The establishment process for fescue can be divided into three areas. The first, soil preparation which is generally most important; the second involves proper seeding; and the third includes care and maintenance for two to four weeks after planting.
In Dawson County, mid-September until late October is generally the best time to plant fescue. Earlier plantings undergo excessive heat stress and later plantings may not become fully established prior to winter.
Early spring seeding is generally not recommended because the plant does not have time to develop the deep root system needed to survive the hot and dry summer.
The key to successful establishment and long-term survival of tall fescue is proper soil preparation. First, remove all debris such as rocks and tree stumps. Then, add any amendments, such as organic matter, sand or topsoil for soil improvement and till thoroughly into the existing soil. Since most soil in our area is red clay, adding organic matter such as top soil is very important.
Till in fertilizer and lime
A general recommendation would be 50 pounds of lime and 10 pounds of 10-10-10 per 1,000 square feet.
However, by having my office test your soil, it takes the guess work out of the recommendation. Call the County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442 for more information on soil testing.
For best results, always use certified seed which is identified by a blue tag. Such seed has been tested and the information on the label is assured by law. Spread 5 to 10 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet using a spreader.
Divide the seed into two equal parts and spread half in one direction and the other half at a right angle to the first direction. You will notice many types of fescues. For lawns a turf type fescue is recommended.
After seeding, lightly rake the area to cover the seed to a depth of about 1/4 inch, and then lightly roll the soil to firm the seed bed. A turf roller can be rented from most equipment rental stores. Applying straw mulch is beneficial, especially on slopes, because it helps to prevent erosion and retain moisture for rapid germination. Note: Apply the straw lightly.
Care and maintenance
Water lightly and frequently to prevent surface drying. As always, it is best to water in early morning to reduce the possibility of disease. As leaves fall on your lawn, it is important to weekly rake the leaves off the grass.
Begin mowing at a height of 1-1/2 to 2 inches when the seedlings reach a height of 2 to 2-1/2 inches.
Do not mow turf grass when it is wet, especially young seedlings.
If you have additional questions about your lawn, contact the Dawson County Extension Office.
Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent. For more information, call (706) 265-2442.