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Ultimate Guide for How to Grow Fescue Grass

Updated Oct 19, 2022

Updated Oct 19, 2022

Home > Lawn > Ultimate Guide for How to Grow Fescue Grass

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For those that live in the Northern United States, one of the most common cool season grasses is fescue. Homeowners can use several types of fescue to help ensure their lawn is the nicest on the block. With deep roots, some temperature tolerance to summer heat, and lots of durability, fescue is a great grass to grow and maintain.

TruGreen will install and then maintain your new lawn for those who want to ensure their fescue lawn is always perfect. As one of the best lawn care services in the country, you can rest assured that your fescue stays looking great all year. Let’s take a more in-depth look into growing and maintaining fescue grass.

How to Plant and Grow Fescue Grass Seed

With some warm season grasses, the only way to fill in your lawn is to purchase sod. Luckily with fescue grass, seed is an option, and it is relatively easy to work with. As always, it is essential to do a soil test before seeding to ensure your soil does not have any outstanding issues that will cause problems with seeding.

Selecting a Fescue Seed

Not all fescue grass is the same, and before you start this process of growing fescue, you must be sure that you are choosing the right seed. Some of the things that you must consider are the amount of water, light, and foot traffic that your new lawn will receive. Because of their deep root system, some fescue variants will do better in high-traffic areas.

All fescue grasses have subtle differences in color and shape. Depending on the area you are planting, you may have to compromise to ensure that the fescue type is correct.

Although many forms of fescue have drought tolerance, there are times that you can see brown areas in the middle of the summer. In addition, if your turfgrass experiences too much shade, your fescue could thin out. Whether you are overseeding and putting in a new lawn, carefully consider the fescue grass seed types that you plan to use. Overall, fescue should be relatively low maintenance, but choosing the wrong seed from the start will make things more difficult.

Fescue Grass Seed Types

  • Tall Fescue Grass: if you have spent a day at a ball park or a community park, chances are it was Kentucky Bluegrass 31 tall fescue that you walked through; the deep root system helps give tall fescue strength in dryer months.
  • Creeping Red Fescue: this is a shade-tolerant grass that needs very little fertilizer and has a deep green color; with its fine blade, many homeowners like the look of creeping red fescue.
  • Chewings Fescue Grass: it can sometimes be hard to tell tall fescue and chewing fescue apart because of the similar look, but the chewing has a thinner blade and is more drought resistant.
  • Hard Fescue: many golfers know the term fescue because it can be challenging to hit a golf shot out of; hard fescue is used in golf course roughs because it does not require as much mowing.
  • Sheep Fescue Grass: you may see sheep fescue grass used on slowed areas or hills as it can help control erosion; overall, fescue grass has plenty of tolerance to wet and dry weather

Timing for Optimal Growth

The best time to plant fescue is in the early fall. Many homeowners are set to begin this reseeding and germination process in the spring when everything starts turning green; however, spring is only the second best growing time for fescue. The key here is to check the soil temperature, not the air temperature.

Cool season grasses will do best when planted at 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where this grass thrives and does most of its growing. Planting in the summer months will create issues with the strength of the turf. Another benefit of the fall and spring is some of the rain that you will likely get to help the grass grow in.

Testing the Soil

When the soil temperatures start getting into your optimal zone, it’s time to do a test of the soil. Homeowners that have tried seeding a fescue lawn with little or no luck had undetected soil issues. When you complete a soil test, you will get results on the pH and organic matter in your soil.

If your soil test comes back with issues, fertilizers and soil amendments can be added before seeing. Most homeowners look for a pH of around 6.5 to ensure that fescue seed gets the best start. The soil pH is a range that will likely change over time if your lawn is not exactly at 6.5, but you are within an acceptable range.

Prior to moving onto lawn preparation, make sure you use a tiller to mix any soil amendments, like lime, into the top five inches of soil. Spreading it all directly on top of the soil will be much less effective.

Lawn Preparation

Once you are ready to prepare the lawn, you must make sure that the area is weed free and that all other types of grass are removed. Having ryegrass, zoysia grass, or bent grass mixed with fescue is unnecessary and can impact the health of the new seeds. Allowing the fescue room to grow is essential. Depending on the size of your lawn, it is best to pull any of these weeds or other types of grass yourself. Although you can use a weed control or a non selective herbicide, you will have to wait quite some time before planting your seeds.

That non selective herbicide will stay in the soil and keep anything from growing, including your new lawn grass.

Once the area is cleared out, raking and leveling the land is essential. If you do not divert water, then puddles can accumulate. This will cause fungus, and your mowing height may be uneven throughout the lawn.

Planting the Seed

Now that your soil is ready and you have purchased a high-quality seed, it’s time to start the planting. As we mentioned, you will need to do this in the early spring or early fall to have the best results. When it comes to the amount of seed you will need, expect about double the amount for a new lawn. In fact, most new lawns will need an initial seeding and then an overseeding.

When planting the seed, you will follow the recommendations on the seed bag that you purchase. If you are planting a tall fescue lawn or more fine fescue, the rate of dispersion from the spreader will likely vary.

The seed does best when it is covered with about a 1/4 inch of topsoil. This can be done with a very light raking after the seeding process. If you have a roller, it is also smart to take the roller over the entire surface once the seeding has been completed; this helps ensure that seeds do not blow around in the wind and pile up in certain areas.

Measuring the number of square feet you need for your lawn can be done easily. Take a look at the size of your lot and then subtract for the home, driveway, and some of the flower beds and plantings. The number won’t need to be exact, as leftover seed can be used for overseeding a few months later.

Maintaining and Caring for Fescue

Once your fescue grass is established, it is important to care for and maintain it so that you won’t have to go through the seeding process again. One of the things that makes fescue grass so popular is that it is relatively easy to take care of.

For those that want perfect landscaping and green grass all of the time, it’s essential to consider weeding, fertilizer applications, as well as watering schedules. Doing soil tests from time to time will help guide you on what your turf needs and how you can help it continue to thrive.

Mowing

Fescue grass will grow quite a bit in the spring and the fall. When exposed to full sun throughout the summer, expect growth but a slight slow down. When mowing fescue grass, you don’t want to cut it much shorter than four inches. Each time you mow, take off 1/2 inch to an inch. Taking off more than that can shock the turf and cause stunted growth.

Applying Herbicide

The herbicide will be able to keep your turf weed-free, but you must be sure that you have selected the correct herbicide. Some herbicides will kill fescue grass. At times when weeds start to grow, try to pull them. Pulling weeds can be the best method of removal, especially during the summer months.

Watering

Watering your turf is important throughout the entire year. Even when temperatures are cooler, the grass still needs some water. Aim to give your fescue turf about one to one and a half inches of water each week. If you get some rain, adjust the sprinklers to accommodate. Purchasing a rain sensor for the irrigation system will do this for you naturally.

Aerating

Aerating fescue turf allows oxygen, fertilizer, and water to make their way into the soil. We recommend an early fall aeration followed by an overseeding and fertilization. This helps ensure that the turf is thick and healthy through the winter months.

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Pros and Cons of Planting Fescue Grass

Pros

  • Good shade tolerance
  • Several types of turf to choose from
  • Responds well to its own mulch
  • Requires very little dethatching
  • Winter maintenance is easy
  • Can handle heavy foot traffic
  • Easy to obtain seed and prepare an area

Cons

  • Can develop brown patches in the summer months
  • It may take some time to choose the right seed type
  • It will require overseeding to get thick

How Long it Takes Fescue Grass to Grow

It takes fescue grass approximately 7 to 21 days to grow. If you prepare the soil properly and use a starter fertilizer, you may see this happen quicker. Avoid mowing the fescue grass until it is about four inches tall. Without the strength of the turf, the mower could do some damage.

Hiring a Lawn Care Service to Plant Fescue

Our process of preparing your soil, planting, and maintaining your fescue can be overwhelming for some. However, there are alternatives for those that don’t want to get involved in this process.

Hiring a lawn care professional is a great way to ensure that the turf’s preparation, planting, and overall maintenance are kept in excellent condition. The best lawn care providers will be able to offer fertilizer, weeding, and even aeration.

Best Lawn Care Service: TruGreen

The best lawn care service for growing fescue is TruGreen. With TruGreen, you can ensure that your fescue is planted properly, maintained, and cared for the way it should be. TruGreen has several packages that they offer homeowners, depending on your budget and the specific needs of your turf.

TruGreen will come out to your home and fully assess what services you would benefit from the most. In addition, they can advise as to whether or not fescue is the right choice for your home.

For more information about TruGreen and what it can do for you, take a look at our TruGreen review.

TruGreen Lawn Service Options 
TruHealthTruCompleteTruSignature
Best On A BudgetBest ValueBest Premium 
Weed Control Weed Control Weed Control 
FertilizationFertilizationFertilization
Tailored Lawn Treatment Tailored Lawn Treatment Tailored Lawn Treatment 
Aeration and OverseedingAeration and Overseeding
Tree and Shrub Care
Best Overall
Trugreen
  • Large variety of plan options tailored to homeowners wants and needs
  • All services are backed and performed by TruExpert℠ Certified Specialists
  • Services provided in 49 states

Frequently Asked Questions

Is fescue grass easy to grow?

Fescue grass is relatively easy to grow as long as your soil is properly prepared. When the soil has the correct pH and is ready for the seed to be planted, it will grow fast and strong. Fescue is a cool-season grass, so planting it in warmer climates is incompatible.

What month do you plant fescue?

In most areas, it is best to plant fescue in September or October when the soil temperatures reach the 60-65 degree range. This can also be said for the spring in April or May when soil temperatures reach this same range.

Does fescue grass spread on its own?

Fescue grass does not spread on its own, so you will need to overseed when you see bare spots. When overseeding, make sure to follow proper maintenance recommendations to give your seed the best chance to grow.

What does overwatered grass look like?

Overwatered grass can start to develop brown patches. The grass will look unhealthy, and you can see it starting to turn color. Feel your soil and the turf and see if it feels soggy; if this is the case, lay off the watering schedule for the time being.

When is the best time to water fescue?

It is best to water fescue in the early morning. Regardless of the type of turf you have, early morning watering is an excellent option as it helps with evaporation.

House Method Rating & Methodology

At House Method, transparency and trust are our most important values for the reader. That’s why we took the time to create an objective rating system and score each lawn company/service according to our methodology.

Our research team dug deep into the fine print of contracts, combed through more than one hundred customer reviews, and thoroughly investigated all of each lawn care service’s services, costs, and products. We’ve done the homework for you by researching nearly all of the lawn care companies on the market so you can have the information you need to make the best choice for your home.

We developed a formula to objectively determine the best lawn care companies and give each a score out of 100 based on the following criteria:

  • Plan Options (30): Do they provide a variety of plan options? We looked at the number of plans each company offered and the flexibility of adjusting the plan.
  • Services offered (20): How many services are offered in each plan? We looked at the number of lawn care coverages, including weed control, seeding, irrigation, aeration, dethatching, and more.
  • Trust (10): What do customers say after their lawn has been serviced? Does this company offer a guarantee? We considered how satisfied customers are post-service if the company does what it says it will, BBB accreditation, and service guarantees.
  • Prices (10): How reasonable are the costs of the plan or service in comparison to the industry average? We compared the costs of each company to competitors that offer the same lawn services.
  • Unique perks (10): Does the company offer discounts or special services such as organic treatments, pest control, or a mobile app? We looked for perks each company offers that set them apart from the competition.
  • Customer Service (10): How is the customer experience when contacting the company? We considered the speed of response, weekend/holiday availability, and ease of communication through phone calls, email, and online chat functions.
  • Nationwide availability (10): How many states does the company offer its services? Companies that operate nationally and in all zip codes are favored over those with limited availability.

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