What Is Tall Fescue?
Tall fescue is a hardy annual grass with long growing season. It grows up to 8 feet high and 6 feet wide. Its dense growth makes it difficult to control, but its resistance to frost makes it ideal for lawns where temperatures drop below freezing during winter months. Tall fescue requires little water or fertilizer and can withstand extreme heat and cold conditions without becoming dormant. Tall fescue’s fine texture allows it to absorb moisture from the air, which keeps it alive through drought years. Tall fescue is one of the most popular lawn grasses because of its versatility and ability to grow in almost any climate.
How To Grow Tall Fescue Grass In Your Lawn
Growing tall fescue in your yard takes time and patience. You will need to provide the right amount of sunlight and water so that it thrives.
The soil must be well drained, as too much rainfall could cause the plants to wilt. If you have ever wondered how tall fescue grass gets its name, then read on!
The first step is to determine what kind of tall fescue you want to plant in your lawn. There are three different types of tall fescue: Hard, Soft and Durafescue.
Each type has a slightly different texture and appearance. The second step is to till the soil and remove the weeds in your yard. The last thing you want is to introduce competing weeds into the mix.
The third step is to spread the seeds evenly over the surface of your lawn. Most packages include a manual on recommended seeding rates.
If not, there are formulas you can use to determine how many pounds per thousand square feet you need. The last step is to keep the soil moist and well-watered so that the seeds can sprout. Most grasses need between 2 and 4 weeks before they sprout.
After the tall fescue grows to be around 8 inches in height, you will want to start mowing it using a lawn mower with sharp blades. This keeps the grass from growing too long, which makes it hard to cut and maintain its appearance.
Tall fescue requires consistent water, fertilizer and sunlight in order to thrive. Maintain healthy growth with proper lawn care.
How Tall Fescue Grass Spreads
Tall fescue spreads through the use of seed. The wind picks up the seeds and drops them some distance away from the original plant.
The grass has wind dispersal seeds, which helps it grow in many different environments. When you see tall fescue in a field that wasn’t there before, there’s a good chance the wind played a role in its appearance.
Tall Fescue Growing Zones
Tall fescue can be found just about anywhere that allows grass to grow. It’s considered an invasive species because it grows with such vigor.
Wherever you find it, you’ll notice that it grows right up to the top of the field. Tall fescue seed has no trouble growing in any environment.
Tall Fescue Salt Tolerance
For whatever reason, tall fescue seems to be able to grow in areas with high levels of salt. A good example of this is the proximity of the ocean.
Salt is spread on icy roads in the winter to make it safer to drive. The salt makes its way into the streams and oceans, which is why many marine animals die as a result. Somehow, though, tall fescue grass manages to survive in these harsh conditions.
Tall Fescue Shade Tolerance
Grasses can grow in the shade, but they don’t necessarily thrive in those conditions. If you have tree coverage in your yard, then you probably won’t see tall fescue grass growing there.
On the other hand, if your backyard has no trees at all, then it’s likely that you’ll see tall fescue popping up everywhere. It doesn’t seem to matter if there’s a lot of sunlight or not.
Tall Fescue Snow Tolerance
Snow doesn’t typically kill grass, but it does make it difficult for the grass to receive the sunlight that it needs to grow. Tall fescue is able to survive winters with heavy snowfall.
It might even grow better in those conditions since it traps the heat from the sun and prevents it from dissipating into the air.
Tall Fescue Sunlight Needs
Tall fescue grass needs at least six hours of sunlight in order to grow and thrive. If it doesn’t receive enough sunlight, then it will eventually turn brown and die.
Tall fescue grows best in open fields that have been recently cleared of trees. The sun’s rays can hit the grass directly and provide it with the energy it needs in order to grow.
Tall Fescue Heat Tolerance
Tall fescue grass can survive in temperatures that exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s actually more susceptible to cold climates than it is to excessively hot ones.
Tall fescue has a very deep root system that allows it to get water from underground lakes and rivers, even in areas that don’t receive much rain.
Tall Fescue Cold Tolerance
You’ll normally see tall fescue in areas that receive very little rainfall. It can also survive in harsh winter conditions, with snow reaching up to the top of its blades.
Tall fescue grass is able to survive in cold climates because it grows very thick and has a waxy exterior that protects it from the cold.
Tall Fescue Light Requirements
In order for tall fescue grass to grow, it needs at least six hours of sunlight each day. Tall fescue can grow in full sun or in partial shade, but it cannot survive in darkness.
It has a deeper root system than most other types of grass, which allows it to access water that is stored in the earth. Tall fescue can survive in areas that don’t receive much precipitation.
Tall Fescue Growth Rate
Tall fescue grows at a medium rate. It takes about a month for new tall fescue seedlings to grow to maturity.
Most homeowners plant tall fescue grass in the spring and the seed will usually start to grow right away, as long as the soil is prepared ahead of time.
Tall Fescue vs. Kentucky Bluegrass
Tall fescue grass is often mistaken for Kentucky bluegrass. Although the two plants look similar, they actually require different types of maintenance.
Tall fescue grows well in almost all climates and can survive in areas that don’t receive much rain. The roots grow very deep, which prevents the plant from being pulled up out of the ground.
Tall fescue does best in sunny areas. The plant will start to turn brown if it doesn’t receive enough light.
Tall fescue can grow in shaded areas, but it won’t turn its signature green color. Kentucky bluegrass is a type of grass that requires at least three hours of sunlight each day in order to grow effectively.
Tall Fescue Water Requirements
The water needs of tall fescue grass are low. It only requires about 1 inch of water each week in order to grow effectively.
Tall fescue does best in moist soil, but it can still grow in soils that are constantly dry. Tall fescue also grows best in areas that don’t have standing water. The grass can’t survive in a damp environment for long periods of time.
Tall Fescue Mowing
If you’re thinking about planting tall fescue grass, you’ll probably need to do some maintenance with your lawn mower. Tall fescue blades are very sturdy and grow up to 3 feet in length.
Most homeowners use a regular push mower to cut the tall fescue grass. It grows so rapidly that it’s important to mow your lawn twice a week.
If you want to make your tall fescue grass grow taller, you should raise the height of your lawn mower. This will cause the blades to only trim the top portion of the grass, allowing it to grow longer.
Raising the height of your lawn mower will also help the tall fescue grass to cast a shade over your sidewalk or driveway, which will prevent the areas from becoming too hot.
Tall Fescue Diseases
Tall fescue grass is susceptible to a few different types of fungal diseases. Brown patch is one such disease, which causes irregular brown patches to develop on the blades of grass.
A second disease is known as purple dead spot. This disease causes irregular purple spots to form on the blades of grass. Both of these diseases can be treated with fungicides.
Tall Fescue Insect Pests
If you have tall fescue grass in your backyard, it’s important to keep an eye out for certain insects that feed off of tall fescue. These pests include billbugs, chinch bugs and army worms.
Billbugs are dark in color and have a yellow head with a brown bulbous body. They develop underneath the soil and come out at night to eat. Chinch bugs are small and oval-shaped. They also come out at night to eat and are a yellowish-tan color. Last but not least, army worms are white caterpillars with black spots that travel in groups and eat tall fescue plants as they go.
Tall Fescue Uses
It’s not just a backyard annoyance– tall fescue grass is used for various purposes. Due to the grass’s sturdiness, it’s often used in pastures to feed livestock.
It’s also used in golf courses.
Additionally, tall fescue seeds are edible and can be ground into flour.
Tall Fescue Summary
Tall fescue is a durable grass that grows rapidly. It’s great for pastures and golf courses, but not so great for backyard lawns!
You can use many strategies to help get rid of your tall fescue problem. You can choose to start over and plant new grass seeds, or you can treat the tall fescue with certain pesticides.
Whatever method you choose, it’ll take some time and patience to get rid of the pesky grass. Good luck on your tall fescue removal!
Sources & references used in this article:
Occurrence of peptide and clavine ergot alkaloids in tall fescue grass by PC Lyons, RD Plattner, CW Bacon – Science, 1986 – science.sciencemag.org
Toxicity of tall fescue forage: A review by SG Yates – Economic Botany, 1962 – JSTOR
The future of tall fescue by AA Hanson – Tall fescue, 1979 – Wiley Online Library
Indole acetic acid production by the fungal endophyte of tall fescue by JP De Battista, CW Bacon, R Severson… – Agronomy …, 1990 – Wiley Online Library
Toxic alkaloids associated with tall fescue toxicosis by RW Hemken, LP Bush – Toxicants of plant origin, 1989 – books.google.com
Toxic factors in tall fescue by RW Hemken, JA Jackson Jr… – Journal of animal …, 1984 – academic.oup.com