As many landscape professionals will tell you, and homeowners will grudgingly admit, growing a lush, green lawn anywhere in Canada is challenging at best – and near impossible at worst. Winters in the Greater Toronto Area have something to do with it, as we routinely get hammered with several feet of snow each season, and experience temperatures in January that rarely get above 29 degrees Fahrenheit and often plunge below 17 degrees Fahrenheit. February is just as bad. Landscaping design is a key component in having a green, thick lawn as it takes into consideration the type of seed best suited for a particular soil, where the seed should be planted, and what kind of irrigation system will be most beneficial and cost effective.
At ME Landscaping, our talented and experienced design professionals can help you select the type of lawn that works best, and create an overall landscaping design plan that suits your needs and budget. Perhaps not surprisingly, the best types of grasses to grow in Canada are those adapted to cool-season temperatures because summers are short and winters can be brutally cold with lots of snow and biting winds. When cared for properly, cool-season grasses grow the most in spring and fall, slow down in summer, and go on hiatus in the winter. In many respects, this is similar to how certain mammals hibernate in the winter. Canada’s best grasses thrive in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but have also evolved to survive freezing winter temperatures.
What are the best types of grasses to plant in Metropolitan Toronto? The top contenders are Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescues, Bent grass, and Perennial rye grass.
Kentucky Bluegrass is legendary for its ability to thrive in cooler temperatures, and our customers love it for its dark blue-green colours and canoe shaped blades. The ideal height to keep this type of grass at is between two and a half to three and a quarter inches tall.
- Hardy but not drought resistant, so water regularly.
- Disease and pest resistant.
- Needs more fertilizer.
- The roots are shallow, making it a good “showplace” lawn but not one that thrives in high traffic areas.
- Fescues are fine and tall with bristly, medium green leaves.
Like Kentucky Bluegrass, fescues should be kept no taller than three and a quarter inches.
- Needs deep and frequent watering, but not to the point where the soil is visibly soggy.
- Grows well in shade.
- Resistant to foot traffic.
- Landscaping design professionals often mix it with other kinds of grasses, and it performs well under less than ideal soil conditions.
Bent grass gets its name from the fact that its deep green, fine textured blades will bend at only a few inches tall. Despite is diminutive nature, this type of grass is popular with golf courses and grass tennis courts. Key characteristics:
- Must be watered each week during the growing season.
- Needs to be cut regularly to prevent stems from forming thatches and thick mats.
- We recommend using a lawn mower with a very sharp blade.
Fine textured, dark green, and with a glossy appearance, Perennial rye grass is another favorite among Toronto area homeowners. As with Kentucky Bluegrass, Perennial rye grass should be kept no taller than three and a quarter inches. Key characteristics:
- Has shallow roots.
- Needs consistent watering.
- Disease tolerant.
- Holds up well in high foot traffic areas.
- Grows nicely in full sun or shade.
- Germinates and grows quickly, and is often mixed with other grasses.
Many of our customers ask about the benefits of sod. While farm grown sod has many advantages over seeded lawns, planting grass seed is a smart, economical method to revitalize a lawn or start a new one when regular lawn maintenance has failed. In fact, we have many customers with lush, rich lawns who swear by the principal of over-seeding their lawn in the early spring and mid to late fall. That kind of strategy may or may not work for many reasons, but one thing every homeowner can do to give their lawn a good start is to prepare the soil before planting seed. This is a vital part of any successful landscaping design project, and is something that most homeowners can accomplish with a bit of hard work, the right equipment, and time.
There are six simple steps to preparing soil before planting seed:
- Use a rake or other lawn tool to loosen the soil to a depth of four to six inches. A hand tool or shovel may be necessary to break up clumps of hard soil, not to mention removing rocks, roots, and other debris that could prevent seed from growing properly. Don’t be afraid to moisten the soil to make it easier to remove clay, rocks, or hardened soil.
- Call your local university, community college agricultural department or garden supply center and get a soil test to determine the soil pH and fertility. Based on the results, it may be necessary to add fertilizer or other soil amendments to get the soil healthy before planting.
- Rake the soil to make the area where the seed is to be planted level. If you’re going to plant seed near the house or another structure, make sure the grade is on a slope and runs away from the residence. Low spots should be filled and compacted.
- Spread a layer of top soil evenly across the area to be planted.
- Use a mechanical spreader to distribute the seed of choice, making sure you rake gently and cover the seed with a thin layer of soil.
The final step is to water the grass seed lightly up to twice a day until the grass has grown to a height of two inches. An inch of water can be applied with each watering, the frequency of which can increase as the roots take hold and the grass becomes more resilient.