Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Turf Grasses for Your Play Areas

(c) 2011 by Tom King

Introduction
Kids are tough on lawns. They tend to beat down paths, compact the earth and generally make it difficult for grass to maintain healthy growth. A variety of grass species lend themselves to children's play areas. Properly cared for, these deep rooting grass types provide a soft impact surface that reduces fall impacts. Watered, fertilized and mowed as recommended for the species, these grasses resist damage and bounce back after wear and tear. Periodic overseeding also helps thicken playground grass.

Bahiagrass
Bahiagrass is a dark green turfgrass that prefers moist acidic soils. It prefers full sun or light shade and lots of warm weather. It turns brown in cold weather. One disadvantage is it's three to four week germination period.

Bermudagrass
Bermudagrass grows quickly, sprouting in just four to twelve days. It's blades are fine and thick and grow best in moist, acidic soils. Bermudagrass prefers full sun and doesn't do well in shade. It's often use for ball fields in warm southern climates.

Bluegrass
Blue grass has fine blades and grows as a thick turf. It prefers well-drained dry and acidic soil. Bluegrass grows better in cool northern climates in full sun and isn't suitable for hot climates or shady playgrounds. It can take from six to 30 days to germinate after planted.

Common Kentucky Bluegrass
New plantings of common Kentucky bluegrass take two to four weeks to sprout. Dark green with fine blades that grow thickly. Kentucky bluegrass prefers cooler climates, good soil drainage and acidic soil. While useful for open play areas, this variety doesn't do well in shade.

Improved Kentucky Bluegrass
Like common Kentucky bluegrass, the improved variety germinates in two to four weeks and prefers well drained, but moist acidic soil. This variety grows in full sun or light shade in the cool climates preferred by the bluegrasses.

Blue Gammagrass
A gray-green color, blue gammagrass has hairy characteristics like bahiagrass, but prefers dry alkaline soils, full sun and cool weather like bluegrass varieties. Best used for ball fields and open sunny play spaces. Blue gammagrass takes 15 to 30 days to sprout after planted.

Buffalograss
Buffalograss is another cool weather, temperate climate variety turfgrass. Gray-green fine and hairy, buffalo grass turns brown in hot weather. Again, this variety works for open play areas, but not in shady spots. Buffalograss takes longer to germinate, not sprouting for 25 to 35 days from planting.

Improved Bermudagrass
Fine and thick like regular varieties of bermudagrass, improved bermudagrass germinates in 10 to 20 days. It has a medium green color and prefers dry, acidic soil. Like all bermudagrass, it requires full sun and a warm climate and doesn't work well for shady play areas.

Creeping Bentgrass
Creeping bentgrass sprouts in just 7 to 14 days in well-drained, acidic soil. Bentgrass can handle either full sun or light shade, but grows best in cooler climates.

Red Fescue
Red or Creeping Red Fescue is a dark green, fine and thick turfgrass. It prefers well-drained dry and acidic soil. It sprouts in 10 days to three weeks. Fescue like cooler climates but does grow in full sun, light or full shade and works well in shaded play areas.

Tall Fescue
Tall fescue grows quickly, germinating in 10 to 14 days. Dark green, the tall variety of fescue grows thick and coarse, preferring well-drained acidic soil. Fescue prefers full sun, but will grow in light shade. Tall fescue is particularly tough due to it's naturally deep root system and resists wear and tear if cut taller when mowed,
Annual Ryegrass
Annual ryegrass is a coarse green rapidly growing grass that works well for winter overseeding. It germinates in just three to seven days. It prefers moist, acidic soils, full sunlight or light shade and cool climates. In cool climates ryegrass can be overseeded in spring and summer.

Turf-Type Perennial Ryegrass
Turf-type perennial ryegrass is a finer thickly growing grass. It prefers moist, but well-drained acidic soils. It also prefers cooler climates and grows well in full sun or light shade and germinates in three to seven days, making it a good species to use for overseeding anemic lawns.

Wheat Grass
Wheat grass is a hairy blue green grass that prefers dry and alkaline soil. It needs full sun and prefers a cool climate. Wheat grass sprouts in 14 to 30 days and makes a good field grass in dry cool climates.

Zoysiagrass
Zoysiagrass is a more recently developed grass species. Dark green to gray green in color, zoysiagrass is tough, resilient and adaptable to full sun, light or full shade and handles warmer climates. It prefers well-drained, acidic soils and is one of the better fine, thick playground turfgrass.

References:

Accurate Building: Lawn Care Guide
Yardener: Choosing Lawngrass Seed
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents: Grass As a Play Area Surface
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: Managing Turfgrass Under Drought Conditions
Utah State University Extension: Basic Turfgrass Care

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