Picking a suitable grass for your lawn is not as simple as reaching for the first bag of seed at the garden store. Conditions such as climate and soil as well as how the grass looks and how much maintenance it will require help determine which type you should use in your lawn. One you figure these out, you can choose a grass that is suitable to both your lawn and your goals.
Find which temperate zone you live in. Cooler season grasses grow in locations with cold winters, while warmer season grasses grow in hotter climates. If you live in a transition zone, you may be able to grow both types of seasonal grasses. Research your growing zone by looking at where you live on the North American plant hardiness map maintained by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (See Resource section for a link to the map.) This will help determine the lawn grasses that will grow in your area.
Take a soil sample to find out the pH level, moisture and type of soil. This helps determine the type of lawn grass you can use with the least amount of modification to the area. Some grasses such as Bermuda and buffalo grass can handle dry conditions, while others such as fescue and bluegrass need more water. Ryegrass can grow better in clay or sandy soil and in higher acidity than Kentucky bluegrass, for example.
Choose grass that can handle the amount of traffic your lawn will get. If you have lots of people walking across the lawn, Bermuda grass is a good choice, whereas St. Augustine grass can be damaged from heavy foot traffic.
Choose lawn grass that has a maintenance level you can handle. Grasses such as St. Augustine require less mowing. Bermuda is more tolerant of foot traffic and won't require much overseeding. Buffalo grass is good for non-irrigated areas. Kentucky bluegrass can handle drought conditions and doesn't require lots of watering during dry seasons.
Choose grass that has a look and feel that you want. Kentucky bluegrass is a dark green with smooth texture; zoysia has a rougher texture and St. Augustine has a lime color. Choices may be limited by the geographic area in which you live.
Choose grass that will tolerate the amount of shade on your lawn. Grasses such as zoysia, bluegrass, red fescue and St. Augustine are more shade-tolerant than other grasses.