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Fescue Grass 101: What It Is and How To Grow It

Author Icon Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/11/2024

Fescue is a family of cool-season turfgrasses with tolerance to heat, cold, and drought. The grass is a popular selection for homeowners in the northern part of the country but is also well-suited for areas that experience both warm and cool seasons.

Fescue’s deep roots are efficient in drawing nutrients out of your soil, and as a result, the grass typically requires less fertilizer and water than other cool-season grasses. We’ll identify some of the most popular types of fescue grass used in lawns and compare them to help you decide if fescue is right for your yard.

Pros and Cons of Fescue Grass

As with any turfgrass or ground cover, fescue offers benefits and drawbacks compared to other options.

Requires little to no winter maintenance
Withstands heavy wear and tear
Doesn’t require extensive dethatching
Susceptible to brown patches during hot and humid summer months
May require overseeding during summer months

Fescue Grass Basics

Fescue grass is a genus consisting of hundreds of seed varieties. However, the most common species used in yards are tall fescues and fine fescues.

Tall Fescue Grass

Tall fescue is a low-maintenance grass with a signature bunch-forming growth pattern that rarely requires dethatching. Many tall fescue lawns are Kentucky 31 fescue, a subtype that’s known for its coarse appearance. Tall fescue grass is used in high-traffic areas like baseball fields and commercial sites because it’s durable and shade-tolerant. This type of fescue has a deep root system that allows it to tolerate periods of no rain.

Fine Fescue Grass

Fine fescues have narrower, finer blades than tall fescues, and they are slightly less tolerant of wear and tear than tall fescue. However, they make up for it with superior drought tolerance and low need for fertilization. A blend of fine fescue seeds is sometimes used to create a low-mow lawn. The most common cultivars used in lawns are creeping red fescue, hard fescue, chewings fescue, and sheep fescue.

Creeping Red Fescue Grass

Creeping red fescue comes in slender and strong varietals, both of which tolerate low mowing height and resist weed growth very well. Often, creeping red fescue is mixed with other grass seeds to promote shade tolerance and reduce fertilization needs.

Hard Fescue Grass

Hard fescue is used in grass seed blends to decrease erosion and increase drought resistance. This fescue variant is most commonly used in golf course roughs and other sports turfs due to its low maintenance needs.

Chewings Fescue Grass

Chewings fescue is similar to tall fescue in that it grows in an upright fashion, but it has finer, thinner leaves. This type of fescue does well in the northern United States and Canada, and it is known for its drought resistance.

Sheep Fescue Grass

Sheep fescue grass improves soil conditions and is used to curtail erosion. It has a distinctive blue-green color and is very similar in characteristics to hard fescue.

Growing Your Fescue Grass

Although fescue lawns don’t require heavy maintenance, there are a few simple tasks you’ll need to complete in order to grow a healthy, full fescue lawn:

Planted fescue seeds need a few weeks to mature before being mowed. Once they are given time to grow, most fescue lawns can be mowed when the grass is at 4 inches. For best results, don’t cut off more than a third of the grass blade length at any one time, and don’t mow fescue during periods of extreme drought or high summer heat.
Fescue lawns thrive during the winter months as their thick blades typically ward off damaging weeds. However, during the summer months, you should keep an eye on your thinning lawn and regularly weed to ensure its health. Higher mowing heights and properly-applied slow-release fertilizer can help minimize weed growth.
Although fescue is heat- and drought-resistant, it does need a little extra water during the summer months. Each fescue lawn is unique, so make sure you keep an eye on yours to ensure it receives the proper amount of watering. Often, watering deeply but infrequently is the key—soak the first few inches of soil, but then wait until the grass begins to wilt or brown before watering again.
The best time to aerate a fescue lawn is during temperate fall or spring months when the grass is in its growth season. Dethatch first or use a core aeration machine to break up soil compaction. Fertilize your lawn after aeration to allow the fertilizer’s nutrients to penetrate the grass’ roots.

Seeing Results

It takes most fescue seeds 14 to 21 days to germinate and show signs of growth, though fine fescue tends to grow a bit quicker than tall fescue. Many factors affect the germination period, including the temperature, your soil’s oxygen level, and its watering schedule. Be patient with your fescue lawn, as it might require overseeding and a proper mowing for you to see a full, healthy lawn.

Using Professional Lawn Care Services

Hiring a lawn care professional is the ideal way to achieve a lush and healthy fescue lawn. With the expertise and skills of a lawn care provider, you can ensure that your lawn’s maintenance is handled, giving you a beautiful, green yard without the hassle. Investing in the tools, nutrients, and products required to care for your lawn can become costly, often making the best lawn care services a cost-effective option in the long run.

Best Lawn Care Company: TruGreen

With a variety of annual programs, a la carte services, and organic options, TruGreen is our recommended lawn care provider. The company provides each customer with a satisfaction guarantee and offers a mobile app for instant customer service. Additionally, the company offers pest control services in select locations.

FAQ About What Fescue Grass Is and How To Grow It

What is the best fertilizer for fescue?

High-nitrogen, low-phosphorus fertilizer applied in the late fall or early spring is ideal for most fescue varieties. It’s best to use a slow-releasing fertilizer to ensure your grass receives necessary nutrients over the course of a few months.

What does overwatered grass look like?

There are a few signs to look for when you suspect you’ve overwatered your lawn:

  • Spongy ground
  • Excessive weeds, thatch, or bugs
  • Yellow grass
  • Water runoff
  • Fungus growth

When is the best time to water fescue grass?

The best time to water fescue, and most grass types, is early in the morning. This prevents excessive evaporation while ensuring that your yard doesn’t stay wet for too long.

Our Rating Methodology

Our team backs up our lawn recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review lawn care plans and packages, navigate the provider website and speak with customer service representatives, request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plan options, additional benefits and customizability, availability, trustworthiness, and customer service to arrive at a final score out of 100.

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