What Is Tall Fescue: Growing Tall Fescue Grass In The Lawn

What Is Tall Fescue: Growing Tall Fescue Grass In The Lawn

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Tall fescue is a cool season turf grass. It is the most common lawn grass in California and useful from the Pacific Northwest to the southern states. It originated in Europe and is now found in North America, Europe and North Africa. Tall fescue in lawns forms a nice dense grass that cannot be mowed below 1.5 inches (3.8 cm.). The grass is a perennial bunch grass which establishes quickly and is low maintenance in appropriate locations. If you are in a temperate to warm region, learn how to grow tall fescue as an easy turf grass alternative.

What is Tall Fescue?

Grass that adapts well to clay soil is a rarity. Tall fescue grass is one such sod grass, and it also has low mowing and fertilization needs. It does, however, need frequent deep watering in summer. It works as a lawn in either sunny or partially shady areas.

Tall fescue in lawns stays green in winter unlike the warm season turf varieties. The plant is available in numerous cultivars, many of which resemble fine fescue but have wider leaf blades. Tall fescue maintenance is a dream for the lazy gardener because it needs infrequent mowing and has low nutrient needs.

Tall fescue is a turf grass with remarkable drought and heat stress tolerance. It is a coarse textured, dark green grass with rolled leaves. It spreads by seed primarily and does most of its growth in spring and fall. The grass has deep widely set roots. In spring the plant produces a short panicle 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10 cm.) long with lance-like spikelets. Tall fescue grass is a bunch grass and established lawns may eventually have die out in some areas, requiring spring reseeding.

How to Grow Tall Fescue

Tall fescue establishes best on soil with good drainage and high fertility where pH is 5.5 to 6.5. Work the area well and add in a starter fertilizer to the top few inches (7.6 cm.) of soil. The rate of sowing is 6 to 8 pounds (2.7 kg.) per 1,000 square feet (92.9 m^²).

Cover the area with a fine layer of sand or soil. Seed needs to be pressed into soil. Keep evenly moist for 14 to 21 days, at which point you should see your first seedlings. The plants can now get used to less frequent watering.

Mow the grass when it is 3 inches (7.6 cm.) high. Turf grass that is kept less than 3 inches (7.6 cm.) is thicker and more attractive.

Tall Fescue Maintenance

Established tall fescue lawns are low maintenance and need infrequent mowing and watering, except in very hot summers. Keep the lawn at 2 inches (5 cm.) tall and allow the plants to dry out in between deep watering.

Few diseases bother the grass but some rusts and fungus may become a problem, especially in new lawns. White grubs, armyworm, and cutworm are the biggest insect pests of tall fescue. White grubs are particularly a problem and should be controlled.

Older lawns may develop empty patches and it may become necessary to sow seed again in fall to rejuvenate a patchy sod.

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Mow to 2 1 ⁄2 to 3 1 ⁄2 inches. Mow often enough so that no more than one-third of the grass height is cut this may be every 5 to 7 days in late spring. Leave grass clippings on the lawn where they decompose quickly and can provide up to 25 percent of the lawn’s fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent mowing and clippings are too plentiful to leave on the lawn, collect them and use them as mulch. DO NOT bag them for trash collection grass clippings do not belong in landfills.

DO NOT fertilize tall fescue after March 15.

Tall fescue needs 1 to 1 1 ⁄4 inches of water every week, ideally NOT all at once. A dark bluish-gray color and wilted, folded, or curled leaves indicate that it is time to water. Water until the soil is wet to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Use a screwdriver or similar implement to check. Sandy soils require more frequent watering (about 1 ⁄2 inch of water every third day). Because clay soils accept water slowly, irrigate just until runoff occurs, wait until the water has been absorbed, and begin watering again. Continue until the desired depth or amount is applied. Proper irrigation may prevent or reduce problems later in the summer. Watering between 2 and 8 a.m. decreases the incidence of certain diseases.

Weed Control
Apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail. Apply by the time dogwoods are in bloom. (See Pest Control Recommendations for Turfgrass Managers, AG-408).

Insect Control
Check for and control white grubs in April and May. (See White Grub Control in Turf, AG-366).

Delay aeration until fall.

Thatch Removal
It is generally not necessary to remove thatch.

How to Care For Fescue Grass Maintaining Fescue Grass Lawns & Sport Fields

Seedland.com - Quality Seeds

Maintenance requirements for fescue grass are quite low compared to the other cool season grasses used for lawns. Fescue grass requires less mowing, watering and less fertilizer, making fescue grass an environmentally friendly grass. This also means less work for you!

Fescue grass requires maintenance according to the species variety that is used and the conditions under which the grass is grown. Visit Seedland.com for the newest fescue varieties and specific details on their maintenance.

The following information is generalized, please follow the growing instructions for your particular fescue grass cultivar and the area where you live.

Watering Fescue Grass

Watering or irrigating fescue grass should be done infrequently in the cooler areas of adaptation. These locales usually have more air moisture and damper nights than the warmer climates and fescues are a more drought tolerant cool season grass.

Fescue grass is drought tolerant which means that in extreme cases of water deprivation the grass can go into dormancy and return when sufficient watering is available. This does not mean that the grass can exist without water.

Fescue grass likes water if and when available but will develop diseases when receiving more water than what is actually needed, this is especially true of the more humid regions. A preventative program of fungicide treatment may be required to reduce or prevent disease issues. Fescue grass grown in the regions of the lower temperate zone (USA transition area) will need to be watered when the weather is drier than usual due to the higher rate of evaporation.

Maintaining Turf Type Tall Fescue Lawns & Turf

When properly managed, tall fescue can provide a green lawn all year round. Tall fescue should be overseeded as needed in the fall or spring for thicker sod formation and to repair thinning areas. Heat stress, insect damage, diseases, or other factors play a role in the lawn becoming thinner over the course of the year.

Tall fescue usually requires overseeding in the spring or fall. Overseeding also allows the homeowner to add newer, better varieties at this time that may help toward curing or abating disease and other problems.

Newer varieties of turf-type tall fescue (and the other fescues) are always being developed giving you the opportunity to overseed with these newer varieties which have added genetic adaptation strength, thus improving the existing grass stand. Different varieties of the same species can be mixed and often a blend of varieties prescribed for your area will improve the lawn or turf performance.

How to Overseed Tall Fescue Grass

To overseed tall fescue, mow the existing lawn as close as the variety allows, rake to remove all excess debris, aerate, and apply a fertilizer for starting new seed beds and seed at the rate of 4-5 LB (this depends upon the thinning of the lawn) per 1000 Sq. Ft. For precise planting you may wish to rent a slit seeding machine.

Water to keep the lawn moist for 2-3 weeks until the seedlings are established.

Fertilizing Tall Fescue Grass

Tall fescue does well without fertilization on moderate fertility soils but grows best when additional fertilizer is added. The best application is 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of nitrogen per 1000 square feet a YEAR in divided increments. Fall is the best time to add the highest division of the nitrogen and summer is the least best time to fertilize a cool season grass like fescue. Do not encourage growth at the hottest time of the year to cut down on disease and insect infestation, especially in the southern part of the transitional area. Do not fertilize during the summer months.

Mowing Tall Fescue For Lawns

In areas of it's adaptation, Tall fescue grass for lawns should be mown at a height of 3" to 3.5" leaving the grass clippings on the lawn. Mowing at this height will give the lawn an even textured finish. For athletic fields, mow to a height of 2 to 3 inches.

Mowing maintenance requirements for warmer areasinclude not mowing under 1-Ѕ inches to keep the sod from drying out from the heat and losing too much moisture. Mowing too low will also cause tall fescue grass to thin out. Look for pest damage at the time of mowing. This is also an excellent time to inspect the lawn while mowing to notice changes in color, health and density.

For a more comprehensive Tall Fescue Maintenance Calendar visit

Maintaining Creeping Red Fescue Grass

Creeping Red fescue grass seed can be used to plant a standalone lawn in sun or shade, although this fescue variety prefers shade. Creeping Red Fescue also performs well when mixed with other cool season grasses such as bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, tall fescue or other fine fescues.

Watering Creeping Red Fescue Grass

Creeping red fescue grass is predominately grown in the shadier areas and needs water only when the ground in very dry. Apply water when grass starts to wilt. Over watering red fescue can lead fungal diseases that are prevalent in hot, humid climates. Water only infrequently.

Fertilization Of Creeping Red Fescue Grass

Red fescue requires little fertility so fertilize only when the grass needs the added benefit. Apply nitrogen fertilizer at the rate of 1/2 lb per 1000 Sq. Ft. in early fall to creeping red that is not in the shade. Do not fertilize during the hottest times of the year. Over fertilization will actually keep red fescue from competing with any companion grass that it has been added to because the other grass variety will take over.

Mowing Creeping Red Fescue Grass

The mowing height of red fescue is lower than some of the other fescue grasses and can be kept at the height of 2 "- 2.5" inches depending upon which grass the red fescue has been added to if any.

For more information on particular Creeping Red Fescue grass varieties, including improved varieties, please visit our online store Seedland.com.

Maintaining Hard Fescue Grass

Hard Fescue is the indeed the one of the hardiest of the fescue grass species. More disease resistant, shade and drought tolerant, this fescue grass is also one the more heat tolerant of the fine fescue grass species. Newer turf type fescue grass varieties have a very good turf quality with improved disease resistance and a good looking medium dark green color. For more on turf type hard fescue, visit our store Seedland.com.

Watering Hard Fescue

Since it is more drought tolerant this fescue may need less water but when watering is needed it should be done deeply during the cooler months with a more frequent lighter watering during the dry summer months.

Mowing Hard Fescue Grass

Hard fescue can be grown alone or preferably in mixes with bluegrass or ryes. When seeded with blue grass or ryegrass mow from 1 to 1 1/2 inches. When grown in a pure stand mow at 1.5-2 Ѕ inches in cooler climates. In warmer climates mow at 3".

Fertilizing Hard Fescue Grass

Fertilize hard fescue the low end to retain growth and can be applied at the rate of ј to Ѕ lb. Per 1000 sq. ft. per growing month. Not during the heat of the summer. Fertilize for cool season grasses.

Maintaining Chewing Fescue Grass

Chewings fescue is best adapted to cooler areas in the northern United States and Canada, the coastal regions of the Northeast and Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere where summers are cool. It is well adapted to the sandy, acidic, often infertile soils that are found in these regions.

Chewings is a great choice to use when overseeding shady lawns and performs well as a standalone lawn grass or when uses in grass seed blends. For more on Chewing fescue grass varieties please see our store Seedland.com.

Watering Chewing Fescue Grass

Water chewings fescue grass deeply but infrequently during the cooler months. During the summer months of the year, water chewings fescue lightly but more frequently.

Fertilizing Chewing Fescue Grass

Chewings fescue performs best in soils with a pH of 5.5 to 8.0. Fertilize chewings fescue yearly at the rate of 2-3 lbs of nitrogen per 1000 Sq. Ft.

Mowing Chewing Fescue Grass

Chewings fescue grass may be mown lower than the other fescue grass varieties. The recommended mowing height for chewings fescue is 1" - 2". Chewings fescue that is grown in shady areas should be mown to a recommended height of 3" - 4". Chewings may be left un-mown for naturalized areas or areas that are hard to mow such as slopes.

Grass Deficiency Symptoms - Soil Nutrients Needed

Nitrogen - Older leaves turn yellow green and little new growth is noticed.
Potassium - Leaf tips and edges looked burned.
Phosphorus - Foliage will change from dark green to reddish in hue.
Magnesium - Foliage will appear yellowish green with red tinted edges.
Calcium - New leaves will be small and grass will be rust colored.
Sulfur - Fully-grown leaves turn yellow.
Iron - The new grass will turn yellow.
Manganese - The new grass turns yellow.
Zinc - Grass leaves will appear shriveling, narrow bladed and smaller than usual.
Boron - Yellowed grassing and immature growth.
Molybdenum - Fully grown and mature grass appears gray-green.

The secret to partly eliminating any one of these problems from occurring is of course in the first step with a soil sample and improving the soil at that time of seedbed preparation. Feeding the lawn on a regular maintenance schedule as prescribed by the product information will probably result in not having any of these problems crop up in your lawn.

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Tall Fescue An Award Winning Grass

Tall fescue is one of the more important cool season grasses. It is known for its dark green color, wear resistance and heat tolerance. Of all the types of grass, this is one of the few cool season grasses that can do well in areas outside of what is considered its normal adaptation zone. It even does well in the dry heat of southern California, where it is a popular turfgrass.

Coarse Fescues and Fine Fescues

Tall fescue is divided into two groups. They are the "coarse fescues" and "fine fescues". Coarse fescue is the type most commonly seen growing in the full sun sections of lawns.

The second group of fescues is known as "fine fescues". (Fine fescues are not the same as "turf-type tall fescues".) The term "fine fescue" is used for a number of fescue species that are named for their very fine (narrow) blades.

In the U.S. most of the fine fescues are exclusively used for shaded areas, since they can't take high heat. I still hear of people that have planted fine fescue, creeping red for example, in their full sun yard. It looked good until summer hit and then completely died. Learning the difference will save you a lot of headaches.

Coarse fescues have some of the widest grass blades, while fine fescues have some of the narrowest blades of all grass species. Coarse fescues can grow as wide as 5/8", while fine fescues can be less than 1/16".

Two Types of Full Sun Tall Fescue

The first group is simply referred to as "coarse fescue" or "field-type tall fescue". These are primarily bred as pasture grass, but can be used in lawns.

The other is called "turf-type tall fescue" and is an improved variety deveoped to have the qualities needed to be a true lawn grass.

Field-Type Tall Fescue

Kentucky 31 tall fescue and Alta are examples of the older varieties. They were originally a forage grass, but were sometimes used as a turf grass. If you ever purchased Kentucky 31 tall fescue, you may have noticed that the bag is labeled "For fields and lawn use". These field types are a larger plant with blade widths 1/2 inch wide or more and reaching twenty-four inches high. If left uncut in the field, the stems and seed heads can reach four feet. They do not produce a thick turf and are not compatible with warm season grasses, such as bermudagrass. Whenever these field type tall fescues are growing in dormant bermudagrass, the fescue has the tendency to grow in large clumps. During the winter, these clumps stand out like a sore thumb.

Turf-type tall fescue has a much thinner blade width. They were developed specifically for lawns and are the type used by professional turf managers. There are dozens of varieties with many new varieties on the market from the last few years. Most will produce a dark green, beautiful lawn.

All fescues are "bunch" grasses. This term means the plants expand by the production of new grass blades, called "tillers". See our page on Plant Structure for even more helpful information on grass growth.

A tiller is a new leaf blade that grows from the base of the original plant. Each new tiller develops its own root system separate from the other tillers. One plant could produce dozens of tillers. It does not produce any "runners" like some other grasses.

Since tall fescue is a bunch type grass and does not spread, it is necessary to overseed occasionally to maintain turf thickness. The best time of the year to overseed is in the fall. This gives the seed time to germinate, grow and develop sufficient root depth before the summer heat arrives in the following year.

There are a growing number of seed cultivars for turf-type fescue. Each is breed for certain qualities and for growth under certain conditions.

Since there is no single type of tall fescue that works best in any given area, most bags will come premixed with three or four different varieties.

The Good and Bad of Tall Fescue

Advantages of tall fescue

Tall fescue is probably the second most widely used cool season grass with a broad area of adaptation. It is used throughout the cool arid, cool humid and transition zones. Click on the link to see a map of Turfgrass Adaptation Zones.

Tall Fescue has high wear tolerance and for this reason, is often used on sports fields and playgrounds. It has the ability to withstand high temperatures and is used in areas where other cool season grasses would fail. It is even used extensively in urban areas of southern California where summer temperatures exceed 110 degrees for days at a time. When properly cared for, tall fescue comes through looking great. The one drawback is its high water usage in summer. It is occasionally used in the northern parts of the southern adaptation zone by homeowners who prefer it to warm season grasses. Again, the water usage in hotter climates will be higher than in the cooler areas of the country.

Fescue will struggle in hot, dry summers, especially in the lower half of the U.S. or out west. It requires significant water during summer drought. The drought of 2012 decimated my fescue lawns even when water was added. It was just to hot for too long. Over-seeding was necessary that fall to restore the lawns to their previous beauty.

Tall fescue has good cold tolerance except for the coldest areas of the northern U.S. and Canada. In these places, it has been known to suffer from winter damage. Its greatest use is in the central U.S. It is susceptible to the fungal disease "brown patch" in high humidity areas. However, in all the years I lived in Southern California, I rarely saw a problem with brown patch disease because of very low humidity. Now that I live in Missouri, I frequently encounter the problem. Watering at night, or late in the evening, can contribute to disease problems. Be sure to look for seed varieties that have greater resistance to brown patch disease.

Maintenance requirements and lawn care tips

Tall fescue can be a high water user in summer, especially in the transition zone, southern and western states. There are, however, a few secrets to proper watering to keep fescue green in summer. The most important thing about watering is to water deeply, preferably in the morning hours.

The soil should be wet to a depth of three or four inches. After watering, wait several days until the grass appears to suffer from heat or drought stress. It will begin to change color to a bluish green. The color results from the grass blade folding to conserve water, thus showing the lighter underside of the grass. When you see this, it is time to water again. The purpose for watering like this is to force the roots to grow deeper. This will enable the grass to endure extended periods of heat without damage.

Frequent, shallow watering encourages shallow rooting which is not good for the grass or your water bill. If shallow rooting occurs, any extended periods of heat could cook the roots and harm the grass.

Another method is to allow the fescue to naturally go dormant as the drought sets in. You may be surprised at how well the grass will respond once the drought is over, even if the grass was completely tan colored. If you are entering drought conditions, don't water heavily and then halfway into it, stop watering. This may hurt the grass. If that is the case, you will do better to keep watering until the drought is over.

Tall fescue should be mowed at heights no lower than 2 inches. Improved varieties can be mowed at heights of 1.5 in the cooler parts of the year. During the summer months, the grass should be mowed at 3 or 4 inches. It is the same for grass growing in heavy shade.

Fescue can be purchased as sod. However, fescue cannot be made into sod without blending it with another grass type, such as bluegrass. Fescue is a bunch grass and doesn’t have the structure required to hold sod together. For sod to hold together, it needs a grass with rhizomes or stolons. Bluegrass produces rhizomes, which are stems that grow just below the soil surface. When sod is harvested, the root system is cut. It is the rhizomes from the bluegrass that hold the sod together and keep it from falling apart.

Overseeding is important with tall fescue. A blade of grass only lives an average of 40 days before it dies. Grass must continue to produce new blades to replace the ones that are dying back. Grass is like all other living things and will slow down as it gets older. Eventually, its production of new grass blades will fall behind the rate of older ones dying back. To keep fescue young and healthy requires overseeding. Many professionals overseed every year or every other year.

The photo shows Turf-Type Tall Fescue from BWI. It is a five variety blend. It is an excellent product and one I have used many times. This comes in 50# bags.

The best method for planting grass seed is by using a rotary spreader. It will broadcast the seed instead of dropping it as when using a drop spreader. Great precision and extra work is required if you use a drop spreader.

For cool season grasses, including tall fescue, the best time for planting grass seed is in the fall. If the fall is not possible for you, then the second best time for planting grass seed is in the spring. The biggest problem with spring is that the grass may not have time to develop sufficient rooting before the summer heat arrives. Many well started lawns have suffered or were lost due to a late start and hot summer weather.

When overseeding established lawns, use approximately 4 lbs. of seed per 1000 sq. ft. If you are seeding bare soil, use a rate of approximates 6-8 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. Lightly rake a thin layer of soil over the seed and keep the soil moist until germination.

Germination can take from 14 to 21 days. In some areas of the country, wheat straw is lightly spread over the seeded areas to shade the grass. There will be some wheat that germinates, but wheat can’t take low mowing, and after a few cuttings, it will die back. Once the seed has germinated, cut back on the watering schedule.

Note: If you are going to overseed with no additional irrigation except rain, be sure to plan it well. Try to overseed the day of or the day before a string of storms are due to come in. Have the lawn prepared in advance in preparation for overseeding. Spread the seed on dry grass for the best affect. Wet grass will cause the seed to stick to the grass blades instead of falling down to the soil.

The amount of fertilizer to apply to a lawn is usually given in "pounds of nitrogen per 1000 sq. ft." Regardless of the percent of nitrogen listed on the bag, you can put the right amount down by following certain principles. See the “fertilization section” for how to develop a good fertilization progrom. Fescue should be fertilized at 3-5 lbs of nitrogen per year per 1000 sq. ft. Three quarter of the nitrogen is applied in the fall. During the hot summer months, high nitrogen fertilizers should not be applied, or if necessary, use only slow release. In fact, organic fertilizers can be used in the summer months. Organics are slow release using the soil micro-organism to break down the organic matter.

I prefer to use a rotary spreader instead of a drop spreader. Rotary spreaders are more forgiving and easier to use. I have seen a number of streaked lawns after the homeowner fertilized using a drop spreader.

Insect and disease problems

Tall fescue is subject to damage from a number of insects including white grubs, army worms, cut worms and leafhoppers. Grub worms can be one of the more damaging insects. They feed at night, chewing through the grass at soil level. A number of controls are available, including some new selective controls that target only the insects that feed on the grass. See the section on Pesticides for more information.

A good biological control for white grubs, sod webworms and cut worms is the microbial insecticide called “Baccilus Thuringensis”. Once consumed by the insects, it kills by producing toxins within their gut. Mach 2 is another biological control for insects that pupate. The active ingredient is "Halofenozide" and kills the target insects by interrupting the pupation stage of larvae without harming beneficial insects. This product needs to be applied well in advance of any damage. It will have no effect of applied at the time insects are damaging your lawn. Quick kill products include trichlorofon (dylox) and carbaryl (sevin). Be aware that thatch can hinder the movement of insecticides to the root zone where grubs live.

Some pest controls, including some biological controls, are available only to certified pesticide applicators. Many commercial applicators will apply what you need without selling you a whole program. Check with companies in your area to see.

Tall fescue can also be damaged from a few types of diseases. For grass to be affected by a disease, it needs three things:

  • a disease causing pathogen
  • be a grass type that is susceptible to that pathogen
  • the right environmental conditions for the disease to thrive

    Once a disease begins the disease progression will usually halt when the environmental conditions that promoted it changes. That is an important thing to know. Disease pathogens that are living in and around the soil cannot infect the grass unless the environmental conditions are right for it. To better understand grass diseases, see the section on Grass Diseases.

    One of the most damaging diseases is the disease called brown patch. Brown patch is generally a problem in hot, humid weather. It begins in the leaf blades and can progress to the grass crown. Once it affects the crown, the grass can be seriously injured or killed. If you suspect a problem with brown patch, avoid applications of nitrogen fertilizer, herbicides and night irrigation. It will only fuel the disease.

    Organic Fungicide Treatment

    There is an organic fungicide that is labeled for Brown Patch. It is called "Actinovate". Actinovate is natural bacteria that feeds on pathogenic bacteria and fungi. It can be used as a preventative and a curative and is safe for pets and children. It must be applied before the grass crown is affected. Once the crown is affected the plants will die. Actinovate is excellent on soil born pathogens, as well as other diseases.

    AgriGro biostimulants (on our products page) have been documented to suppress disease pathogens and lessen the effects of environmental stresses. Regular maintenance with biostimulants can greatly lower the occurrence of diseases.

    Other fungicides, such as Daconil, are available for homeowners to halt the disease, but timing is important. It must be applied before the disease effects the grass crown. Many improved varieties of tall fescue are available with greater brown patch resistance.

    Tall fescue can also be affected by leaf spot and fusarium blight. Leaf spot is generally a problem in cooler, damp spring weather, but is not usually too detrimental to the grass. Fusarium blight can infect young grass that was planted in the spring. Higher mowing heights (3 to 4 inches), proper irrigation and fertilization are things that can reduce stress and help grass to resist disease problems. Click on the link for specific information on different TurfGrass Diseases and Treatment Options.

    The use of organic fertilizers can also help. Organics feed the beneficial micro-organisms in the soil, which in turn, feed upon disease causing pathogens.

    Kentucky Bluegrass and Other Bluegrass Varieties
    Kentucky bluegrass is used more widely than any other cool season lawn grass in the U.S. Learn why it is so popular and how to plant, grow and care for it.

    Perennial and Annual Ryegrass
    Ryegrass has come a long way the the introduction of new turf species. See the pros and cons of using the perennial or annual varieties.

    Fine Fescues - The Perfect Shade Grass
    The fine fescue grasses are known for their exceptional shade and cold tolerance. They also have some of the narrowest blades of any grass type. Click here for detailed information about its climate range, uses and management.

    Watering a New Lawn
    Watering a new lawn is very different from watering a mature lawn. When planting a new lawn, success will be greatly increased by learning proper watering techniques.

    Overseeding Lawns - Tips and Techinques for a Beautiful Lawn
    Lawn overseeding is one of the most overlooked practices by homeowners. However, it is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain a consistently thick and beautiful lawn. Find complete information on why and how to overseed correctly.

    Understanding Organics and Organic Lawn Fertilization
    An unbiased look at organic fertilizers, how they work and how to best use them to your advantage. Includes detailed information on natural organic fertilizers and organic/synthetic fertilizer blends.

    All About Lawn Fertilization
    Fertilizing a lawn can be tricky if you are not sure how to do it correctly. Find everything from understanding fertilizer ingredients to calculating fertilizer rates to planning your fertilizing schedule for the entire year and more.

    Lawn Winterization Tips and Techniques
    Fall winterization is the most important time for fertilizing cool season grasses. Warm season grasses do not receive the same treatment. Find everything you need to know to winterize both cool and warm season grasses.

    Lawn Moss and How to Control It
    Lawn moss is a common problem in yards. However, its presence represents deeper soil problems that must be fixed or the moss will stick around. Find out what must be done to finally end your moss problems.

    Dog Urine Damage on Lawns
    We all love our pets, but dog urine can do a number on grass. There is hope. Find out what can be done to save your lawn and your pet too.

    Site Preparation

    Early site preparation focuses on removing weeds and unwanted grasses. If you have existing turf, removing it with a sod cutter is one option. Non-selective herbicides, which kill both broadleaf plants and grasses, offer another approach. Many herbicides require multiple applications and significant waiting periods before you can seed, so time early site prep appropriately.

    For final site prep, rake the area to create a flat, level planting surface. Fill in any low-lying spots where water could accumulate and cause drainage problems. Correct grading issues that could complicate mowing or send water toward your home instead of away. A gentle grade that drops about 1 foot per 50 feet should drain well without draining too fast. 1 If your property has steep grades, consider professional advice to avoid erosion and potential mowing problems.

    Newly planted seed requires consistent moisture and care.


    • Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue' is the most popular cultivar, an 8-inch tall plant with light blue foliage.
    • F. glauca 'Golden Toupee' has leaves that are chartreuse instead of blue-green.
    • F. glauca 'Boulder Blue' is silver-blue, more upright and more drought tolerant than 'Elijah Blue.'
    • F. glauca'Blaufink' is a compact cultivar (6 to 8 inches tall) with a finer texture.
    • F. glauca 'Tom Thumb' grows to be only about 4 inches tall.
    • F. glauca 'Harz' has blades of an olive-green color, with a hint of purple at times.

    Tall Fescue Grass Care

    One thing to be said about the tall fescue grass is that it requires less care and maintenance the more it grows and establishes. Thanks to its long and far-reaching roots, it displays wonderful resistance to drought. Even if the topsoil isn’t as nutritious or rich as the turfgrass likes it, its roots are always in search of nutrients deeper and deeper as they grow. This all translates into less time spent watering and feeding the grass in your lawn.


    Unlike other turfgrass varieties, tall fescue is famous for its high tolerance to partial shade. It thrives in the full sun but it will also show fewer signs of distress if the sunlight is limited. This admirable quality makes it ideal for zones 3 to 8. You’ll notice the grass still looks dark green and maintains the same growth rate in the shade of a building or a tree as it does under the full sun.

    Another care aspect that would normally give you a headache with many types of turfgrass but not the tall fescue. This hardy grass isn’t fazed by the type of soil it grows in. Even poor soil with little nutrients will not come in the way of this resourceful grass. Its roots spread out and deep into the soil pursuing moisture and nutrients. However, for best results and to ensure better seed germination, you should make sure the pH levels are between 5.5 and 7.5 and that the soil is sandy or loamy. This gives the roots incentive to grow and penetrate the soil with less resistance.


    Although the root systems of the tall fescue grass are the first to develop and reach maturity, the grass still needs frequent watering. On average you should give it between one to two inches of water every week. This amount should grow less as the temperature drops in the fall and winter. You can use a sprinkler to make it easier to water the grass on time and in the right amounts. You should always aim for getting the top 6 inches of the soil moist but not wet. This grass is drought-tolerant but it can’t survive in wet soil. If you have low areas in your lawn, fill them up with soil and reseed the spots to create a uniform look and feel across the lawn.


    A common misconception among homeowners is that the tall fescue grass doesn’t require fertilizing because it gets most of the nutrients from the deep soil. The grass in your lawn still needs the right amount of fertilizer annually just like every other plant. So give your turfgrass about 3 pounds of fertilizer for every one thousand square feet of lawn each year. The fertilizer should have the formula 20-6-6 and should be nitrogen-rich to improve the growth and look of the grass rhizomes. You should divide that amount and apply one half in the early spring before the first growth cycle of the grass. The other application should be in the late summer or early fall.

    Pests and Diseases

    In the summer when the sun reaches its hottest, you might notice brown spots in the grass. These are called the brown batch disease and are common among dwarf tall fescue grass varieties. Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for this disease and the only way to prevent its spread is to remove the grass from the affected areas and reseed them.

    As for pests, most tall fescue grass varieties and cultivars are immune to the common pests that attack other grass species. That’s one less area where you have to worry about. However, just to be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you pick a cultivar that is resistant to diseases and pests. That way you will enjoy your dark green grass growing on your lawn with fewer problems that require your attention.

    Watch the video: Tall Fescue Grass - Expert Lawn Care Turf Tips