The Rockdale Gardener

Gardening Posts From Rockdale Cooperative Extension

Fescue; the Cool Season Grass for Georgia

fesue lawn perfect

Fescue looks best and is healthier when it is mowed at a height of at least 3 inches tall.

Fall is the time of year when most homeowners breathe a sigh of relief that the summer is winding down. They are delighted to park their lawnmowers, hang up their weed whackers, and lay off the yard work for the winter. That, of course, assumes you do not have a fescue lawn. If you do, your work is just beginning.

Fescue (Festuca sp.) is a cool season turfgrass. Unlike Bermudagrass or Zoysiagrass, which go dormant in the winter, fescue begins its period of active growth in the spring and fall. Fescue requires attention and a very specific management regime. This neediness does not disqualify this grass as great turfgrass. In fact, it has the qualities of beauty and shade tolerance.

According to Dr. Clint Waltz, University of Georgia turfgrass specialist based in Griffin, fescue “is very shade tolerant … (but) the grass does need some sun, approximately four hours of intermediate light. All grasses have difficulty in complete shade.” Dr. Waltz also feels there is little or no difference in shade tolerance among fescue varieties. There are, however, differences in performance. Southeastern, the first fescue to come out of the UGA breeding program, has proven itself to be an extremely good fescue variety.seed bag

Establishment of fescue is relatively easy. Simply prepare the lawn by killing any grass that is currently growing. Remember, soil preparation is very important. Test your soil to determine if lime is necessary and if it is, apply it prior to tilling the soil thoroughly. Spread the fescue seed at a rate of 5 pounds per one thousand square feet, firm the ground with a roller, and cover the seed with wheat straw. If you have an established fescue lawn already, aerate, soil test, and reseed at a rate of 2-5 pounds per one thousand square feet according to the amount of thinning experienced over the summer.

Fescue is not very drought tolerant. Irrigation will be necessary if you want a green fescue lawn all summer. Tall fescue should survive and perform well in Rockdale County, but the homeowner must know that the grass is likely to brown and go quasi-dormant during the heat of the summer (June through the first part of-September) unless one inch of water per week is added to the lawn. Deep, infrequent, thorough watering is far better than frequent light irrigation.

spreader spreading

Prepare the soil and broadcast seed. Then drag the ground with a pipe of section of fence to get the seed under the soil.

Fertility is also important to fescue. The turf should be fertilized at rate of two to four pounds of nitrogen per one thousand square feet per year. The application rate can be split between the fall and spring seasons. Remember, high nitrogen will lead to diseases such as brown patch or large patch, so do not over do it. Use soil tests to determine if lime will be necessary every two or three years.

Weed control is important on fescue lawns. Weeds will creep in and create openings during the winter. Preemergent herbicides cannot be used on recently seeded or reseeded lawns but can be used on established lawns. The best weed control is proper mowing height. Frequently mow the grass at a height of 3 inches; this taller grass shades low growing weeds and mowing prevents weeds from going to seed.