Tips for Seed­ing Fes­cue Lawns

Calhoun Times - - RELIGION -

To­day, I would like to share in­for­ma­tion on seed­ing fes­cue lawns. For decades, fes­cue has been a pop­u­lar lawn grass in our area. Our sum­mer grasses are very pop­u­lar, but many peo­ple like the abil­ity of the cool sea­son fes­cue to stay green the ma­jor­ity of the year. Many peo­ple like see­ing a green lawn as com­pared to when the warm sea­son grasses are dor­mant and brown. I will be shar­ing in­for­ma­tion from a UGA fact sheet by Dr. Clint Waltz and Dr. Gil Landry, UGA Tur­f­grass Spe­cial­ists.

For decades, Ken­tucky 31 was the fes­cue used by home­own­ers. In fact, we used Ken­tucky 31 in our lawns as well as pas­tures and hay­fields. The in­tro­duc­tion of more turf-type fes­cue cul­ti­vars have helped the use of fes­cues in lawns. The turftype fes­cues are im­proved fes­cues be­cause they are darker green in color, have finer leaf blades, lower growth habits, more den­sity and do better in shade as com­pared to Ken­tucky 31. Plus our in­for­ma­tion states that these newer cul­ti­vars have more ex­ten­sive roots sys­tems and more drought tol­er­ance. You can still plant Ken­tucky 31 in your lawn, but the im­proved turf-type fes­cues on the mar­ket may be a better op­tion.

The big­gest mis­take made by many home­own­ers is plant­ing fes­cue at the wrong time of year thus get­ting a very low es­tab­lish­ment per­cent­age. The best time to plant fes­cue is in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber. To get more ex­act, the mid­dle of Septem­ber to the mid­dle of Oc­to­ber may be more ideal. If you plant ear­lier, fes­cue can get ham­mered by heat stress and dis­ease is­sues. If you wait later, you can set the grass up for cold dam­age. I will add that seed­ing in De­cem­ber and early spring is gen­er­ally not rec­om­mended. I have seen many clients over the years come in dis­ap­pointed that their spring plant­ing of fes­cue did not work out. The grass may ger­mi­nate and come up pretty and green, but the fes­cue does not get a root sys­tem es­tab­lished prior to sum­mer. This ten­der fes­cue can­not han­dle the sum­mer heat. This is why we sug­gest plant­ing in the fall and giv­ing the fes­cue fall, win­ter and early spring to get a root sys­tem es­tab­lished be­fore hot weather ar­rives in sum­mer.

Our in­for­ma­tion states that dur­ing sum­mer months, the canopy of fes­cue can thin and thus be more open. This is a sur­vival tech­nique to help han­dle heat stress. The thin­ning can make the grass less com­pet­i­tive and al­lows the sum­mer an­nual weeds to get go­ing in these spots. Preemer­gence her­bi­cides can help re­duce weed pres­sure.

Re­search shows that these her­bi­cides pose less risk on fes­cue that was planted in Septem­ber/ Oc­to­ber, com­pared to fes­cue planted later in the fall such as Novem­ber and treated in Fe­bru­ary of the fol­low­ing year. Again, im­por­tant to plant at the best time of year for fes­cue in re­gards to her­bi­cide use, too.

As a young agent, it was drilled in my head the im­por­tance of good seed to soil con­tact. Proper soil prepa­ra­tion is very im­por­tant in seed es­tab­lish­ment. Get­ting rid of de­bris, till­ing the area, in­cor­po­rat­ing lime and fer­til­izer and smooth­ing the area are all tips prior to plant­ing seed­ing. You can add or­ganic mat­ter or top­soil and till into the ex­ist­ing soil. Af­ter ini­tial prep work and the area is lev­eled out, col­lect a prop­erly taken soil sam­ple to get cor­rect fer­til­izer and lim­ing rec­om­men­da­tions. You will then in­cor­po­rate the starter fer­til­iza­tion and lime 3-4 inches into the soil prior to plant­ing. Waltz and Landry state if your equip­ment will al­low, till­ing deeper is al­ways better.

Make sure you are plant­ing cer­ti­fied seed. This seed has been tested and the in­for­ma­tion on the tag is bound by law. If buy­ing on the re­tail mar­ket, many of the tallfes­cue seed is avail­able as a blend of sev­eral cul­ti­vars. You can buy sin­gle cul­ti­vars, but they may be more ex­pen­sive. The ideal seed­ing rate for fes­cue is 5 pounds per 1000 square feet. It is better to di­vide into two equal por­tions and broad­cast half in one di­rec­tion and the other half at a right an­gle to the first di­rec­tion. Lightly rake the seed into the up­per ¼ inch of soil and press the seedbed with a roller. Straw can then be used to help con­serve soil mois­ture and cut down on ero­sion. Next week, we will con­tinue with tips on seed­ing fes­cue in home lawns.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact UGA Ex­ten­sionGor­don County at 706-6298685 or email gbow­man@ uga.edu.

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