The area’s mixed climates present the greatest grass -growing challenges. Homeowners trying to maintain a lawn in the transition zone face climates that blend northern and southern weather patterns.
The challenge lies in that grass types are classified as either warm-season or cool-season, based upon the temperatures they prefer for optimum growth. The transition zone sees temperatures that don’t fit solidly into the classifications of either type of grass.
Hence, it’s important to understand the different types when you are choosing a variety for your turf. These varieties are typically grown in the southern parts of the United States, where daytime temperatures are higher and winters are mild.
Need a minimum air temperature of 60 to 65 and soil temps of 50 for growth to begin. These turf grass types are grown in the Northern parts of the country where summer temperatures are cooler and winters may be harsh.
Need a minimum air temperature of 40 to 42 for active shoot growth. Most of the biomass is produced in the spring and late fall when both air and soil temperatures are cooler.
When choosing a strategy or type of grass for growing a lawn in the transition zone it’s important to carefully evaluate some characteristics of your yard, weigh the pros and cons of each grass type, and talk to your neighbors to see what works well for them. If any of these parameters sway too far out of what is considered “good conditions” they need to be carefully factored into your decision.
The trade off: They had to provide extra maintenance to their lawns in the warm summer months. They found this path simpler than nursing a warm-season turf-type through a dormancy period experienced due to the cold winter temperatures.
As climate change occurs we are seeing a gradual increase in the average temperatures of the transition region. By overseeing, cool-season grass seed can be interspersed in an existing lawn to provide green color in colder winter months.
Requires more frequent aeration or detaching as these varieties produce more thatch from stoloniferous and lipomatous growth habits. Once established it creates a dense, high-quality turf that has excellent heat, cold, and shade tolerance, repairs itself as it grows, requires less water than other grass types, and needs less mowing.
It survives farther north than Bermuda grass due to its improved cold tolerance. In northern areas of the transition zone (Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, or Maryland) opt for the cultivars Meyer or Zenith.
Farther south (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) choose Cavalier, Emerald, El Too, Meyer, Zenith, Leon, or Zorro zoysiagrass. It will turn a brown color when it goes dormant in the winter since it is not as cold-tolerant as Zosma grass varieties.
Tall rescue, perennial rye grass, and Kentucky bluegrass are the three most popular cool-season grass strategies in the transition zone. Require more nitrogen fertilizer than warm-season varieties due to a longer growing season.
Tall rescue is known for being shade tolerant, drought-resistant, and maintaining its beautiful green hue throughout the entire year. Perennial rye grass has adapted well into lawns in the transition zone because of its ability to grow quickly, generating what seems to be an instant green coverage.
High disease and insect resistance make it a great option if you are looking for a low maintenance cool-season grass. One of the longest living perennial cool-season grasses grown, Kentucky bluegrass has maintained constant popularity since it was first introduced to the United States by early Europeans.
A tender bladed turf grass, it’s known for a desirable “barefoot feel.” It has good lawn mending capabilities and is fairly easy to establish. Most comfortable with soil under her fingernails, Amanda has an enthusiasm for gardening, agriculture, and all things plant-related.
With a master's degree in agriculture and more than a decade of experience gardening and tending to her lawn, she combines her plant knowledge and knack for writing to share what she knows and loves. That was the way it was -- but there has been a change in climate as well as improvement in the cold tolerances of warm season grass types.
Our average temperatures are definitely increasing, making it more difficult to maintain cool-season grasses over the summer in the Transitioning. While the improved Bermuda Grass varieties will survive as perennials and go dormant to more of a brown color.
During winter dormancy a cool season grass can be inter-seeded into the existing lawn for a green color year round if so desired. With its excellent winter survival and cold tolerance, Yukon Bermuda grass seed becomes a stand-alone choice for transition zone plantings.
Planting one of the more “cold hardy” warm season grasses can help keep your lawn in shape and green through the summer. The transition zone of the USA has historically been a somewhat difficult area for residents to choose a grass type that meets their expectations.
In parts of the country where weather patterns trend either hot or cold, it’s easy to tell which types of grass are most suitable for cultivation. In areas where the climate is a mix of warm and cool patterns, it can be more difficult to maintain your grass.
Maintaining a lawn in transition zone states requires grass that can tolerate warm and cool weather, and especially the latter. The health of your lawn can also depend on irrigation, altitude, foot traffic, and the ratio of sun versus shade that the grass receives during a given week.
The fast growth of tall rescue is attributed to its root system, which extends to a depth of two to three feet. Tall rescue is also different in that it grows in shoots from the base, as opposed to straight in single strands.
Tall rescue is adaptive to a range of soils and can grow fast with only a minimum amount of fertilizer. The grass undergoes its primary phase of growth during the latter part of spring, just as the weather heats up for summer.
Zosma also has sufficient tolerance toward colder weather, which makes the grass one of the rare suitable options for the dichotomous climate of the transition zone. When initially planted, Zosma takes longer to materialize than other grass types, but ultimately comes through thick and vibrant.
However, Zosma maintains its greenness for longer periods than most other grasses that thrive in the summer months. Zosma is also characterized by its thick, deep roots that store moisture and allow the grass to withstand periods of dryness.
Zosma is known to develop thatch, which should be removed in March or early April for optimal lawn health. Each week, a Zosma lawn should receive one inch of rainfall or irrigation, as this will maintain the color.
Aside from tall rescue and Zosma, the most optimal grass types for transition states are bluegrass, rye grass and thermal blue. On a map of the United States, the transition zone is a horizontal region that runs along the lower half of the country.
The transition zone starts along the mid-Atlantic seaboard between southern New Jersey and the northern tip of South Carolina. The transition zone gobbles up nearly half of the Deep South and continues between states that comprise the southwest, cresting in central-east California.
For decades, residents of transition zone states have had to contend with a seasonal dilemma regarding lawns. If you live in a state like Maryland, North Carolina, or the Virginia's, you might have noticed a growing trend toward year-round green lawns.
The trend has been spurred by climate change and its effect on seasonal weather, with hotter summers and colder, harsher winters. Many residents have adopted lawn-doctoring methods and even switched to different grass types to achieve a non-stop green look.
Many residents have seeded their lawns with thicker, more robust types of grass like Zosma and tall rescue. Lawns can be made even more robust by seeding soil with a mixture of warm and cool season grass types.
Zosma grass requires less effort in this regard due to its natural weed resistance. The pH balance of transition zone lawn grass can also affect its ability to turn green.
If the pH balance is below optimal, you can bring it up to a healthier level by adding lime to the grass at the outset of spring. To properly irrigate your lawn, the soil will need to absorb the water for effective root penetration.
Water your lawn several times each week during morning and evening hours, when the sun is down and the heat is less intense. Summer is the time of bug activity, too, and lawns can breed infestation if you don’t take preventative measures.
When it comes to lawn care, transition zone methods that are most effective during autumn involve fertilization and seed planting. To ensure that your lawn comes to life at the crack of spring, fall is the time to fertilize the grass.
At golf courses, seeds are spread in excess quantities to cultivate thick, dense lawns and overpower weed growth. In fact, if you reseed your lawn in the fall, overseeing is the far preferable option, especially if you have cultivated a cold-season grass type like bluegrass, rye grass or tall rescue.
If your lawn is plagued by thatch or diseased patches, aerate the affected spots before you apply fertilizer and oversaw the grass. If you wish to confine overseeing to select areas, loosen the soil with a fork along those spots and then sprinkle with seeds.