Tall Fescue: A Complete Guide

Fescue grass is a type of cool-season grass popular in the Midwest and Northern United States, due to its drought and shade tolerance as well as its ability to thrive in cold temperatures. Tall fescue is the specific type of fescue grass mostly used in lawns. It is different from other popular lawn grasses in that it is a bunchgrass as opposed to a turf grass, meaning it grows in more of a clump pattern as opposed to the spreading pattern that characterizes sod-forming grasses. For help with your tall fescue lawn, consult a lawn care professional in your area.

How To Grow Tall Fescue

Being a cool season grass, tall fescue does most of its growing in spring and fall, or when the temperature outside is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The area in which you live will play a part in determining the best time to establish a new tall fescue lawn, but, generally, late summer will be the best time to seed your yard or put down new plugs or sod.

There are three choices when attempting to establish a new tall fescue lawn: seeds, plugs, or sod. Seeding generally requires the smallest budget, but will require more work and maintenance to ensure your lawn grows in a healthy manner.

To seed your lawn correctly, first you must select a good seed. The best way to do this is to consult the expertise of a lawn care professional; unless you commit hours of research, you will most likely not find the best seed at your local hardware store. Then, you must clear your lawn of any weeds and shrubs and put down fresh, healthy topsoil. Finally, your lawn is ready to be seeded, but the work does not stop there. Once the seeds have been spread, you need to be sure to water your lawn 2 to 3 times a day until the seeds begin to germinate, which can take about two to three weeks for tall fescue.

The quicker and easier option, albeit, more expensive, is to establish a new lawn with plugs or sod. Generally, sod is used when trying to cover large areas and plugs are used to fill in smaller, empty spaces in the grass of your yard. The process to lay down sod is generally easier than seeding, however, preparing your lawn in the same way with fresh topsoil and tilling will help the new sod grow healthily.

How To Maintain It

Like other turf grasses used for lawns, tall fescue’s maintenance includes regular watering, mowing, and fertilization. The best way to determine what fertilizer your lawn needs is to conduct a soil test, and this should be done each season, as your lawn’s needs will change as the temperature does.

Fertilization should not be done in the winter. Although it is a cool-season grass, tall fescue goes dormant if the temperature falls consistently below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time, the grass will turn brown and not be able to absorb nutrients. As winter ends, your fescue grass lawn will come out of dormancy, generally around March, depending on where you live. During this time, you will want to apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer to stimulate growth. Fertilizer ratios are indicated on the bag, with a number like 16-4-8 or 30-0-4. This indicates the ratio of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium, and with tall fescue, a ratio of 4-1-2 is generally your best bet.

In spring, you want to promote as much growth as possible by building on your fertilization efforts in late winter. You will do this by continuing to apply high-nitrogen, low-phosphorus fertilizer every four to six weeks. This will maximize tall fescue’s color and growth as summer approaches. If you have a particularly dry or hot summer where temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, your lawn might go into dormancy as it does during winter.

During summer, it is generally best not to fertilize. This is the perfect time to conduct another soil test to see what nutrients your lawn’s soil might be lacking. This way, you will know what fertilizer will be best once summer ends and autumn rolls around.

Caring for your lawn in autumn will be much like in spring, where you use a high-nitrogen fertilizer with a 4-1-2 ratio, such as 16-4-8. Following this fertilization schedule will help ensure that your tall fescue lawn receives the nutrients it needs to looks it best year-round.

How To Get Rid Of It

Like other fast-growing turf grasses, tall fescue can become a weed if you discover it in places you do not want it. If you have a lawn that consists of a different kind of grass, such as Kentucky bluegrass or Bermuda grass, or if you find tall fescue in a flowerbed, you will want to eradicate it as quickly as possible.

The way to get rid of a weed infestation is by using a selective herbicide. This kind of herbicide works by targeting specific metabolic processes in only certain kinds of plants, thus killing them, and not harming desirable grass. However, if the problem gets out of hand and you discover tall fescue displacing your other plants, you might need to treat it with a post-emergent non-selective herbicide. This will kill every plant it comes into contact with, so be very careful when applying. Overall, the best way to get rid of weeds is before they have a chance to grow. You do this by applying pre-emergent herbicide periodically. Some fertilizers even come with pre-emergent mixed in, allowing you to kill two birds with one stone.

Contact us here at LawnCare.Net to get connected with experts that can suggest services and lawn care plans specifically tailored to your tall fescue lawn.

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