Dark green vs. light green grass: Pros and cons of each

Your grass may be green, but is it the right shade? The color of a lawn can be a clue to its overall health, but different grass species are naturally different shades of green, including blue-green, yellow-green, and gray-green. This may lead to some confusion. When homeowners, landscapers, and horticulturists describe a lawn as “dark green,” they are referring to a consistent, fully developed, strong green color of the lawn’s natural shade. All of the common types of lawn grass — Bermuda, Bluegrass, Centipede, Fescue, Ryegrass, St. Augustine, and Zoysia — may be called “dark green” when they are in top form, even though some are lighter or brighter than others.

manicured lawn
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The problem with light green grass

Grass that does not exhibit a robust green appearance is lacking in some way. It may be stressed due to drought, breaking or entering dormancy, or it could be suffering from nutrient deficiency. Pests and diseases attack lawns when they are weak or stressed by their growing conditions. Improper or ill-timed use of lawn chemicals frequently leads to yellowing, as well. If your yard is pale, it’s time to investigate further. 

Species choice

Cool weather lawn grasses like tall fescue and perennial ryegrass stress out in the heat and duration of southern summers. Even with plentiful water, the heat takes its toll. First the grass blades begin browning, then root damage occurs. Even the most heat-tolerant, cool season grasses must be reseeded from time to time due to summer dieback. Those who know this about cool season grasses continue to grow them because they desire the deep green winter color and soft texture that only these grasses give. It’s a calculated decision, and one that many choose to make.

Poor growing conditions

Several environmental stressors turn grass a different shade of green. Soil acidity or pH for grass should typically be between 6.5 and 7.2 for cool season grasses or from 5.8 to 6.5 for warm season grasses. When the pH is out of range, grass cannot efficiently uptake nutrients from the soil. In most areas of the country, soil tends to become too acidic (the pH is too low). Grass also requires a steady flow of nitrogen, iron, and other nutrients, which it receives from decomposing grass clippings that remain on the lawn, natural nutrient cycling by other soil-dwelling organisms, and through applications of fertilizer. If nutrient levels are too low, the grass will turn pale. Finally, drought stress can cause the grass to stop growing and eventually turn yellow or brown.

Weeds 

Ironically, weeds growing in the lawn may aid the grass’s nutrient levels but can cause the lawn to take on an odd appearance due to the differences in leaf colors and textures between grass and weed. Weeds are always present at low levels. They can take over when the grass becomes weakened by poor growing conditions.

white dog lying on green lawn
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How to get dark green grass

Several issues are at play with the color of lawn grass including soil acidity, nutrient levels, climate, and more. The presence or absence of lawn weeds also changes the general appearance of the lawn including its color. The best way to cultivate a dark green lawn is to provide the right growing conditions for your grass. 

Choose a climate-appropriate grass species 

If you are starting a new lawn or renovating an old one, you can choose from a variety of warm season and cool season grasses. Choose one that is appropriate for your climate and is most likely to meet your expectations.

Cool season grasses grow best when daytime temperatures top out in the 60s and 70s, and nights are in the 50s Fahrenheit. Bluegrass, fescue, and ryegrass take advantage of mild temperatures during the shoulder seasons in early spring and late fall for extended green growth. In the North, they grow well through the summer. In the transition zone of the upper South and lower Midwest, cool season grasses provide an evergreen alternative to warm season grasses that go dormant, although extreme summer heat and drought can cause them to decline. 

Warm season grasses stay green while daytime temperatures stay in the 80s and low 90s, and night time temps remain above 60° F. Then they turn brown during the rest of the year. Some cannot withstand extended freezing temperatures. Zoysia, Centipede, and St. Augustine grasses grow well in humid areas, while Bermuda grass excels in both humid and arid regions.

Give your lawn favorable growing conditions

When the soil pH is in the proper range, grass uses nutrients efficiently. Mow frequently and mulch the clippings to recycle existing nutrients. Perform a soil test annually. Spread lime and fertilizer based on the results. The most commonly needed nutrient for lawns is nitrogen, but an iron deficiency will cause yellowing so pay close attention to these nutrient levels. Use organic or slow-release fertilizer for a long, consistent feed.

When lawns become dry for an extended period of time, foliage turns yellow and roots may become damaged. Most lawn grasses grow best if they receive an inch of water weekly as a combined total of rain and irrigation. Excessive water burns up soil nutrients faster and leads to extra mowing. Discontinue irrigation during wet weather to conserve moisture, nutrients, and labor.

Keep weeds away

Healthy grass competes well against weed pressure. However, some lawn weeds can encroach in the best of times, and when they do, their color and texture differences make them glaringly obvious next to the grass. Apply pre-emergent weed preventer as a broadcast treatment over the whole yard in spring and late summer to keep weed seeds from sprouting. Spot treat individual weeds that sneak in during the growing season. 

Dark green grass is ideal. Although the shades may vary from species to species, all lawn grasses appear deep green when they are healthy.

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