Turfgrass Seed and Seed Mixtures

One of the most important steps in turfgrass establishment is the selection of high quality seed or a seed mixture that is adapted to the site conditions and intended use of the turf.
Turfgrass Seed and Seed Mixtures - Articles

Updated: August 15, 2017

Consequently, the use of poor quality seed may result in unsatisfactory turf establishment, thus, wasted time, effort, and money. Also, If the species in the seed mixture are not adapted to the conditions at the site, the resulting stand may become thin and subject to soil erosion and weed encroachment.

Listed below are descriptions of the components of the turf seed label and suggestions for turf seed and seed mixtures for a variety of site conditions and uses in Pennsylvania. Information concerning specific varieties can be obtained from your County Agricultural Extension Office or Turfgrass Extension Specialist.

The Seed Label:

When purchasing turfgrass seed it is important to read the label to determine the kind, amount, and quality of seed in the container. All seed sold in Pennsylvania and other states is required by law to bear a tag or label indicating basic information about the quality of the seed. The basic information that should appear on the label is as follows.

  1. Name and address of labeler
  2. Lot number
  3. Kind and variety of turfgrass seed listed in order of predominance
  4. Percent by weight of pure seed of each species and variety (percent purity)
  5. Germination percentage (percent viable seed)
  6. Percent by weight of other crop seed
  7. Percent by weight of weed seed
  8. Percent undesirable grass seed
  9. Percent by weight of inert matter
  10. Date on which the germination test was conducted

The name and address of the labeler represents the party responsible for the contents of the container. The lot number is listed so that the contents of the container can be traced back to the original source of production.

Each label lists the species (kind) or species and varieties of turfgrasses in the seed container. By law, the label must contain the commonly accepted name of the turfgrass species or species and variety in order of predominance when present in excess of 5.0% by weight of the contents of the container. In addition to listing the individual turfgrasses, the label must also provide the percent by weight of pure seed of each species.

The percent germination that is listed on the label for each turfgrass indicates the viability of the seed. Germination percentages are based on the numbers of seed that germinate in a test sample. According to Pennsylvania law, germination tests must have been within the fifteen month period prior to sale of the seed. A list of suggested minimum standards for percent purity and germination are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Suggested minimum standards for percent purity¹ and percent germination of turfgrass seed.
Turfgrass species% Purity% Germination

¹Percent purity is based on one variety of the designated species in the container. Often, more than one species and/or variety will be included in the seed container. In this case, the % purity will reflect the proportion of each species and/or variety in the mixture or blend. The total should be equal to or greater than 95%.

²Fine fescues include creeping red fescue, Chewings fescue, hard fescue, and sheep fescue.

Kentucky bluegrass9080
Perennial ryegrass9585
Tall fescue9580
Fine fescues²9580

The percentage of "other crop seed" in the seed container must be listed on the label. Other crop seed includes all agricultural seed present in amounts of less than 5.0% by weight each. Since some crop seed is not compatible with the desired turfgrasses in the mixture, it is usually best to purchase seed that is low in "other crop seed".

The percentage of weed seeds should not exceed 1.0% by weight in the container. Good quality grass seed usually contains no more than 0.5% weed seeds.

The seed label lists the percentage of "undesirable grass seed" in the contents of the seed container. By law, turfgrass seed cannot have more than 0.5% "undesirable grass seed" in the container. High quality turfgrass seed contains no undesirable grass seeds.

Seeds or seed mixtures containing timothy, meadow fescue, orchardgrass, tall oatgrass, annual ryegrass or clover are generally not suggested for turfgrass use. Annual ryegrass should be used for temporary turf stands only. Bentgrass may be used for specialized turfgrass areas (golf courses, bowling greens, croquet courts, tennis courts, etc.) but is not suggested for other turfgrass uses.

The percentage of inert material, such as chaff or foreign material, must be listed on the label and should not exceed 15.0% by weight except when fertilizer coatings or pelleting is used to enhance establishment.

Suggested Seed and Seed Mixtures:

Listed below are some suggested turfgrass seed and seed mixtures for different site conditions and uses in Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise indicated, all suggestions are designed to produce a permanent turf. Procedures used to establish turfgrasses are outlined in ' Turfgrass Establishment'.

All seeding rates in this publication are in pounds per 1000 square feet. If converting to an acre basis, multiply by 43. It is suggested that 3-5 varieties of Kentucky bluegrassbe used in the blend or mixture. The resulting increase in diversity will often provide greater overall resistance to turfgrass diseases and other environmental stresses.

In some cases, suggestions call for 'turf-type' tall fescues or ryegrasses. This designation is required to distinguish between finer-textured, persistant grasses designed for high-quality turf use and coarser-textured, pasture-type grasses such as 'Kentucky-31' tall fescue or non-persistant grasses such as 'Linn' perennial ryegrass.

Fine fescues include creeping red, Chewings, and hard fescue. Sheep fescue is also a fine fescue but is generally used for low maintenance situations and not in highly maintained turfs.

Site Conditions and Turf Uses

Seed mixtures for home lawns, parks, cemeteries, institutional grounds, and commercial properties
Open, Sunny Locations and Well-Drained Soils.
---Southeastern Pennsylvania (south and east of south mountains).
Kentucky bluegrass100%at 2-3 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Kentucky bluegrass80-90%at 3-4 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Perennial ryegrass10-20%
Kentucky bluegrass40-60%at 3-4 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Fine fescues30-40%
Perennial ryegrass10-20%
Turf-type tall fescue100%at 6-8 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Turf-type perennial ryegrass100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft
---Other areas of Pennsylvania - all seed mixtures and rates listed above or
Fine fescues100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Moderate to Partial Shade
Fine fescues40-50%at 4 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Kentucky bluegrass40-50%
Perennial ryegrass10-20%
Fine fescues100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Turf-type tall fescue100%at 6-8 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Heavy Shade, Well-Drained Soils
Fine fescues100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Heavy Shade, Poorly-Drained Soils
Rough bluegrass (Poa trivialis)100%at 2-3 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Turf seed mixtures for heavy-use areas (parks, playgrounds, athletic fields for football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, baseball, softball)
Note: Tall fescue requires time to establish strong root systems. It may not withstand heavy use on athletic fields, unless practice and play are withheld for two growings seasons following seeding.
Kentucky bluegrass100%at 2-3 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Turf-type perennial ryegrass100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Kentucky bluegrass80-90%at 3-4 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Perennial ryegrass10-20%
Turf-type tall fescue100%at 6-8 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Seed and seed mixtures for low maintenance turf areas (service areas, utility areas, highway rest areas, parks)
Turf-type tall fescue
Use if appearance is important.
100%at 6-8 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Nonturf-type tall fescue
Use if coarse, light green, and high-cut turf is not objectionable.
100%at 8-10 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Fine fescues100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Seed for golf courses
Greens
Creeping bentgrass100%at 1 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Tees and Fairways
Creeping bentgrass100%at 1 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Perennial ryegrass100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Seed for renovation of recreational turf (athletic fields, playgrounds, lawns, parks, and golf course fairways, tees, and roughs)
Turf-type perennial ryegrass100%at 2-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft

See mixtures for temporary purposes (areas needing temporary cover for quick erosion and dust control)

Annual or Italian ryegrass100%at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft

Pure Live Seed

Occasionally, turfgrass seed is sold that is low in purity and germination. To compensate for the reduced quality, the seeding rate should be increased. (All seeding rates suggested in section II are based on minimum standards for percent purity and germination listed in Table 1.) The amount of seed required to compensate for poor purity and germination can be determined by calculating percent pure live seed (PLS).

To calculate PLS, the percentage of pure seed is multiplied by the percentage of germination, and the product is divided by 100. For example, 85% pure seed x 72% germination / 100 = 61% PLS. To determine how much seed to plant, divide the percentage PLS into 100. Thus, in this example, 100/61 = 1.6. Hence, 1.6 pounds of seed with a purity of 85% and a germination of 72% would need to be planted for each pound specified in the desired seed mixture.

Often, seed that is low in purity and germination is sold at a reduced price. One way of determining if the reduced price is really a bargain is to divide the PLS into 100 then multiply by the cost of the seed. A comparison of two seed lots is provided as an example.

Seedlot A

(sold at 'reduced' price of $0.95 per lb) :

PLS = (85) x (60) / 100 = 51%
100 / 51 = 2 lb of seed needed per lb of seed specifed
Cost = $0.95 x 2 = $1.90

Seedlot B

(sold at regular price of $1.65 per lb):

PLS = (99) x (90) / 100 = 89%
100 / 89 = 1.1 lb of seed needed per lb seed specified
Cost = $1.65 x 1.1 = $1.82

A comparison of actual cost per pound of pure, viable seed reveals that the seed that appeared to be a bargain was actually more expensive.

Revised by Peter Landschoot, professor of turfgrass science, from Special Circular 168 "Turfgrasss Seed Mixtures," by John C. Harper, II, Extension Agronomist.