Northern California state outlinePicture of a patch of sod in Northern California

Northern California Sod Guide

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

cool season

Considering the climate and seasonal variations in Northern California is crucial for successful grass growing. Choosing grass types that thrive under these conditions and planting them at the right times of the year will help ensure a lush and vibrant lawn.”


Northern California boasts a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and cold, wet winters, which presents unique considerations for grass growth. The key is to select grasses that are sturdy enough to withstand the high heat of summer and the chill of winter, while also being able to tolerate dry and wet periods.

The optimal time to lay grass in Northern California is in the spring and fall seasons. These periods provide a milder climate that is conducive to the establishment of strong grass roots, before the extremities of the summer heat or winter cold set in.

In terms of grass zones, Northern California generally falls within zones 7-10. These zones indicate the range of temperatures the region experiences throughout the year and are useful for determining the hardiness of grasses that are suitable for the area.

The higher the zone number, the warmer the winter temperatures are. However, remember that local variations in microclimates can affect grass growth, so always consider the specific conditions of your location.

Which grasses grow best in Northern California?

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 Northern California located in the cool season region of the United States
Northern California is a cool season state and falls in the region higlighted above

Northern California, 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 Northern California:

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 Northern California for residential lawns.

What is the best time to lay sod in Northern California?

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 Northern California

Frustrated with patchy, sun-starved lawns? We've got the solution β€” shade-loving grass varieties.

The top dog? Tall Fescue. Native to Europe, this hardy fellow is tough as nails. Can handle almost any soil type, stays green longer, and isn't a water hog. Plus, this character can manage with a meager 4-6 hours of sunlight. Tall Fescue's motto might as well be 'the less sun, the better'.

Next up is St. Augustine. Got shade? No problem! A Southern California import, St. Augustine's a beach bum at heart. It loves its moisture, all right. Requires around 5 hours of sun time and roll out the welcome mat for thicker, coarser turf. Be prepared to handle extra mowing and maintenance.

Now, let's give it up for the underdog β€” fine fescue. The cousin to Tall Fescue, it loves cool conditions. Doesn't need much sunlight. 4-5 hours will do. It's like the vampire of the grass realm, just without the fangs and the broody demeanour.

But wait, there's more. We've got Ryegrass. This one's is a neat freak β€” enjoys well-drained, fertile soil. Can thrive in around 6-8 hours of sunlight, making it a valued guest in moderately shady lawns.

Our final contender is Kentucky Bluegrass. Don't be fooled by the name. It’s as green as they come, this one. Can handle moderate shade, needing around 6 hours of sunlight. Known for its striking green hue, dense texture, and high durability, this grass variety can turn any lackluster lawn into a vibrant garden party.

Remember, folks. Every lawn has its own personality - some sun-soaked, some overshadowed. Pick the grass variety that fits yours. Keep the climate, soil type, water availability in mind. Just like the perfect pair of jeans, there's an ideal grass for every Northern California lawn. Go find that match!

A picture of a shade tree over a lawn in Northern California
Shade tree over a lawn in Northern California

What grasses stay green year-round in Northern California?

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 Northern California:

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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Neighboring States

Cities in Northern California