Tips for Sowing Fescue Seed in the Fall
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As the days grow shorter and the temperatures cool off, it’s time for homeowners to turn their attention to the fall planting season. Whether you are starting from scratch or are overseeding, here are some tips to keep in mind when seeding your lawn this fall.
Why Fescue in the Fall?
Fescue is a cool season grass. The cooler temperatures provide an ideal environment for seed germination and establishment, allowing the grass to develop strong roots before the onset of winter.
Spring-established tall fescue is more susceptible to drought, heat, fungal diseases, and weed encroachment. Summers in NC usually have a pattern of drought and extreme heat therefore, spring seeding is not likely to result in a year-long stand of healthy fescue. So, do not delay, seed in the fall!
Selecting the appropriate fescue seed variety is foundational. Tall fescue can be seeded by itself or mixed with Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, or both, particularly where shade is a concern. Tall fescue is a bunch-type grass, so damaged or bare areas will need to be re-seeded. It exhibits good disease resistance and tolerates drought, cold, and moderate foot traffic. Fine fescues include creeping red, chewings, and hard fescue. Fine fescue may be a good fit if you have a part shade lawn, are susceptible to droughts, and/or have poor soil conditions.
Your grass will only be as good as the soil it’s growing in. Test your soil! Pick up a soil testing kit at your local extension agency. In the absence of a soil test, a 16-4-8 or similar N-P-K ratio fertilizer may be used. The suggested yearly nitrogen application is about 1lb of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 square feet at seeding. You can split the application using some at planting and some the next spring. Additionally, now (September through November) is the time to aerate your soil to improve water and nutrient absorption.
Sow your fescue seed in the early fall, ideally from mid-September to mid-October. This timing ensures that the seeds have ample time to establish roots before winter dormancy.
If you’re renovating your lawn, overseed thin, bare areas between now and October. Use a blend of “turf-type” tall fescue cultivars at 6 lbs. of seed per 1,000 square feet. In the absence of a soil test, apply a starter-type (high phosphorus) fertilizer. Do not let the seedlings dry out.
Watering and Mowing
After sowing, water the area thoroughly to help the seeds settle into the soil. Irrigate early in the morning to reduce water loss due to evaporation. One inch of water per week (via rainfall or irrigation) is generally sufficient. Monitor your seed bed and make sure it doesn’t dry out. This will decrease the germination rate of your seed.
Mowing height should be set to 3½ inches or higher if possible. It’s called tall fescue for a reason. If fescue is cut too short, this stresses the grass out and causes poor performance. When turf is stressed, their ability to fight disease and weed pressure is greatly reduced. By keeping your mowing height at 3½ inches or higher, it minimizes disease and weed issues commonly found in fescue lawns.
By following these recommendations, you will set your lawn up for success this fall and the coming seasons.
For more information and detailed guidance on sowing fescue seed in the fall, visit: