Fescue seedlings at 3-4 weeks.
In Tulsa, we find that our lawn care customers are frequently confused about shade grass, fescue grass, bermudagrass... and just grass in general. Not surprising, considering that we are in a transition zone, according to the USDA hardiness zone map. Translation: It's really too cold here for bermuda, and it's really too hot for fescue. So, if you google the "care" of bermuda or fescue, you may not end up with the correct advice for the grass in our transition zone.
In climates farther south, bermuda stays green year round. In climates farther north, fescue grows in full sun. Here, we call fescue a "shade grass" because our temperatures are too hot for it to survive in full sun. Since the time to overseed fescue is coming right up (mid-September) here's what you need to know about the Life Cycle of Fescue, here in Tulsa:
FALL - Fescue is seeded mid-September through mid-October. Fall is the beginning of this cool season grass's growing season.
FALL/WINTER - The fescue gets plenty of sunlight, because the leaves are falling from the trees. It uses the sun to manufacture carbohydrates (through the process of photosynthesis) and stores them for later use, to help it get through the hot, shady summer ahead.
SPRING - The fescue looks great in the spring! Moderate temperatures and lots of sunshine have fescue looking its best!
SUMMER - The hot summer temperatures arrive, and the trees are fully leafed-out. It's too hot for the fescue, and it's not getting much sunlight. It needs watered lightly daily, just to cool it off, and also twice per week for a deep watering. Fescue needs as much leaf surface as possible to make food for itself. At this time, fescue needs to be mowed at a height of 3"-4". If it's mowed as short as bermuda, it will decline quickly.
LATE SUMMER - The hot temperatures continue, often accompanied by drought. Unless one is diligent in watering, the fescue doesn't look very good and is fading fast.
FALL - Cooler temperatures come with fall, but by now a lot of the fescue has thinned out or died in areas. Fescue does not spread like bermudagrass. It's time to overseed it and start another season!
Taking Care of Fescue - Important points to remember:
- Always let your lawn care company know if you are planning to seed. Pre-emergent weed control can be put down as early as January and as late as December. If you seed, you don't want pre-emergent weed control put down until your seed has germinated!
- Overseed your shade areas every fall.
- Choose a tall fescue "blend." Different types of tall fescue have different resistance to insects or diseases or drought, so if you have a problem, all your grass will not be affected in the same manner. Some blends may contain some bluegrass or rye. Check the "weed seed content" on the label, to be sure it's zero.
- Seed must be kept moist to germinate. Since a blend will contain different types of fescue or other grass, some of it may germinate more quickly than the rest. If you are seeding bare areas, cover the seed lightly with some peat moss so it doesn't wash away.
- Young seedlings must be kept moist (for about 3 weeks) or they will die. Water lightly daily.
- Fescue seedlings need sunlight, so keep the leaves blown off of them. If they can't get sun, they will starve to death. Don't use a rake, or you will pull up the new seedlings.
- During the heat of the summer, water lightly daily to cool it off. Also water deeply twice per week.
- Mow your fescue at a height of about 3". This is essential for its health!