Bermuda is the dominate turfgrass in our region. But, bermuda has disadvantages. The biggest being it requires 6-8 hours of direct sunlight to be thick and healthy. Second, it goes dormant in November and doesn’t green up until April, leaving you with a lifeless, straw-brown colored lawn for months.
Fescue is the alternative. Fescue tolerates more shade and stays green nearly year round. You can’t beat the deep rich color in the spring and fall. The turf is so soft under your feet. Mowing patterns are sharp. Most falls, Fescue stays green well into December and as soon as the winter starts to break in early March, the Fescue burst back to life.
Fescue, a cool season grass, is best established during September and October. With fall just around the corner, August is the best time to evaluate your lawn for the need to establish fescue or add more fescue.
Let’s take a minute to explore ways to use fescue in your lawn.
Fescue in the Shady Areas Only
This is the most traditional approach. Any place your lawn doesn’t receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight - under trees, on the northside of structures, and those narrow areas between houses and fences - are all prime areas for fescue. Often homeowners put effort into trimming trees in an attempt to get enough light to allow bermuda to grow. But, in most cases, tree trimming or thinning rarely solves the problem. The best solution is to overseed the areas with fescue in the fall. The negative to “fescue only in the shady areas” approach is a lawn mixed with green and dormant colors during the fall, winter and early spring.
Full Fescue Lawn
A common myth is fescue won’t grow in full sun. Fescue performs best in dappled shade to partial sun, does very well in full sun when maintained properly, and struggles the most in dense, heavy shade. A full fescue lawn is the best solution for the typical sized lawn with a few trees where caring for both cool season and warm season turf can be difficult.
There are two approaches to a full fescue lawn:
1. Managing Fescue Over Bermuda
With this approach fertilizing, weed control, mowing, aerating, and overseeding focuses on promoting the fescue and suppressing the bermuda. Fescue needs heavy fertilizer in the spring and fall, and none in the summer – the exact opposite of bermuda. Weed control herbicides designed for fescue and not bermuda are used resulting in bermuda suppression. Fescue responds well to being mowed taller, 3” to 3 ½”, while bermuda prefers a shorter height of 2” to 2 ½”. Aeration occurs in the fall, not early summer. And, overseeding with fescue in the fall keeps the fescue full and stresses the bermuda going into the winter.
The negative - You will still notice some bermuda in the lawn during July and August, but with deep, infrequent watering practices, the fescue will remain the dominate turf.
This is the method I prefer to use on my lawn.
2. Full Fescue Only
An aggressive approach to removing bemuda from the fescue is used. Because bermuda is the dominate turfgrass in our region it is difficult to have a completely bermuda free fescue lawn. If this is your goal, aggressive herbicide treatments in August followed by overseeding in September is required. The negative – Your lawn will look bad before it looks good. There will be a 4 to 6 week period between the first application and when the new fescue grows in. But you will notice substantially less bermuda the next growing season. You can expect to repeat this process every 2 to 3 years to keep bermuda eradicated.
I have used this process on my backyard on occasion with success.
As our environment continues to have more and more trees, fescue will become more and more a part of our landscape environment.
Whether you desire to have a full fescue lawn or just need to address the shady areas of your lawn, September through October is the best time to establish fescue from seed. As a cool season grass, it is much easier for newly established grass to survive the winter. Spring seeded fescue typically does not have enough of a root system to survive the summer.
VERY CRITICAL — Evaluation and decision to seed or not to seed this fall must be made before the first fall pre-emergent application is made in late August through September.
If you need help evaluating your need for fescue and would like to discuss your options, please give us a call (405)367-3873
Hall | Stewart