Several years ago I underwent a full renovation in my backyard which originally spanned approximately 6,000 ft² Many trees (large and small) were taken down, as well as some wooded areas and plenty of weeds. Fast forward to 2017 and we expanded the backyard yet again to the tune of 10,000 total square feet. Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra Heavy Traffic was used in both cases.
After the excruciating manual process of clean up and prepping was complete (rototiller, raking, stone removal, stump grinding, top soil etc.) it was time for grass seed and fertilizers. After doing a lot of research, Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra kept coming up as a premium grass seed. So I decided to reach out to the company and ask some questions.
In short, due to having two dogs and two kids, they suggested their Black Beauty Heavy Traffic grass seed. In this cool season grass seed review, I will talk briefly about the pros and cons of this particular grass seed, and provide other helpful tips and information. Next to each review will be a number grade, 1-100.
Black Beauty Heavy Traffic Grass Seed Overview
This is part of the premium Black Beauty Ultra line of grass seeds from Jonathan Green. It contains a mix of Perennial Ryegrass and Tall Fescue. The Perennial Rye typically germinates the quickest – in about a week – while the Fescues are a little later, between 10-14 days. This blend is tolerant to a lot of foot traffic and the established grass blades are uniform throughout the lawn.
Grass Seed Germination: 95/100
Late summer into early fall are the prime conditions for establishing new lawn from grass seed, and overseeding. I had no issues growing this grass in either season. The germination rates were true to the bag and website specifications: approximately 7 days for the perennial rye and 12 days for the fescues.
There were three areas that I could not grow grass no matter how hard I tried. They were the entry ways from the two front fence gates into the backyard (far too much foot traffic and machinery) and under a burning bush tree (low branches caused lots of shade, and the soil was heavily compacted cleay). These were not ideal conditions and not a knock on the grass seed mix at all.
I was able to grow grass around the septic tank cover, but that was after digging out tons of rocks and stones.
Contrary there was one big area along the back fence where I was shocked that it not only germinated, but flourished. We had several large oak trees removed, large overgrown rhododendron removed, and planted about a dozen forsythia. This was a densely shaded area and I did not prep this soil one bit for grass. In fact, I didn’t even spread the seed over an imaginary line where I intended to put mulch. Some runoff from rain and watering caused the grass seed to move, and I’m glad it did. This was about 1,200 ft² of added lawn that was a pleasant surprise.
Grass Coverage/Thickness: 80/100
On their website, they provide the following application rates and specifications for both overseeding and for new lawns:
- 3 lb Bag
- Overseeding – Seeds up to 1,200 ft²
- New Lawns – Seeds up to 600 ft²
- 7 lb Bag
- Overseeding – Seeds up to 2,800 ft²
- New Lawns – Seeds up to 1,750 ft²
- Overseeding – Seeds up to 10,000 ft²
- New Lawns – Seeds up to 6,250 ft²
The image above was from May 2019, so approximately one full year and one light overseeding from the date of the second full renovation (4,000 ft²) The uniform blend, color and thickness really shines.
I originally went off of the bag rate recommendations for a new lawn, which is up to 4 lbs. per 1,000. So the 25 lbs. bag was what I used across my initial ~6,000 ft² The grass came in nice but was certainly thinner than I was expecting. Since this does not contain Kentucky Bluegrass (KBG), this should be increased to at least 5 lbs. per 1,000. Existing lawns can go lighter but if you’re starting from scratch go heavier.
In fact, when I renovated the extra 4,000 ft² in 2017, I chose the same Black Beauty Ultra Heavy Traffic blend to match, but went with 7 lbs. of grass seed per 1,000 ft² This is ideal for new lawns. The grass came up at the same rate but much thicker and barely and bare spots. With these types of grass seeds, overseeding an established lawn can take 2-4 lbs. since this grass seed mix does not contain (KBG) it does require more than its Black Beauty Ultra.
Despite the label stating “up to 6,250 ft²” the inconsistencies dropped the grade here. Using 4lbs. vs. 7lbs. is nearly double in both the volume and price. But had I used 7 lbs. per 1,000 ratio for both renovations, that 80 grade would have been in the 90s.
Grass Color: 97/100
The color of this grass seed mix is very good. It does not “pop” as much as the Black Beauty Ultra, but this Heavy Traffic blend does not contain KBG. Also, due to the size and lack of proper equipment for 10,000 ft² (up until purchasing a My4Sons Backpack Sprayer), I did not use as much Kelp4Less Extreme Blend as I did in the front. Nonetheless, for fescue/ryegrass blend, the grass became a dark green that was great for the price.
Drought Resistance: 98/100
On their website, they give their “Drought Tolerance” an “Excellent” rating, and “Shade Tolerance” a “Good” rating. I agree, but would give Shade an “Excellent” rating, also.
My backyard was a sun and shade mix. About half of my backyard was partial sun – so approximately 4-6 hours of intermittent sun per day. This was closer to 4 when all of the oak trees were full of leaves. The other half was partial shade and almost full sun, so approximately 6-8 hours of sun per day.
I kept this mowed relatively high, at least 3″ during the cooler seasons, and up to 4″ in the heat of the summer. Even in the full sun areas, I rarely had to water this grass. Its roots ran deep
Disease Resistance: 95/100
On their website, they give their “Insect & Disease Resistance” a “Good” rating. Despite the shady areas, which were naturally damper and wetter then the areas in full sun, I encountered very few fungus and disease issues. This could be a testament to the grass seed, and it could also be due to the fertilization and overall care I gave to the yard. But the species diversity certainly helps hedge your bets against brown patch and other diseases.
This backyard was the biggest section of lawn of my house. The front as side yards were a total of 6,000 ft² (3,000 each) and I considered my main front yard as the “showcase” lawn. This was the area that got the most attention and TLC. While my backyard was not neglected by any stretch, that grass didn’t received the white glove treatment as did the front.
“Heavy Traffic” Resistance: 99/100
On their website, they give their “High Traffic Tolerance” an “Excellent” rating, and I agree. This grass certainly lives up to its name “heavy traffic”. Our backyard got not only a lot of foot traffic, but dog “duty”, too. The turf wasn’t bullet proof as I saw some natural die off from the dog urine and normal wear-and-tear. But overall the tall fescue blend stood up. I continued to overseed with this blend up until fall of 2019.
While I wanted a ‘heavy traffic’ grass seed to stand up to the wear and tear, I also wanted a dark green, healthy and lush lawn, too. I hit the jackpot with Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra Heavy Traffic grass seed blend.
The price, according to their website, is $79.99 for a 25 pound bag. This is the same price as their Black Beauty Original blend, and $10 less than their flagship Black Beauty Ultra blend. This is a little pricey, especially if you’re starting a lawn from scratch and use the 7lbs / 1,000 ft² ratio. You could certainly price compare with GCI TTTF, Seed Super Store, Outsider Pride, and Nature’s Seed. But when you’re starting a new lawn, the last thing you want to do is cheap out on the grass seed mix. Plus you can find this at a lot of local nurseries and hardware stores near you.
I absolutely recommend Jonathan Green Black Beauty Ultra Heavy Traffic Grass Seed to anyone looking for a great looking lawn while needing a traffic tolerant grass blend.
Sadly I no longer live at this house, and am going through a similar backyard renovation in my new home, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Stay tuned for more grass seed reviews in 2020!