Fall is for Fescue!

By Paul James

Fescue is originally from Europe. It didn’t arrive in this country until the mid-19th century, but it’s been happy here ever since, first as a pasture grass and later as a turf grass in lawns across America. Here in Green Country, fescue is the go-to turf for shady spots, where it thrives with a little fertilizer and regular watering.

Because it’s a cool-season grass, fescue must be planted in spring or fall. Lots of diehard lawn lovers plant it twice a year and that’s not a bad idea, but fall planting tends to yield better results. Planting from seed is a simple, straightforward, and relatively inexpensive process that requires little effort.

It’s best to use a blend of seeds that contains only tall fescues, or one that contains tall fescues blended with fine fescues, Kentucky bluegrass, or even ryegrass in varying percentages, rather than rely on a single variety. I’ve tried dozens of blends over the years, and while I’ve seen subtle differences in them, I truly believe that the best way to choose one over another is a coin toss.

To prepare your lawn for seeding, begin by cleaning up any sticks, leaves, or other debris, then mow the lawn one notch lower than usual. In areas where the existing grass is really thin or there’s bare soil, use a metal rake to gently loosen the soil. Sow the seed with a drop or broadcast spreader (or by hand if the area is small), being careful not to get seed in adjacent flower beds. Consider saving a pound of seed (which, by the way, is equal to 275,000 seeds!) to fill in any spots you might have missed – they’ll be obvious after the grass is up and growing.

The most important consideration when getting seed to germinate is even moisture, because dry seed simply will not sprout. Typically, that means watering every day (perhaps twice a day) just enough to keep the top ¼-inch or so of soil moist. You should see germination within seven to ten days.

Once the grass is up and growing, lightly fertilize and begin mowing when the leaf blades are about four-inches tall. Routinely rake or blow leaves as they fall so they don’t matt down and smother the grass.

Do all that, and you’ll be able to enjoy the green, green grass of home all winter long.