How to Grow Fescue Grass

There are several options for starting a Fescue lawn, and you can have good results with any of them. In this guide, we discuss seeding a new lawn with Fescue and planting Fescue sod. In a separate article, we discuss overseeding an existing lawn with Fescue. It is entitled Overseeding Fescue Grass.

Starting a Fescue Lawn from Scratch
This is a cool season grass, so it thrives in spring and fall. The best time to seed a new law with Fescue is the late summer in cooler climates or the fall in warmer climates. Start at least 4-5 weeks before frost is expected. Spring is okay too, but doesn’t offer conditions that are quite as good as fall. If you start in the spring, wait until frost at night is no longer a risk. The grass will also need 4-5 weeks of growth before 90-degree temperatures are expected.

Ideal daytime temperatures for getting Fescue started are 60-75 degrees, with significantly cooler nighttime temperatures. A soil temperature of 60-65 degrees is also ideal, but not crucial.

Preparing the Soil for Planting Grass
If weeds or other grasses are present, spray the entire are to be seeded with a non-selective herbicide 2 weeks before planting seed.

Tilling the soil to a depth of 6 inches loosens the soil and gives Fescue a much better chance to get established. Rake the tilled dirt and remove stones and debris. Fill in low spots and reduce ridges where possible. Use a water-filled roller to gently compact the soil.

Planting Fescue Seed
Choose a high-quality seed blend that contains several varieties of Fescue. Spread it at a rate of 6-8 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet. Using up to 10 pound is okay, but not necessary. Covering the seed with a thin layer of wheat straw will help hold moisture in the soil, producing more rapid germination. Use about ½ small bales per 1,000 square feet, and remove any clumps of straw.

Apply ¾” of water immediately after seeding. See the article entitled Watering Fescue Grass to learn how long it takes for your sprinkler to deliver that much water. Apply another ½” every 3-4 days. Continue to water the lawn at a rate of 1”-1 ¼” per week until a week after the first frost.

Planting Fescue Sod
Avoid laying sod in the warmest 6-8 weeks of summer in a cool climate, or the warmest 10-12 weeks in a warmer climate since high temperatures can cause the grass to go into dormancy. The root system won’t establish when in dormancy.

The first step is to prepare the soil as outlined earlier in this article. The night before you start laying sod, irrigate the soil with about ¾” of water. It should be sticky but not muddy.

Start sodding on a long, straight boundary. Lay pieces end to end. Stagger the second row the way a bricklayer staggers bricks. Use a small, flat spade to trim sod pieces. A sharp hatchet works too.
Once a large enough area has been put down, start the sprinkler. Give the new sod ½” of water. Apply ½” of water every 3-4 days unless it rains enough to supply that amount. Keep a rain gauge handy so you know how much water you need to give the lawn.

Starting a Fescue grass lawn isn’t rocket science, but it is hard work. Follow these guidelines and your Fescue lawn should respond with healthy growth and beauty.

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