alan_nguyen1

Best grass for Los Angeles?

Alan Nguyen
3 years ago

I absolutely have no knowledge of gardening and looking to redo my front yard. Seeking advice and would like to start gaining some knowledge from here. I will be looking into getting a sprinkler system installed and would like to lay down new grass. So far I've read about Fescue and Augustine grass, but still cannot figure out what is the best economical grass for me. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Comments (46)

  • reeljake

    Where in LA? How much sun?

    Alan Nguyen thanked reeljake
  • Alan Nguyen

    San Gabriel area and my front yard gets a ton of sunshine except for a small section on the side of the house that runs along the dividing wall

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  • dchall_san_antonio

    The worst grass for the area is fescue and second worst would be Kentucky bluegrass followed by the rye grasses. Marathon I, II, or III are probably installed all around you. These are dwarf fescues and entirely inappropriate for SoCal east of Interstate 5 or the 405 in LA or 101 up the coast. Still you see them installed in Palm Springs. Seems almost criminal to me.

    The best grasses in the San Gabriel Valley area is going to be a southern grass like bermuda or St Augustine. These are much more heat and drought tolerant than the northern grasses mentioned above. The hybrid, TIF 419 bermuda is an excellent turf. You may already see the less attractive common bermuda growing in lawns around your area. Common bermuda is what people think of when they have a weedy lawn. TIF 419 is a completely different kind of grass. It is a mutation of the common bermuda that is much better looking and better behaved. This is a close cousin to the grass used on golf courses. It is fine bladed and grows most densely in full sun (6 hours or more in the summer) when mowed at the mower's lowest setting. In your area you can deep water it once every 2 weeks in the summer. It spreads to fill holes caused by sports, dogs, or kids playing. Bermuda looks best when fertilized with a high N fertilizer every month. Bermuda will go dormant and become tan colored in the winter. TIF bermuda only comes as sod. All the seeded bermuda is common and will not mix well with the TIF varieties.

    St Augustine is a coarse bladed grass. It can grow in fairly deep shade and still look presentable. In the full sun it will be very dense when mowed at the mower's highest setting. When mowed high it will easily choke out all other grasses including bermuda in the full sun. St Augustine is no exception to deep and infrequent watering. If you get temps into the 90s (Santa Ana winds) you will need to water once a week. St Augustine can be fertilized once on Memorial Day, once on Labor Day, and once around Thanksgiving. In your area, it's unlikely to turn tan in the winter, but it does where temps get into the 20s. St Augustine only comes as sod.

    If I lived there I would have St Augustine. It needs less mowing, less fertilizer, and less weeding. I've had St Aug at my last 5 houses in Texas.

    What do you have now? Let us know what you have and if you want to convert to something else, and we can help you with that project. Also let us know if you are on a tight budget and what your time frame is. Also are you up the hill or down closer to the I-10?

    Alan Nguyen thanked dchall_san_antonio
  • Alan Nguyen

    I am definitely on a budget. I just want something that is super low maintenance but will still look presentable. I live closer to the 10 and 710 freeway.

    I have some sort of Fescue grass right now. The front yard wasn't in the best shape when I first bought the house a few years ago and didn't bother watering it after moving it. Before the raining season, it was just patches of grass and now there's a mixture of everything, Fescue grass and weeds.

    I had 3 landscapers who came over the weekend for an estimate, and all three recommended I go with Fescue and they quoted as low as 1$ per sq ft and as high as 2.10$ per sq ft for fescue. All 3 landscapers also pointed out to my neighbors lawn because they have Augustine and made a negative comment, because it was really thick and heavy.

    I am definitely open to suggestions!

  • hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

    Do you need a lawn?

  • j4c11

    Everybody needs a lawn. Some people just don't know it yet :-)

  • nancyjane_gardener

    Oh, I'm sure I'll get flamed....But.....Living in the LA area, basically a desert area....you should be thinking of something other than a water thirsty lawn!

    Since you are on a budget, think about a drought tolerant landscape instead of a lawn.

    Of course most people in the LA area don't worry about the water that comes from Northern CA! Not a lot of meters used, I hear! Nancy

  • Alan Nguyen

    I had briefly looked in to drought tolerant landscape, but wasn't to fond of it, because it looked too busy. I just want to create open space in my front yard. I do have planters that I want to have remove and replace with grass (if I am going that route). If there is a way I can create that "open space" concept in my front yard with a drought tolerant landscape, I am open to it. Definitely want something I can also utilize that space for out door gatherings or just have the kids run around.

  • j4c11

    There's a good reason all your neighbors have St. Augustine. Take dchall's advice, he knows what he's talking about. Fescue in that kind of weather will only lead to continuous frustration.

  • reeljake

    And plenty of profit for those fescue sod farms that really use a lot of water

  • bobstrauss

    dchall is a lawn wizard and I'd certainly follow his advice. That said - I understand the dislike for St Augustine's appearance. I much prefer the look of certain Bermudas and Zoysias, though I know they come with their own drawbacks.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    You live in the slightly hotter part of San Gabriel. Stay far away from fescue. If you lived up the hill, past Huntington Library, with lots of shade trees, you might get away with fescue watered every other day instead of every day. Those landscapers are part and parcel of the California water shortage.

    All grass needs a certain amount of water to look good. That amount is generally the same amount as long as you have the right grass for the climate. Fescue is the wrong one, so I hate to keep hitting that point, but there I go. So either bermuda or St Augustine will need the same amount of water to look good. At the other end of the scale, which one will look best with no water at all? If you absolutely don't water or get rain for 3 hot months, a lot of the St Augustine will die. The rest will look horrible, but it will come back if it gets water. If you can water it some during that time, it will not die. Bermuda with no water will go dormant and not die. It will recover quickly once it is watered. These are important nuances to understand. If you think there may be a time when it absolutely cannot get water for 3 months, then get bermuda - preferably a hybrid like TIF 419. If you want bermuda but not necessarily a hybrid, get a bag of bermuda seed and apply in May. Sod can be put down any time of year.

    Once you decide which one you want, we can give advice on how to care for it. They are different.

  • Alan Nguyen

    Very interesting.... sounds like TIF 419 is a better option than Augustine?

    Dchall, when you say "you can water it some" during the 3 hot months, how much is that? Once a week? May I also ask why you went with Augustine over TIF 419?

  • dchall_san_antonio

    If St Augustine gets some deep water once a month in the summer, it should survive in more spots than it dies. When I lived in SoCal we rarely got a deep or lasting (adequate) rain. You would only lose the St Aug during a very severe watering restrictions. Once a week, deep watering, would be normal for summer time watering east of West Covina. West of West Covina you could get away with deep watering once every 2 weeks most of the summer. Also when I lived there I was a water-every-day kind of guy - just like everyone else. I never did figure out that over watering was what caused the lawn to look bad.

    St Augustine was initially picked for me. I lived in four different houses in San Antonio. They all came with St Augustine. St Aug is predominant in South Texas. Three of those houses were prior to the Internet, so I did not have the benefit of forums like this. I thought I knew about lawn care before, but I had to unlearn most of what I thought I knew to get at better lawn. It was in this forum where I learned the difference between common and hybrid bermuda.

    What I don't like about hybrid bermuda is that it is more of a hassle than St Augustine. 1) Bermuda should be mowed at the lowest setting on the mower while St Aug should be mowed at the highest. When you mow at the lowest setting, any depression or hump in the surface profile will give you a scalped spot. When you mow at the highest setting, it never scalps. So if you have bermuda you really want to have a perfectly profiled surface without holes or humps. At my new house the soil seems to be still settling from the previous owner's abuse. 2) Bermuda should be mowed 2x per week to look its best. I'm not up for that. St Augustine can go for weeks without mowing and not suffer by mowing it back to the regular height. 3) Bermuda should be fertilized once a month to maintain color and density. I'm not up for that, either. St Aug can be fertilized 3x per year (Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving). 4) St Augustine will keep out most grassy weeds by itself. Bermuda needs help (Herbicides) to keep grassy weeds out.

    On the other hand, if you need a herbicide in St Aug, the only herbicide that works without killing the St Augustine contains atrazine. Atrazine might be unavailable in California.

  • Alan Nguyen

    what's the rule of thumb on height of grass? Should it be flush with pavment or same height as pavement?

  • reeljake

    Depends on the grass, what did you end up planting?

  • Michelle Terrill
    I am also in So Cal looking to do the same, only sprinklers and sod in my small back yard. I am a fan of drought tolerant landscaping but have 2 kids so I was thinking grass would be best. The area is less than 1,000 square feet. I am closer to the beach though, in between Seal Beach and Huntington by the 405. Big eucalyptus trees on one side and the yard gets morning sun. So I have shade patches where nothing seems to do well and also lots of direct sun in other areas. Any suggestions? Was wondering how your project turned out. Please and thank you!
  • Tom

    Home depot usually has flats of St Augustine......you just cut it in 4x4" plugs , and place them no further than a foot apart......or closer if you want them to fill in quicker. Its not the finest textured grass around, but its tough, and can handle sun and shade. The texture is kind of like synthetic grass.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Going back in time to Alan's last question, the soil should be at the height of the concrete. The grass height will be above the concrete.

    Michelle, you should have opened a new topic, but here we are. There are only two types of grass that do well in the shade. If you are west of the 405, then you could use one of the Marathon varieties of fescue. Fescue does not spring back from wear and tear, so if your kids are playing baseball or football out there, it will need to be reseeded annually. You have too much shade for Kentucky bluegrass. The Marathon is relatively fine bladed, but more coarse than the fine fescues.

    If you are east of the 405, or west for that matter, then St Augustine would be great. St Augustine will spring back from wear and tear, so once you get it established, it will work all year long in your location. St Aug is a coarse bladed texture.

    Have you ever been to Roger's Gardens? Last time I was there, about 1977, they had all the grasses. I don't know what they would try to sell you, but this would be a good test: if they try to sell you Marathon and you live east of the 405, I would be skeptical. It simply takes too much water for a periodically droughty area.

    In your area you should never have to water more frequently than once a week (only when the Santa Ana winds are blowing). By far and away your water frequency should be once every 2 weeks (temp in the 80s). Less often for temps below that.

  • northbeverly

    I'm in west L.A. east of the 405 and have a driveway made of turf block, which is like a checkerboard of concrete and soil (to be planted). I have tried many different grasses and ground covers but have not had good results. My latest failure is Dymondia. I am considering St. Augustine but would need to mow down to a height of 1 inch. I have read online many growers boasting of their new and improved St. Augustine cultivar. Does anyone have a recommendation? Thanks!

  • Tom

    Did you already try Bermuda ? If you hurry, you can plant seed, but no later than Sept. 15 …. Many semi dwarf varieties are available now. 'La Prima XD'- 'Princess 77'- and 'Riviera' are popular types.

  • northbeverly

    Bermuda would be great , especially since it is available in seed, but I am told it isn't shade tolerant. Is there a type that is shade tolerant? I am in a canyon and part of the driveway gets morning sun while the other part gets afternoon sun til about 4 in the summer. So all parts get some direct sun; however, the hours are limited.

  • Tom

    It needs at least a half day sun ….not as much as most people think...….however a lot of shade in the winter, will cause it to brown out quicker, and green up slower in the spring. 'Blackjack' Bermuda is said to have more shade tolerance, but I have not tried it myself. The seed is available from many places on-line.

  • Tom

    'Compadre' or 'Zenith'- Zoysia grass can also planted from seed, and has more shade tolerance than Bermuda. It also needs heat to germinate.... so no later than mid Sept, planting date. Use seed with a mulch carrier- such as 'Scotts or 'Penninton' Zoysia seed' , It doesn't cover as much as the bag says, so you might need two bags. Usually its available on-line, but i think Wal mart and Lowe's will ship it to a store close to you- for free.

  • northbeverly

    Sounds like I better go with the Zoysia, so I'll probably give the Compadre a try. I contacted a leading seller of seed regarding the Blackjack and he told me any Bermuda from seed, including Blackjack, needs a full day of sun. Thank you for your help!

  • northbeverly

    Just as I was about to embark on a Zoysia trial, I parked my car next to a parkway composed of beautiful lawn type groundcover that got my attention. I found out the name, Karupia and have read up on it. It's seems like it is definitely worth a try. If it lives up to half the hype, its a wonder plant.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Since this topic first came up I have become aware of another alternative for most of SoCal. UC Verde is a buffalo hybrid developed at UC Riverside and UC Davis. It looks beautiful, does not get seed heads, spreads to become very dense, can be mowed to any height, and will not die in a drought. It needs water every other week for the San Gabriel area in the heat of summer and much less frequently during the rest of the year.

  • northbeverly

    just planted Kurapia yesterday. We'll see how it works out.

  • Daniel Contreras

    dchall_san_antonio:

    What would you recommend for Whittier CA? I am looking to do about 1500-1800sq.ft. of grass in my back yard so my two kids can run around. Currently its a dust bowl back there since the previous owner looked to have prepped to put grass but just never got to it before he sold the home.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Daniel, C,

    I lived a summer in Downey, and, in my memory, that area is cooler than the communities along I-10. Still, last summer was blistering hot, so it's not nearly cool enough to make the Marathon type fescues viable. I would go with a warm season grass. If you have a significant amount of shade or shadows, then St Augustine would be the only choice. If you have 6 hours of sunlight, I would try the UC Verde variety of buffalo grass. You buy that grass as plugs, and it spreads to fill. You only need the minimal number of plugs, because it spreads quickly. The kids will have to say off at first, but they should be able to play some as it spreads and fills. Now is the time to plug it. After that the best choice is bermuda. The hybrid TIF 419 is available everywhere and is pretty cheap. It only goes in as sod, so you would have an instant back lawn. Still the kids need to stay off until the roots knit into the soil. Zoysia is not a good choice for a place where kids might wear it down. Zoysia is more ornamental and does not spread nearly fast enough to fill damaged areas within the same season. All those others should keep up with play time.

  • Annie Nygren

    Dchall!!! You are such a SoCal lawn guru—and I’m hoping you can help me. We just moved to Simi Valley—off the 118, so west of the 405, but north of the 101. It gets hot and dry in the summer, but cool in the winter. Anyhow, it’s new construction so we are starting fresh. Need 600 sq feet.-see photo. We had St Aug at our last house, but that was in the South Bay and my husband didnt like the vines—although it did always look nice and green. Our neighbors just got marathon and I thought that wasn’t ideal for this climate? Would we be good candidates for UC Verde? And should we do drip or traditional sprinkler?

  • PRO
    Viking Appliance Repair Service

    Tall Fescue may be the right choice for you.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Tall fescue is almost never the right choice in Southern California. If you live at La Jolla, maybe. It's the wrong grass for the heat almost everywhere in SoCal.

  • HU-516214051

    Dchall...I appreciate you sharing all your knowledge! Do you know anything about zeon zoysia? Supposedly does well in both sun and shade. I live in diamond bar so it can get pretty hot during the summer and sometimes in the upper 30s to low 40s at the coldest during winter. Trying to decide between this zoysia variety and st Augustine.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Annie, I'm sorry but I didn't see your reply above. UC Verde needs full sun, so if you have a south facing lawn, that would be best. Marathon is not ideal that far inland, but they still put it in out in the desert. It is most definitely criminal to use it out there.


    I'm not that familiar with drip irrigation in a yard, but my neighbor in San Antonio had it. It worked great for her. Plants established very quickly.


    HU...051, my experience with zoysia has turned me off. I went into it with a very good attitude, and it lasted for a couple years. Then there was that time it got dry in late May and turned gray. It remained gray all season until the following spring. By then the gray areas had filled in with common bermuda. I had wondered which type of grass would win the border battle. Clearly bermuda wins. Mine was not Zeon. Your mileage may vary, but I would not hesitate to do St Augustine in Diamond Bar.

  • HU-516214051

    Thank you dchall! Appreciate you help! Definitely checking zoysia off list. Just saw the local sod farm stopped selling zeon zoysia this year due to all the complaints of it going dormant in the winter. What about UC verde vs st Augustine. st Augustine still the winner?

  • dchall_san_antonio

    UC Verde works great in full sun. I should have it in my back yard, but St Augustine is basically free if you're patient over the long term. I could have bought a few pieces at $1.50 per piece (a piece is 18x24 inches) and let it spread, but I let it spread from where is was already growing out into where I wanted grass. St Aug will do okay in more shade than you thought possible to grow grass. So it's up to you and your situation.


    I went to school at Cal Poly, so say, "Hi!" for me next time you drive by.

  • HU-516214051

    A fellow bronco! I went there as well. Thank you. I’ll be putting in sod and backyard is mostly all sun so I’ll be looking into both of those a little more. Thank you dchall

  • northbeverly

    I like those two grasses, preferring the UC Verde when in full sun as it is softer grass than the coarse St. Augustine. I'm still a fan of Kurapia - a relatively new hybrid that can take extreme temperatures, little water and minimal, if no mowing.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    I had to look up Kurapia. Kurpia is a leafy ground cover with sterile flowers. It was hybridized in Japan for drought tolerance. According to this 2012 report from UC Riverside, it holds up very well and seems superior to almost all traditional turfgrasses. The report is purely about drought tolerance, so it is very interesting to see how the variety of other turfgrasses do under drought stress. UCR and UC Davis are the two ag schools in the UC system. UCR does all the heat related experimentation even if the reports come out of UCD. The report does not discuss establishment or any other factors about the grasses other than all the plots were established at least a year prior to the testing.

  • accidentallyinsocal

    This is perhaps the best discussion I've found on lawn grasses for SoCal; thanks to DChall and others for the insights and local considerations. Like a earlier commenter, I also live in Simi Valley. Homes in my neighborhood (built 2005/6) had Marathon I or II installed.

    Originally from the DC area, I've lived here for about 5 years andI now have a much better understanding of drought (and wind and fires, oh my!). Anyhow, my small lawn looks terrible. I have done nothing for the lawn (left if for the gardner, who does nothing more than cut and blow) and abided by the watering restrictions and whatever lawn I had inherited, it could not survive the water reduction and and lack of attention. There's very little fescue left; it seems a Bermuda has taken majority hold as well variety of weeds and other grass varieties. So I've spent the past few months learning about grasses, turf, and healthy soil.

    However, now we are in our cool rainy season and the fescue lawns of some of my neighbors here look terrific. Even my 2 patches of fescue (about 10sq ft, hanging for dear life) look amazing. I really want to fix this lawn. I want the nice appearance but also better drought-tolerance (if that's possible).

    I've been wrestling with the logic for choosing a cool season grass for somewhere so hot (zone 9b/10a). Unlike the Southern gulf states, we are nearly bone dry July-Nov - no humidity, no rain. So I think the logic for choosing a cool season grass is that the winters are mild enough to support the growing season which coincides with when it rains here. With a warm season grass, we would have to water during the drought season (and intense heat) which doesn't make use of the winter season rains. Instead, we should (hopefully) only be adding just enough water during the summer to keep it alive. I have had a soil test, started amendments last fall (added elemental sulfur to lower pH, add humid acid, organic matter, and phosphorus). Will test again in a couple months. I've also updated sprinkler system with rotary heads for more efficient water application and drip lines for the trees and bushes. So I'm trying to be water conservative but also build a healthy soil (not favoring artificial lawns as they trap heat and don't do anything for the soil).

    My main criteria for the next lawn are drought-tolerance, capable of starting from seed (so I can repair/maintain it by over-seeding), appearance (I do think fescues look best, probably due to my east coast origin), and hopefully not too excessive/demanding in terms of maintenance although I'm committed to some level of maintenance for a healthy lawn. Other factors, the front yard is full sun about 500 sq ft, and is not subjected to wear and tear (consider it decorative).

    I'm strongly considering Zoysia, UC Verde (although this one is not avialalbe in seed, only plugs) and a tall fescue or dwarf tall fescue, such as Marathon. However neither the Zoysia (Emerald) nor UC Verde seem ideal due to many mixed reviews, particularly on Zoysia. I've looked at the turf lawn tests published by Univ Cal. and I am now back to thinking that tall fescues are not terrible in their drought tolerance (although zoysia and buffalo are better) and thus might be a somewhat defensible option for this area? I wouldn't water it enough to keep it green all year, just enough to keep it alive until the summer temps drop and the rains arrive.

    Curious to hear what others would say and thoughts on Zoysia vs. UC Verde vs. Marathon for this area. I find myself leaning toward Marathon (or some other drought tolerant cool-season grass) based on this logic. I think I could keep the fescue alive albeit dormant during the summer by monitoring the moisture in the soil (ie pull a 6-inch plug approx very month to see if I've added enough water).

    edits: revised for clarity updated thinking on drought-tolerance of Marathon fescues (not as good as warm-season grasses, but not terrible either)

  • dchall_san_antonio

    I was surprised at how well the Marathon did in that testing. Note that none of the grasses did well. They all had large die-out areas, but the fact that Marathon stayed alive surprised me.

  • Kevin D Miller

    I haven’t seen any mention of centipede grass in this thread. Is that something that would do well in the SoCal environment?

    I‘m in Echo Park, not far from Dodger Stadium. My small patch of grass has a southeasterly exposure, So about a third of it is in the shade most of the day. It sounds like you’re a fan of St Augustine for many regions of SoCal. Are there any other varieties that would do well in the shade, but stand up to some very hot and dry days during the summer (with occasional watering)?

    Thanks for your expertise!

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Kevin, centipede works best in acidic soils and requires full sun. You don't have either.

    I had to look back to see if I had posted my watering mantra on this topic. I have not, because most of the people were in areas that did not get too hot. Here's more

    Deep and infrequent is the mantra for watering. This mantra was first presented to me by a lawn care professional in Phoenix. It works for him, so it should work for you. Deep watering means 1 inch all at one time. It is best to time your sprinkler system to see how long it takes to fill several cat food or tuna cans placed around the yard. Once you know how long to water, you are ahead of the game. For example my oscillator sprinkler takes 8 full hours to fill the cans on full sweep. My neighbor's high flow in-ground system took 20 minutes. Every hose/sprinkler/water pressure system will be different, so you have to test yours. As for frequency, there are many factors that go into how often to water. The factors are temperature, humidity, wind, shade/sun, soil type, grass type, grass length (related to shade), and possibly some others. The predominant factor is the air temperature, because moisture evaporates faster at high temperatures. But if the air is already saturated with high humidity, then it does not, so the entire equation is difficult to comprehend. A good starting point for frequency is this: at temperatures below 70 degrees F, deep water once per month. At temps between 70 and 80, water once every 3 weeks. At temps from 80 to 90, water once every 2 weeks. At temps from 90 to 100, water once per week. At temps from 100 to 105, water once every 5 days. This should take care of most of SoCal except for the Mojave Desert. The main point is you always deep water and you NEVER water every day.

  • pitts_ed

    If you want tall fescue grass and are willing to grow it by seed, then for this area I recommend SS1000 Tall Fescue Blend: https://www.seedsuperstore.com/catalog/p-100003/ss1000-tall-fescue-blend. The four grasses in this blend all ranked high when tested in Riverside, CA, which is in-between LA and Palm Springs and can get very hot. 4th Millennium ranked #1, Regenerate ranked #6, Amity ranked #8, and Raptor III ranked #39 out of 125 grasses. These will be the best cool season fescue grasses to endure the summer heat for this area. http://www.ntep.org/data/tf12/tf12_18-3/tf12_18-3.pdf see page #33.

    If you have shade then get the shade blend: https://www.seedsuperstore.com/catalog/p-100073/ss1002-tall-fescue-shade-blend. In the shade test, Rowdy ranked #1, Titanuim 2LS ranked #2, GTO ranked #5, and Valkyrie LS ranked #15. These grasses also do really well in full sun. http://www.ntep.org/data/tf12/tf12_18-3/tf12_18-3.pdf see page #45.

    If you’re going with sod, these are two local sod suppliers for the area: https://www.agsod.com/ and https://www.westcoastturf.com/.

    With sod I would get one of the hybrid Bermuda’s like TifTuf - https://www.agsod.com/sod-varieties/tiftuf/. TifTuf is an all-around great grass. Can even handle some shade. Here is a good video highlighting TifTuf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xb4oRryDIA0.

    You could also look at Bandera Bermuda that is newer and developed to grow in this region - https://www.westcoastturf.com/Bandera-Bermuda-grass.

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