Turfgrasses › Fine Fescue ›

Tall Fescue (and Fine Fescue / Kentucky Bluegrass blends) lawn Maintenance Guide

December - February

Aeration

Delay coring until fall.

Fertilization

Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet in February. In absence of soil test results, use a complete (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio.

Irrigation

Water, if needed, to prevent excessive drying. About 1 inch of water per application each week is adequate.

Mowing

Remove lawn debris (rocks, sticks, and leaves). Mow lawn at 3 inches and remove clipping debris at spring greenup. Mow before grass gets taller than 5 inches. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.

Thatch Removal

It is not necessary to remove thatch.

Weed Control

Apply broadleaf herbicides as necessary for control of chickweed, henbit, or other weeds.

March - May

Aeration

Delay aeration until fall.

Disease Control

If circular patches of brown grass up to several feet in diameter appear, you may have Brown (Large) Patch. Gray Leaf Spot also may be a problem. Control both diseases as necessary with proper fungicides.

Fertilization

DO NOT fertilize tall fescue after March 15.

Insect Control

Check for and control white grubs in April and May.

Irrigation

Tall fescue needs 1 to 1 ¼ inches of water every week, ideally NOT all at once. A dark bluish-gray color, footprinting, 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 ½ 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.

Mowing

Mow lawn to 3 inches in height. Mow at least once a week. Mow before grass gets above 5 inches tall. Then practice grasscycling. Grasscycling is simply leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Grass clippings decompose quickly and can provide up to 25 percent of the lawn's fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent frequent mowing and clippings are too plentiful to leave on the lawn, they can be collected and used as mulch. Whatever you do, don't bag them! Grass clippings do not belong in landfills.

Thatch Removal

It is generally not necessary to remove thatch.

Weed Control

Apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail. Apply by the time the dogwoods are in bloom.

June - August

Aeration

Avoid coring tall fescue lawns at this time.

Disease Control

Check for brown patch disease.

Fertilization

DO NOT fertilize tall fescue at this time. Submit a soil sample for analysis to determine nutrient requirements. (Contact your county Extension Center for details.)

Insect Control

Check for and control white grubs in July and August.

Irrigation

Either water as needed to prevent drought or allow the lawn to go dormant. About 1 inch of water per application each week is adequate for irrigated lawns. Sandy soils often require more frequent watering, or about ½ inch of water every third day. Do not discontinue irrigation in midsummer. Water dormant lawns every three weeks in the absence of rain.

Mowing

Raise mower height to 3 ½ inches. Mow before the grass gets above 5 inches tall. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.

Renovation

Western Region Only! (See September-November for Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions.) Overseed thin, bare areas as grass begins to respond to cooler temperatures; about August 15 to September 1. Use a blend of tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds per thousand square feet. Apply a starter-type fertilizer at the time of seeding. Keep the seedbed moist with light, frequent sprinklings several times a day to ensure good germination.

Thatch Removal

It is not necessary to remove thatch.

Weed Control

Avoid the use of herbicides at this time.

September - November

Aeration

Core lawns subject to heavy traffic or on clay soils to minimize compaction and improve rooting. Break up plugs.

Fertilization

The best way to determine your lawn's nutrient needs is by a soil test. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Agronomic Division, provides free soil testing. In the absence of a soil test, use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (that is, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8). Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen (N) per thousand square feet in mid-September and again in November (about the time the grass is green but not actively growing).

Insect Control

Check for white grubs in September and October; fall is the ideal time to control white grubs.

Irrigation

Follow watering guidelines for March through May.

Mowing

Mow to 2 ½ to 3 inches in height. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.

Renovation

Piedmont and Coastal Plain Regions Only! (See June-August for western region.) Overseed thin, bare areas as grass begins to respond to cooler temperatures in September and early October. Use a blend of tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds per thousand square feet. Apply a starter-type (high phosphorus) fertilizer at time of seeding. Keep the seedbed moist with light, frequent sprinklings several times a day to ensure good germination.

Thatch Removal

It is not necessary to remove thatch.

Weed Control

Apply broadleaf herbicides to control dandelions and other weeds if necessary. Caution: Some herbicides may affect newly seeded turf. Follow label directions.