North Dakota state outlinePicture of a patch of sod in North Dakota

North Dakota Sod Guide

In this article we'll explore the optimal sod varieties for North Dakota. We'll also delve into their associated costs and the ideal times for laying to ensure growth.

cool season

Spring and fall are your go-to seasons for laying turf, and the resilient grasses of the Great Plains grass zone, bred to withstand drought, chill, and wind, reign supreme.


North Dakota, where winters linger and summers flash by, has a climate that's tough on turf. But cool-season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass thrive in this rugged landscape, standing strong through frigid winters and revving up during the state's cool summers.

So, when should you roll out your green carpet in North Dakota? Stick to spring or fall.

The soil is refreshingly cool, offering ideal conditions for the grass to sink its roots deep and establish a solid footing. Summer in North Dakota can be a bit of a scorcher, leaving new grass parched, stressed, and struggling to take root.

The Great Plains grass zone, home to North Dakota, features grasses as hardy as the folks who live there. Drought, frostbite, gale-force winds – bring it on!

Which grasses grow best in North Dakota?

In the world of landscaping, not all grasses are created equal. Each thrives in a specific climate zone: cool, warm, or transition.

A geographical map highlighting North Dakota located in the cool season region of the United States
North Dakota is a cool season state and falls in the region higlighted above

North Dakota, with its cool season climate, prefers a particular set of grasses that relish the lower temperatures. The following grasses are the easiest to grow and maintain in North Dakota:

Tall FescueCool-season grass, shade-tolerant, deep-rooted, ideal for lawns, pastures, and sports fields in cooler climates. The price per square foot for Tall Fescue generally ranges from $0.60 to $0.85 per square foot.
Kentucky BluegrassCool-season grass, lush green, fine texture, good for lawns, golf courses, and sports fields in cooler regions. The price per square foot for Kentucky Bluegrass generally ranges from $0.35 to $0.70 per square foot.
Perennial RyegrassCool-season grass, fast-growing, excellent wear resistance, often used for overseeding, ideal for lawns and sports fields. The price per square foot for Perennial Ryegrass generally ranges from $0.30 to $0.65 per square foot.
Fine FescueCool-season grass, shade-tolerant, fine texture, low maintenance, ideal for low-traffic lawns and erosion control. The price per square foot for Fine Fescue generally ranges from $0.45 to $0.75 per square foot.

While it's possible to grow grasses meant for other regions with proper care, attention and timing, these are the most common grasses in North Dakota for residential lawns.

What is the best time to lay sod in North Dakota?

Since it is considered a cool-season location, the ideal time to lay sod is in early spring or early fall. These periods offer moderate temperatures, leading to less stress on the sod and providing optimal conditions for root establishment before extreme temperatures of winter or summer. Avoid the summer, as high heat can stress the sod.

As you can see in the image below, you'll notice the most shoot growth (the grass above ground) and root growth in the spring and fall for cool season grases:

A graph showing the growth of cool season grasses throughout the year
Plant cool-season grasses during the Spring and Fall for best results

Best Grasses for Shade in North Dakota

In the tall shadows of North Dakota, some grasses rise to the challenge. These are the champions of shade, the leafy green all-stars that don't need full sun to strut their stuff.

First, meet Fine Fescue. We love this guy. Tolerates shade, doesn't mind average soils, plus it's a native so it knows the North Dakota hood. In fact, there are four types of Fine Fescue, each one cooler than the last. Creeping Red, Hard, Chewings, and Sheep’s Fescue. These guys need at least four hours of sunlight; less than that and they might pull a fast one on you and start thinning out.

Next, allow us to introduce you to Ryegrass, both the annual and perennial kinds. They're basically the Clark Kent of grasses. Ordinary in full sunlight but, in less sunny situations, well, let's just say they perform unexpectedly well - performing about the same as Fescues with that magic four-hour sun exposure.

Finally, let's not forget about our friend, the Rough Bluegrass. It may sound like a grumpy old sod (pun intended), but it's actually a moist-shade-loving hero. If you live near water or have exceptionally wet soil, Rough Bluegrass could be your best bet. Be aware though, it needs around four to six hours of sunlight to thrive.

Here's the thing. There's no one-size-fits-all grass for shaded areas. You need to understand your land, its soil quality, the amount of shade you’re dealing with, and the drainage situation you've got going on. All these factors will determine which grass will flourish beneath your shadowy giants. So take a moment, respect the shade, and know with just the right grass choice, you can turn it into a green carpeted paradise.

A picture of a shade tree over a lawn in North Dakota
Shade tree over a lawn in North Dakota

What grasses stay green year-round in North Dakota?

As with anything agriculture related, there is some nuance to this question. There are many grasses that can stay green year round in but it depends heavily on your location within the state as well as any microclimates that may exist.

The following grasses have the ability to stay green year round in North Dakota:

Grass TypeCaveats
Tall FescueIt typically stays green throughout the year in milder climates, given that it isn't overly stressed by heat or drought in the summer.
Kentucky BluegrassIt can retain its green color for much of the year when well-maintained, though harsh winter temperatures can push it towards dormancy and a browner hue.
Perennial RyegrassIt can stay vibrant and green throughout the year in many climates, unless conditions are extremely cold or dry.
Fine FescueIt keeps its green color throughout the year in ideal conditions. If the winters are particularly harsh, it may lose some color.

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