range of seasons, so residents will have to schedule grass seeding within certain times of the year. Knowing which grasses do best in the different soils and seasons across the state will help you choose the right grass types for your lawn.
What Is The Best Grass Seed For Michigan?
The best grass seed for a Michigan lawn is going to be different in different parts of the state at different times of the year. Your particular needs and soil type will determine which is your best choice. The multiple factors you should consider when making a decision include:
- Location – While the upper peninsula of Michigan is a little cooler than the rest of the state, temperatures tend to be about the same across the state at any given time of the year. The biggest difference your location will make is the soil type, with the coastal and northern regions of the state having sandier soil than the interior, which has more clay in the ground. Michigan is generally humid in summer and wet in the transitional seasons, so your choice of grass will have to be one that prefers Michigan’s moist conditions.
- Use – The way you use the lawn is going to have an impact on your choice as well. If you and your family are active in your yard, or you’re planting a sports field, certain grasses shouldn’t be considered due to their more fragile nature. The most robust grasses should be chosen for heavy wear, while other grasses can be chosen for ground cover that gets little to no foot traffic.
- Landscape – Certain grasses have tolerance to some shade, and others won’t grow in it at all. The trees, buildings, fences, and other shade-casting elements in your yard will have an effect on what can grow in those areas.
- Germination period – Having a grass that grows in quickly is more preferable to a slower-growing grass if you have a sports field or upcoming backyard events. If you’re not pressed for time, you have a wider range of choices for your lawn.
- Seasonality – Michigan receives all four seasons and has rather wet weather throughout the year. Your choice of grass will have to be matched to the temperatures, and grass should be planted within its window so it will grow in properly and mature before summer or winter dormancy.
Cool-season grasses will do well throughout most of the year in Michigan. These include:
- Kentucky Bluegrass
- Perennial Ryegrass
Kentucky bluegrass is the most popular turf grass in Michigan since it does so well in the moist, cool environment. It has a high watering requirement and will benefit from frequent rains and humidity. Bluegrass is the only cool-season grass with rhizomes (below-ground root extensions), and it creates a dense cover of turf that can take wear from foot traffic.
The strong, deep roots will grow well in the moist clay soils found in interior Michigan, as well as the sandy soils closer to any of the great lakes. Despite its love for cold weather, Kentucky Bluegrass does best in full sun and doesn’t grow well in shade.
Kentucky bluegrass does best when it’s planted in the fall and allowed to grow in, go dormant in the coldest part of winter, and grow again in spring before the warm summer temperatures arrive. When temperatures start to rise, bluegrass will enter dormancy quickly and open space up for your summer lawn cover.
Perennial rye is another grass that does very well in the cool months of the year. Compared to Kentucky bluegrass, rye has a bit less drought tolerance because it has a less complex root system. However, it has lower water needs than bluegrass for the same reason. Rye has deep roots that grow in bunches from seed, rather than spreading by root extensions. Bunch-type grasses can take less foot traffic than grass that can spread itself out.
As a bunchgrass, rye is often planted with Kentucky bluegrass as a lawn mix. Bluegrass can grow around the bunches to fill in any open spaces and create a dense cover. Rye can grow in partially shaded areas where other, sun-loving grasses won’t. Like bluegrass, rye can work its roots into both clay and sandy soil.
Fescue is a great choice for cool coastal areas because it loves to grow its deep roots in well-draining sandy soil. Like rye, it’s a good compliment to bluegrass because it’s shade tolerant and grows in bunches. Unlike the other cool-season grasses, however, Fescues have a higher tolerance to drought and heat.
Fescue lawns don’t have a high water requirement compared to other cool-season grass, and in a particularly rainy season, you might be able to choose whether you water or mow based on how well it’s doing (and how fast it’s growing) on its own.
The summer months in Michigan are warm and humid, with a fair amount of rain passing over the state throughout the season. Any of the following grasses will make a good summertime Michigan lawn:
- St. Augustine
Bermuda grass is one of the top options for summer in Michigan. It’s a sun-loving turf grass that spreads with both rhizomes (below-ground root extensions) and stolons (above-ground root extensions). The dense turf this grass creates allows it to withstand a lot of foot traffic, so it’s a favorite for backyards and fields that get lots of use during the summer. The spreading nature of the grass also allows it to fill in when damaged, and it’s a fast grower, so it won’t take long for it to repair itself.
Bermuda can grow in sandy or clay-heavy soil and can be planted almost anywhere across the state for the warm months of the year. The complex root system helps the grass hold moisture during drought conditions, and if it goes dormant from dehydration, it will bounce back when given enough water again.
Zoysia is a warm-season grass that’s similar to Bermuda, including its dense root system of rhizomes and stolons, which give it the ability to withstand wear from foot traffic. Unlike Bermuda, however, Zoysia is a slow grower, and might not be the best for sports fields that need to regrow sooner than later. Zoysia has some drought tolerance and can stand cooler temperatures than Bermuda, allowing it to grow in areas that get partial shade throughout the day.
Being able to withstand cooler temperatures means that a Zoysia lawn will be up a little earlier than other warm-season grasses, and it stays around a little longer in early fall.
Centipede grass is a good option for Michigan lawns because it can grow in either clay or sandy soil. It spreads across a yard with stolons, the above-ground root extensions that allow it to fill in spaces on its own throughout the season. Although it’s good at repairing itself if damaged, it has the slowest growth of all warm-season grasses and is best used in yards that don’t get much foot traffic at all.
Centipede grass is sun-loving, and somewhat drought tolerant, but its stolons may dry out if it’s too warm and dry. Centipede grass is one that likes a humid and wet climate like that in Michigan.
Similar to centipede grass, a St. Augustine lawn covers the yard with its stolons. However, unlike all other grasses, St. Augustine can’t be planted by seed and only can be installed with sod. St. Augustine is a coastal grass and grows best in sandy soil that drains well, but gets a lot of moisture. Like Centipede grass, St. Augustine’s stolons may dry out in the sun or in drought, so it will appreciate the humid Michigan climate.
St. Augustine doesn’t recover as well from drought as other grasses like Bermuda, but it’s a vigorous grower when kept hydrated. This allows it to provide stable ground cover, and recover quickly if damaged. However, the stolons can be ripped up easily, so St. Augustine shouldn’t be planted in yards that get a lot of wear.
When Should I Plant Grass Seed In Michigan?
Michigan’s range of seasonal temperatures means that planting the window for warm and cool-season grasses are smaller than in areas with less seasonal variation. Cool-season grass can be planted in early and mid-spring, and in early fall, while warm-season grass should be planted in late spring or early summer.
If one grass type is planted too late for its season, the temperature change may damage the root system, affecting the plant’s overall health and shortening its lifespan.