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Hard Fescue

Botanical Name
Festuca longifolia
Min Zone
3
Height
Maintain at 2.5 to 4 inches
Light
Full sun to shade
Soil
Well-drained to dry
Planting & Care

Hard fescue is another type of fine fescue that can be found in both shade and low-maintenance lawn seed mixes.  Like the other fine fescues, it is shade and drought tolerant, and overall more heat, drought and disease tolerant.  As a result, it is increasingly commonplace in seed mixes.

Unlike creeping red, hard fescue tends to grow in bunches, making it slower to fill in and blend with bluegrass than creeping red and chewing fescues.  The bunch-type growth habit also makes it slower to repopulate bare areas after extensive wear.

Look for low-maintenance and shady grass mixes that contain several species of fine fescue.  Adding hard fescue to the mix can increase your lawn's tolerance to heat and disease.  This is the best species for low-maintenance lawns.

Seeding Rate - 3.5 to 4.5 pounds per 1,000 ft2 for new lawns

Overseeding Rate - 3 pounds per 1,000 ft2 for thinning lawns

Germination Time - 7 to 10 days

Sod - Most sod is bluegrass.  Occasionally, you can find "shade" sod with some fescue in the mix.

Optimum Planting Time - Late August- mid September (mid October in South) is best or early spring before soil reaches 50°F

  • Excellent cold tolerance
  • Shade tolerant
  • Drought tolerant
  • More disease resistance than creeping red fescue
  • More drought tolerant than creeping red fescue
  • Raise the mowing height of your lawn mower if you haven’t already done so. Taller grass shades out some weeds and forms deeper roots, making it better able to compete with weeds and more drought and pest tolerant.
  • Make sure the blade is sharp for healthier and better-looking grass.
  • Remove no more than 1/3 the total height of the grass at one time to reduce the stress on the lawn.
  • Leave clippings on the lawn. Short clippings DO NOT cause thatch and break down quickly, adding moisture, organic matter, and nutrients to the soil. A season’s worth of clippings equals one fertilizer application.
  • The amount of fertilizer your lawn needs should be based on the quality of lawn desired and the time you want to spend managing your lawn. High quality heavily used lawns require the maximum amount of fertilizer, while low maintenance lawns need the least.
  • Start with a soil test so you apply the proper amount of fertilizer for your lawn.
  • Fertilize on Memorial Day, Labor Day and Halloween. Eliminate the first two if you are following a low maintenance plan and add a light summer feeding if you are watering and going for a high quality lawn.
  • Increase success and decrease the risk of damage by using Milorganite fertilizer. It’s an organic-nitrogen slow release fertilizer that won't burn the lawn and the iron is an added bonus. Plus, the phosphorous is non-leaching. And when the microorganisms work on the Milorganite it releases phosphorous and potassium bound in the soil, making it available to the grass.
  • Proper watering helps keep your lawn healthy and enables it to out-compete the weeds. Water early in the morning, if possible, and thoroughly when footprints are left behind. This encourages deeply rooted drought and pest tolerant grass.
  • Recent droughts and efforts to conserve water may mean a change of habit. If you allow your lawn to go dormant during drought, minimize foot traffic and play on dormant lawns.
  • Don’t apply herbicides or quick release fertilizer to dormant lawns. The fertilizer will feed the weeds and both can damage the dormant grass.
  • Once you let your lawn go dormant, leave it dormant until the weather cools and rains return.
  • A healthy lawn is your best defense against weeds. When weeds occur it usually means the growing conditions are better for the weeds than your grass.
  • Aerate lawns growing on compacted soil or with a half an inch of thatch or more.
  • Hand dig small populations of weeds. There are some new tools on the market that make this easier.
  • Spot treat weeds using the most eco-friendly products available.
  • Always sweep grass clippings and fertilizer residue off the walks and drives. This simple step keeps unwanted nutrients out of our waterways and eventually drinking water.
  • Never fertilize lawns when the ground is frozen.
  • Consider using a push or electric mower. It’s good for the waistline and the environment.
Problems
Slow to establish and spread, slow to recover from wear, grubs, sod webworm, leaf spot, rust, voles (winter), moles (summer), skunks and raccoons digging for grubs
Varieties
  • Bighorn, Defiant, Minotaur, Scaldis - good for low maintenance lawns
  • Discovery, Osprey, Reliant II - resistant to or tolerant of Helminthosporium Leaf Spot, dollar spot resistant or tolerant
  • Aurora - seed contains endophytic fungus that increases the plant's vigor as well as drought and stress tolerance
  • 4001, Atilla, Nordic, Rescue 911 - good for low maintenance lawns, dollar spot resistant or tolerant

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