The Best Iowa Grass Seed
Iowa's cooler climate makes growing grass in the state much easier than in other parts of the country. With over 70 percent of Iowa's land covered in some grass, it's a prairie wonderland for homeowners who love a lush, green lawn.
Choosing which type to plant depends on several factors, including how much room you have available for planting. The local soil, weather conditions, and amount of sunlight will largely determine which type is right for you. Before you plant your Iowa pasture, here's everything you need to know.
Soil & Growth Conditions in Iowa
The soils of Iowa are some of the most fertile in America, but they developed on topsoil that is more recent. Geologists and soil scientists consider these materials to be less than 10 thousand years old.
The alluvial sediments deposited by floodwaters make up lighter upper layers for farms. Farmers don't need as much tillage when digging their fields since it breaks apart existing plants rather than adding nutrients back into them through plowing.
So this is an ideal place where sustainable farming practices can thrive without sacrificing yield size.
The Iowan Erosion Surface is a super-fertile, naturally occurring soil that contains abundant amounts of organic matter. This makes it an ideal location for growing different varieties of grasses used in landscaping projects like lawns and pastures.
When You Should Plant Grass Seed in Iowa
Sow grass seed in the early fall to avoid competition from pesky weeds and annual grasses. Lawns can take a beating during summer when it's hot and dry. Furthermore, the rich and fertile Mollisols soil type covers most of the state helps seeds germinate early.
However, this also means grass seeds will have to compete for nutrients with three or four cool-season grasses—crabgrass, goosegrass, and others. Seeding late autumn/early winter provides you time before these warm-season species come up again next spring.
Best Grass Seed for Iowa
1. Kentucky Bluegrass
This is one of the most popular types of grass seed to plant in Iowa. It has dark green blades and looks especially lovely when planted in large open areas or near a home's front door.
Kentucky bluegrass isn't picky about soil quality, but it grows best in moist, loamy conditions. This species will do well in shade and partial sun, but it will become dormant in areas that receive regular light.
2. Perennial Ryegrass
This type of grass is similar to Kentucky bluegrass in appearance but is shorter. It can be beneficial if you want a lawn that's green year-round, as it grows well in shady areas and doesn't go dormant during winter months.
Perennial ryegrass does best in full sun, so the ideal time to plant is early spring before the weather gets too hot. It doesn't need as much water or fertilizer as Kentucky bluegrass, making it a good choice for more environmentally conscious gardeners.
3. Tall Fescue
This type of grass is often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass to provide a combination of colors and textures. The deep green blades look nice in large open areas, but they can also be used along pathways or near flower beds.
Tall fescue tolerates shade much better than other grass seeds, making it popular among Iowa homeowners who want a lush lawn without decreasing their trees' foliage. However, this species does need more water and fertilizer than other grass types, as this promotes optimum seed germination.
4. Fine Leaf Fescue
This cool-season grass has a dark green appearance and is resistant to various types of stress. It grows well in even the worst soil conditions, making it a popular choice for Iowa's many farms dealing with dense turf or warm soil.
Spring seeding works best to avoid competition with non-grass plants. It's normal if a few weed seeds germinate simultaneously, but fine leaf fescue will recover if planted in the early season with lower soil temperatures.
This type of grass is drought-resistant and doesn't need fertilizers to grow well. Its appearance is similar to tall fescue but has a paler green color.
Buffalograss is perfect for Iowa residents who want a low-maintenance lawn that's easy to care for. It can survive both droughts and cooler air temperatures.
Most Effective Lawn Seed Mixtures
Healthy, attractive lawns are good for property values and home prices. To maintain the perfect patch of green in your backyard or front yard, you should carefully choose a grass seed blend that is right for your regional climate.
For Mixed Sun & Shade Lawns
For mixed sun and shade lawns, use a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass (80%), perennial ryegrass (10%), and fine fescue (10%). In full-sun areas, the Bluegrass will dominate, while the perennial ryegrass variety should be more prominent in shaded zones.
For Cold Northern Regions
It is best to use a 50/50 blend of Kentucky Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass or Tall Fescue for cold northern regions.
The latter don't do well in the cold, so bluegrasses are often mixed with them for this region of our country's geography. This is also good when you live near an area that experiences low temperatures frequently or if your lawn needs shade from direct sunlight during winter months.
For Drought-Affected Lawns
Protect your lawn from the effects of drought with a mix that contains tall fescue (90%–95%) which can tolerate poor growing conditions, and Kentucky bluegrass.
The latter helps provide an even establishment for new grass growth and acts as erosion control if it rains heavily again soon after planting time.
For Repairing "Bald Spots"
The best way to remove "bald spots" on the lawn is by adding more grass species that tolerate those types of sites. You can also use perennial ryegrass (20%) and additional plants such as clover for color contrast.
The material we've provided on the best grass seed types for Iowa should help you figure out how to choose a plant that will thrive in your climate. But finding the perfect grass seed mix is easier said than done.
Instead of trying to do it alone, you can use our Seed Selector Tool™ to choose the ideal kind of grass seed for your lawn. You can find any seed you're looking for or choose one of dozens of specially-crafted grass seed blends for your region, season and soil type using Nature’s Seed.