Maryland, Delaware, Northern Virginia and a stretch through central Ohio makes up what is
called the “Transition Zone” when dealing with turf grasses. To the North of this area, cool season
grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue, grow easily and flourish. To the South of this
area, you find warm season grasses like Zoysia grass and Bermudagrass that grow with little effort.
Unfortunately, we live and are trying to grow a lawn in the area between these growing regions, we are
in the transition zone.
What this means is that there really is no grass well suited for this area. It is too hot and humid
here in the summer for the cool season grasses and it is too dry and cold here in the winter for the
warm season grasses. However, to provide a green healthy turf in this transition zone we must
evaluate the characteristics of the different kinds of grasses. We turn to our Land Grant Universities in
Maryland and Virginia to plant and evaluate these grasses and to recommend those varieties which will
thrive here in our climatic conditions, are commercially available, and are available as certified seed.
Along with the varieties, you must also determine what use this turf will have. Is this to be an
extremely high profile turf where professional agronomists are on staff to diagnose and provide
technical advice with a very high, almost unlimited budget? Is it important that this turf look green
through out the year? Is this turf to be played on by children and/or pets? Is this to be an all around
general purpose turf sustaining good color and texture with minimal maintenance?
The Cadillac of turfgrass sod has to be Kentucky bluegrass sod. It is the darkest green color,
finest texture, loves full sun, and never clumps. It spreads by underground rhizomes, thus has the
capability to repair itself and thus should always look uniform. However, Kentucky bluegrass is
extremely high maintenance. It requires more fertility and is more prone to more different diseases
than any other turf in this area. It is not known for its ability to survive in shade and is very susceptible
to even slight salt spray. This is a turf that requires continual monitoring and considerable funds to
keep it looking good. Kentucky bluegrass is the turf for professional maintenance like what is
provided to major league baseball fields such as Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Zoysia and Bermudagrass look good during the summer months, however for 8 to 9 months of
the year they are dormant and are brown in color. Like the bluegrass, they also spread by underground
rhizomes but Zoysia is very slow to spread (as little as 2-5 inches per year) and Bermudagrass often is
too vigorous spreading (up to three (3) feet in a year) making it difficult to keep out of shrubbery beds
and even your asphalt driveway. In addition, Maryland is basically the northern limit for
Bermudagrass meaning that a bad winter can cause extensive damage and winter kill. The leaves of
both of these grasses contain a large amount of silica making the clippings very hard to break down.
This causes thatch to build up quickly creating a good micro climate for insects and disease and
requires heavy power raking every couple of years. Neither of these grasses do well in shade
Thus the one sod which does well in full sun and partial shade, is resistant to most
diseases, maintains a good color and texture even in the summer with a little water, requires less
fertility, is resistant to moderate salt spray, and stand up well to moderate traffic from children
and pets is Turf Type Tall Fescue.
Turf Type Tall Fescue is the only sod which we produce because we feel it is the one sod
which will work well in almost any situation. We plant a mixture of different varieties that are
currently recommended by the University of MD and VPI. Using a mixture of tall fescue varieties
allows for diversification of all the better characteristics. All of our sod follows all the regulations and
standards set forth by the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Turfgrass Certification Program and
is constantly inspected by the watchful eyes of professional agronomists.
Don’t be confused if you are familiar with the old Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue which was
recommended 20 years ago. Kentucky 31 is actually a forage tall fescue and while the new turf types
have many of the similar characteristics like a deep root system, the new turf types which we use have
been refined many times to provide a finer texture, darker color, and more resistance to the few
diseases which affected the old Kentucky 31.
So when you are in need of sod and you are looking for a beautiful, all purpose turf that will
last for many years, choose Turf Type Tall Fescue sod from a MTA Sod Farm. You won’t be