Fescue is referred to as a cool-season grass. As the name implies, cool-season grasses can endure cold temperatures but decline in the summer’s heat in the South. There are numerous turf-type fescues available. Turf-type fescues are improved fescue varieties that have finer blades and deeper, more vigorous root systems. Generally, they are more disease and drought resistant. They can also tolerate shade and temperature extremes better than some of the older fescue varieties.
Benefits of Fescue Grass
Fescue’s coarse texture and fast germination make it an excellent grass for erosion control. It can also tolerate compacted soil, like our Georgia red clay; it stands up to heavy foot traffic, making it a good choice for play areas or sports venues; and it stays green all year.
Things to Consider
Fescue is intolerant to our hot, dry summer weather. It must be watered frequently during the summer months or it will quickly turn brown. This makes it necessary to overseed your lawn annually to supplement areas that were weakened or damaged by the heat.
Sun to light shade
After sowing fescue seed, do not allow the seed bed to dry out. It should be kept moist at all times until the seed germinates. After the grass sprouts, fescue requires at least one to two inches of water per week. To measure how much water you are applying, use a rain gauge. During the summer months, you may need to water even more often. To determine if your grass needs water, step on it. If it doesn’t spring back, it needs water. Don’t just sprinkle a little water over your lawn. For best results, water the grass thoroughly and deeply. You want to water until right before there would be run off.
After installation, water fescue sod about every two to three days, depending on the temperature. It will take about three weeks for it to completely root into the ground. Once the sod is well-rooted, it will require at least one to two inches of water per week.
Maintain fescue at a height of 1 ½ inches to 2 ½ inches. Mow regularly. Fescue grass will weaken if allowed to grow too tall and will burn out if it is mowed too short.
When to Plant
For best results, plant fescue seed from mid-February through mid-April or from mid-September through mid-November. The mild days and cool nights that occur during these time periods encourage strong root development. The stronger the root system, the better the grass can withstand our summertime temperatures.
How to Plant
Before planting, till the area, then smooth the planting surface with a rake. Sow the fescue seed at a depth of ¼ inch to ½ inch. If overseeding with Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue, use 5 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. Use 10 pounds of Kentucky 31 per 1000 square feet if planting a new lawn. When planting turf-type fescue seed, use approximately 8 pounds of seed per 1000 square feet. It will take about 14 days for the seed to germinate if sown at the proper time of year.
In October, apply a fertilizer formulated especially for the fall season such as Pike Lawn Starter. These products are designed to strengthen the root system and prevent winter injury to your lawn.
In late February or early March, apply a slow release lawn food like Pike Lawn Food that is high in nitrogen. This fertilizer will promote a healthy green color and will feed your lawn for about two months. Apply a second application of slow release fertilizer in early to mid-May.
If seeding or sodding, apply a starter fertilizer Pike Lawn Starter instead. Starter fertilizers stimulate strong, vigorous root growth and accelerate the maturity of your new lawn.
Do not apply fertilizer to fescue grass during the summer months. Fertilizer promotes rapid growth and that would only put extra stress on the root system during the hot summer months. Fertilizing in the summer also encourages the development of fungus on fescue grass.
The best way to get rid of weeds is to prevent them in the first place. Apply a crabgrass preventer Pike Crabgrass Preventer between February 15 and March 15. These pre-emergent products put a barrier on the soil that prevents crabgrass and certain other weed seeds from germinating. If desired, spread a second application of crabgrass preventer in May to prevent late crabgrass and certain summer weeds from developing.
CAUTION: Crabgrass preventers will also prevent grass seed from germinating, so if you plan to plant fescue seed in the spring, do not apply a crabgrass preventer to your lawn.
If necessary, you can apply a lawn weed control on growing weeds before temperatures exceed 90 degrees.