If the grass is always greener on the other side, it may be because it's a different type of grass. Whether you've moved into a new house and want to know what's growing in your front yard or want to identify grass types in your travels, knowing what traits best identify different grasses will help you out. Typically grasses fall into specific growing zones, and each grass has a slightly different colour, texture and shape to it, which you can use to tell each one apart.
Look at a grass climate zone map and identify which area you live in. LawnGrasses.com and the "Family Circle Articles" section under "Publications" on AccurateBuilding.com both feature climate zone maps with charts indicating which grasses grow in which climates. Make a list of grasses that grow in your zone. This narrows down your list of possible grasses in your lawn. For example, the lower half of Georgia lies in zone 8. Bentgrass, Bluegrass and Zoysia are three common grasses that thrive in this zone.
Identify whether you live in a climate that supports warm- or cool-season grasses, or falls in between. Sites such as STMA.org offer maps of the different warm and cool zones. The Southern half of the United States supports warm-season grasses while the Northern half supports cool-season grasses. The middle area, including Tennessee, Southern California and parts of several other states, is referred to as the transition area and can typically support both grass types. If you live outside the transition area, narrow down your list of possible grasses into warm- or cool-season grass instead of looking up what zone you live in.
Examine your lawn. Note how the grass feels and whether it seems thick or thin. Write down how dense it seems, approximately how wide the average blade of grass is, whether it's a light or dark green colour and what shape the tip of the blade takes. At first glance grass may all look the same, but as you identify different types you'll learn how each has a distinctive shape, colour and texture.
For example, Beachgrass is located all over the eastern half of the United States and in a small region of the Northwest. It takes on a light green appearance and feels coarse to the touch. This grass likes lots of sunlight and cool temperatures. Centipede grass looks similar to Beachgrass, but prefers warm temperatures and can grow in shady areas. It grows only in the lower Southeast part of the U.S. Where you live and the conditions your grass is growing under can help you distinguish between common grasses, such as these two.
Read the descriptions of the different types of grasses which grow in your zone or area. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. features an identification guide on its website at Scotts.com, and books such as "The Lawn Bible" discuss the different climate zones and grasses found there in detail. Mark the grasses that seem like the most likely matches. Compare your list of the grass's characteristics with the list provided by your book or website. Examine the pictures of the different grasses and take a second look at your lawn if you find yourself stuck between two or more choices.
St. Augustinegrass, for example, may appear light green as many other grasses do, but has wide blades with very rounded tips. In contrast, grasses such as Bermuda grass grow in long, wispy strands, and ryegrass features shiny blades and grows in thick clusters in northern parts of the U.S.
Call a lawn maintenance company or the agricultural department at a college in your area and speak to a professional who knows about different grass types. Send a picture of your grass or ask if the person is willing to stop by your home and identify your grass if you cannot determine its type on your own.
When identifying the zone you live in, note that grass climate zones and plant hardiness zones are different. Visit the library and ask the librarian for help if you need to find a book for identifying grasses. If you're stuck between two different grass types, you may have more than one grass species growing in your lawn. See if you notice areas of the lawn that look different from the rest to determine which parts are growing which type of grass.