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Tall Fescue

Botanical Name
Festuca arundinacea
Maintain at 2.5 to 3.5 inches
Full sun to part shade
Planting & Care

Tall fescue is the answer for homeowners looking for a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance grass that produces a medium-quality lawn.  The lighter green and coarser texture give it a less refined look than the typical bluegrass lawn.  But its drought tolerance and low fertilizer requirements make it a good choice for lawns growing in sandy soils, at a weekend cabin and in other areas where water and time for lawn care may be limited.

Tall fescue's deep and extensive root system makes it drought tolerant and able to stay green through most of the growing season.  It will go dormant under extreme heat and drought but will recover with cooler temperatures and irrigation.

Recent breeding efforts have focused on developing turf-type tall fescues.  These cultivars have narrower leaves, form denser stands and have better green throughout the summer.

Use turf-type tall fescues to create a low-maintenance, drought-tolerant lawn.  Do not mix these with other grasses since their growth habit, texture and color do not mix well with other lawn grasses.

Seeding Rate - 7 to 9 pounds per 1,000 ft2 for new lawns

Overseeding Rate - 6 pounds per 1,000 ft2 for thinning lawns

Germination Time - 7 to 10 days

Sod - Limited availability.  Standard sod is 1.5 feet wide by 6 feet long, covering 9 ft2 of lawn.  Divide the square footage of the area to be sodded by 9 to calculate the number of rolls needed.

Optimum Planting Time - Mid-May to June

  • Cold hardy
  • Low maintenance
  • Drought tolerant
  • Fair salt tolerance
  • Forms a medium quality lawn with minimal care
  • 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.
Coarse texture, does not mix well with other lawn grasses, slow to fill in bare and thinned grass, grubs, leaf spot, rust, voles (winter), moles (summer), skunks and raccoons digging for grubs

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