Plant fescue lawns now

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2012

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY – Now is the best time to renovate or replant cool season fescue or fescue blend lawns. It seems like an annual event for some, especially with unseasonable summer heat earlier this summer taking its toll.
Granted, there’s not much we can do about the weather, but homeowners can reduce some of the problems by implementing a few basic lawn care steps.
Core-aerate your lawn or till bare areas to establish a good seed bed to incorporate seed and fertilizer. Coring only needs to be done every two years. Avoid core-aeration in the spring. It kills emerging fescue seedlings and promotes spring weed growth.
Measure your lawn area. It is impossible to determine how much seed, fertilizer or water to use if you don’t have a grasp of the size of the lawn area you’re trying to maintain.
You can add lime, fertilize and seed all at the same time. There’s no need to wait days afterwards to seed.
Seed your fescue lawn at 7 pounds per 1,000 square feet for new lawns or bare areas. Use 3 pounds for over-seeding thin lawn areas.
Fertilize your lawn now with pre-measured turf fertilizers or grade type fertilizers. Turf fertilizers are generally premeasured in 5,000 and 10,000 square footage bags.
Fescue lawns grow best with 2 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in the fall and one pound of actual nitrogen in the spring. Grade fertilizers such as 10-10-10 or 17-17-17 quickly release nutrients with rapid growth occurring soon after fertilization. Because rapid turf growth is short-lived, it’s best to split applications and apply only a portion at a time.
Use clean wheat straw as mulch over the bare areas. Using just enough straw to cover the soil works best with new plantings. You should be able to see the soil beneath the straw mulch.
Irrigate newly seeded fescue lawns at least 2 inches a week to initiate germination and promote active growth. Shallow watering or over-watering can be a problem. Irrigate early in the morning as watering at night aggravates fungal disease problems.
Mow newly emerging fescue turf at three and a half inches or higher. Dull blades can make beautiful lawns ugly and sharp blades can make a fair lawn look great. Blades need to be sharpened about once or twice a month for clean cuts.
Be patient but persistent with your lawn maintenance program. It takes time to develop into thick and healthy fescue lawns. Consistency is very important.
Darrell Blackwelder, County Extension Director, Rowan County Center, 704-216-8970.