Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is one of the most popular grasses in north Fulton County. This perennial bunch type grass grows quickly in spring and fall, tolerates shade, and stays green in winter.
Established fescue lawns thin out over time leaving clumps of grass, requiring reseeding every three or more years. September and October are the best months to plant tall fescue. Planting in these months avoids hot weather stress and gives the new plants time to develop their root systems before cold weather sets in.
With proper turf management you can avoid having to reseed the fescue lawn. But insufficient water, excessive nitrogen fertilizer, mowing too low or high, and seeding in late fall or spring can result in thinning. Other problems include crabgrass or white grub infestation or disease problems like brown patch, hard compacted soil, or tree shade and root competition.
A soil test will identify the nutrients needed for a healthy lawn. Take a sample of your soil to the local UGA Extension office and for $8 you will receive easy-to-interpret nutrient addition recommendations via mail or email. Fescue grows best in fertile, well-drained soils with a soil pH of 5.5 to 6.5.
Tall fescue performs better in our area than “fine fescue.” It is relatively tolerant to most turfgrass diseases if properly maintained. Most of the new and better performing cultivars are referred to as “turf-type” tall fescues. They have finer leaf blades, lower growth habit, darker green color, and greater density and shade tolerance than older cultivars, like Kentucky-31.
To determine how much seed you need, estimate the percentage of tall fescue loss and multiply that number by the establishment seed rate of three to five pounds per 1,000 square feet. For example, if 30 percent of the lawn is dead, reseed with between 0.9 to 1.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet (or 30 percent x 3 pounds = 0.9 pounds and 30 percent x 5 pounds = 1.5 pounds).
The seed must be in good contact with the soil. First, mow to a height of one to 1.5 inches. Then disturb the soil by coring or vertical mowing (rent equipment), or raking, if the area is small, before and/or after seeding. Finally reseed thin areas using three to five pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet.
Work the seed into the soil to reduce irrigation needs. Apply a starter fertilizer at about one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Keep the soil moist.
Garden and lawn advice is provided by Rolando Orellana, your University of Georgia/Fulton County Cooperative Extension agent. For your specific gardening questions, call the North Fulton Extension office at (404) 613-7670.