‘Grasses’ are scientifically known as ‘graminoids’ and are single leaf (monocotyledonous) plants. Grasses are usually herbaceous plants with the leaves growing from the base.
The variations in grasses however are as wide as the variations in types of grass seed from which they are grown. Over the years the types of grass seed available has been added to by selective breeding. Different types of grass seed are therefore now available for all purposes. ‘Grass’ mainly comes in two distinctive types either ‘true grasses’ or ‘sedges’. ‘Sedges’ include some wild marsh and other grassland plants, and even water chestnut plants. Some ‘sedges’ however appear more like grass than some ‘true grasses’. ‘Papyrus’ for example is a ‘sedge; whereas ‘bamboo’ is a true grass.
Different types of grass seed are involved in growing the various ingredients for food. Alcoholic drinks are dependent upon required to growing the appropriate grains, and various construction materials, papers, clothing, fuel and livestock food rely on their own specific types of grass seed.
Different types of grass seed and their ecology
‘Grass’ became common at the end of the Cretaceous period. Fossilised dinosaur dung has been found which contains types of grass seed similar to those used for growing modern bamboo and rice. Grasses have migrated from continent to continent and evolved differently in rain forests, freezing mountainous areas, and deserts. Some grasses have even become widely established in the strips between low and high tides. Grass is now the most common plant on Earth and is responsible for the eco system of the Earth as we know it. The capacity of the different types of grass seed to travel over significant distances, have been the key element in achieving its status. The migration of the varying types of grass seed has taken grass into almost every habitat. Its key contribution to the eco system has been the fact that the plant can produce a renewable source of food matter on a continuous basis. Grass is unusual in that the point from which the plant’s specialised cells originate (the meristem), is located at the bottom of the plant. So all plants grown from ‘true grass’ types of grass seed can grow again quickly after being nibbled down to the bottom. Grass has been vital in the evolution of human society and made the domestication of farm animals possible. Human society us founded on the move from hunter gatherer ‘societies’ to larger agriculturally based ones and grass is the cornerstone on which those agricultural societies were founded.
Most KCS Advice readers will be looking into grass seed in the context of laying a lawn. Lawns appear to have gained a special place in the lives of the Anglo Saxon world. They suggest a commitment to contributing to the appearance of the neighboring environment and may have had their origin in a desire amongst the middle classes to emulate the large grassy areas surrounding aristocratic country houses. .Lawns however are something of a challenge. The first hurdle to overcome is to know exactly what types of grass seed to choose to suit the lawn. Requirements vary from lawn to lawn depending on the purpose of the grass. Types of grass seed suitable for a high quality ornamental lawns, are not the same as the types of grass seed suited to a hardwearing lawn where children and pets are likely to be present. And the types of grass seed suitable for sporting turf depends on the game being played. Grass required for a general purpose lawn on which an occasional game of croquet is played is different from what’s suited to a tennis court, let alone a bowling green.
A golf course may require different types of grass seed for different parts of the playing surface. The grass surface required in the ‘rough’ is different from what’s required on the greens. Some grasses are more suited to lawns where drought may be an occasional problem and suitability varies from soil type to soil type.
Any lawn grown from scratch has two important elements.
- Sowing the correct blend of types of grass seed for the purpose for which the lawn is intended and using the right types of grass seed suited to the environment
- Regardless of the types of grass seed from which it is grown, mowing the lawn is a key element. The principle defining characteristic of grass, as distinct from other plants, is that grass thrives with continuous cropping whereas even the hardiest weeds do not
Choosing the right types of grass seed
All the major grass seed distributors make different mixes of types of grass seed to suit the purpose for which the lawn is to be used. It is a false economy in the extreme to cut quality for the sake of cost when choosing the types of grass seed for any purpose. The success of the lawn depends on quality and suitability. Most of the other variables can be controlled throughout the life of the lawn. Choosing the wrong types of grass seed is an irretrievable mistake. One of the most popular types of grass seed present in premium blends is ‘Fescue’ Grass. It provides an excellent premium quality grass seed for all purpose results. Fescue however is intolerant of drought and too much sunlight. The lawn will go brown. The most reliable way of choosing the right types of grass seed is to check the various product specifications on the packs available from the distributors and then either take advice or research the properties of the types of grass seed contained in the product for yourself. Some types of grass seed are specifically selected for fast growing and are particularly suited for reseeding bare patches. However ensure that broadly the same types of grass seed are used in any partial reseeding. Not all grass looks the same or is even the same colour.
KCS Advice will be publishing a number of regular seasonal articles on lawn maintenance and may return to the subject of specific types of grass seed again. If any readers have any observations or questions on specific points please raise them in an email to us or consult our forum.