Turf ALERTS Sign Up

Share
Find TurfFiles on Facebook Follow TurfFiles on Twitter Follow TurfFiles on Google+
Rounds 4 Research: Bid for foursomes and golf packages at first-class courses across North and South Carolina. Proceeds benefit turfgrass research programs at North Carolina State University and Clemson University.
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences - NC State University
Turfgrass Council of North Carolina The North Carolina Turfgrass Research & Education Foundation (NCTF)
North Carolina Sports Turf Association
North Carolina Sod Producers Association

Tall Fescue Lawn Maintenance Calendar (AG-367)

Article contains terms, results, and products that are targeted to home owners. Article contains terms, results, and products that are targeted to turf professionals.
Art Bruneau
Feb 22, 2001
Printable PDF
(111.6 kB)

Tall Fescue

 

March through May
June through August
September through November
December through February
Grasscycling
Integrated Pest Management
Calculating Fertilizer Application Rates
Disclaimer


Home Lawn Calendar


Tall fescue is a moderate-to-coarse-bladed, heavy-duty grass that tolerates a wide range of soil and shade conditions and has good heat, drought, and wear tolerance. Tall fescue has few serious pest problems but is subject to brown patch disease under warm, wet conditions. Tall fescue grows rapidly and requires frequent mowing but does not tolerate a close cut. It is a bunchgrass that does not recover well from injury and thus must be reseeded if bare areas appear. New cultivars referred to as "turf-type" tall fescues have been developed. These cultivars are more shade tolerant and finer leaved than standard K-31 variety. Maintenance programs provided by professional lawn care companies may differ from recommendations given here but yet be equally effective.


March through May


Mowing

Mow lawn to 3 inches in height. Mow at least once a week. Mow before grass gets above 5 inches tall. Then practice grasscycling. Grasscycling is simply leaving grass clippings on your lawn. Grass clippings decompose quickly and can provide up to 25 percent of the lawn's fertilizer needs. If prolonged rain or other factors prevent frequent mowing and clippings are too plentiful to leave on the lawn, they can be collected and used as mulch. Whatever you do, don't bag them! Grass clippings do not belong in landfills.


Fertilization

DO NOT fertilize tall fescue after March 15.


Irrigation

Tall fescue needs 1 to 1 1/4 inches of water every week, ideally NOT all at once. A dark bluish-gray color, footprinting, and wilted, folded, or curled leaves indicate that it is time to water. Water until the soil is wet to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Use a screwdriver or similar implement to check. Sandy soils require more frequent watering (about 1/2 inch of water every third day). Because clay soils accept water slowly, irrigate just until runoff occurs, wait until the water has been absorbed, and begin watering again. Continue until the desired depth or amount is applied. Proper irrigation may prevent or reduce problems later in the summer. Watering between 2 and 8 a.m. decreases the incidence of certain diseases.


Weed Control

Apply preemergence herbicides to control crabgrass, goosegrass, and foxtail. Apply by the time the dogwoods are in bloom. See Pest Control for Professional Turfgrass Managers, AG-408.


Insect Control

Check for and control white grubs in April and May. (See White Grubs in Turf, ENT/ORT-67, AG-366).


Aeration Delay aeration until fall.


Thatch

It is generally not necessary to remove thatch.

Return to Main Index

June through August


Mowing

Raise mower height to 3 1/2 inches. Mow before the grass gets above 5 inches tall. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.


Fertilization

DO NOT fertilize tall fescue at this time. Submit a soil sample for analysis to determine nutrient requirements. (Contact your county Extension Center for details.)


Irrigation

Either water as needed to prevent drought or allow the lawn to go dormant. About 1 inch of water per application each week is adequate for irrigated lawns. Sandy soils often require more frequent watering, or about 1/2 inch of water every third day. Do not discontinue irrigation in midsummer. Water dormant lawns every three weeks in the absence of rain.


Weed Control

Avoid the use of herbicides at this time. See Pest Control for Professional Turfgrass Managers, AG-408.


Insect Control

Check for and control white grubs in July and August.


Disease Control

Check for brown patch disease. (See Diseases of Cool-Season Grasses, AG-361.)


Aeration

Avoid coring tall fescue lawns at this time.


Renovation

Western Region Only! (See September-November for Piedmont and Coastal Plain regions.) Overseed thin, bare areas as grass begins to respond to cooler temperatures; about August 15 to September 1. Use a blend of tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds per thousand square feet. Apply a starter-type fertilizer at the time of seeding. Keep the seedbed moist with light, frequent sprinklings several times a day to ensure good germination.


Thatch

It is not necessary to remove thatch.

Return to Main Index

September through November


Mowing

Mow to 2 1/2 to 3 inches in height. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.


Fertilization

The best way to determine your lawn's nutrient needs is by a soil test. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture, Agronomic Division, provides free soil testing. In the absence of a soil test, use a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (that is, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8). Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen (N) per thousand square feet in mid-September and again in November (about the time the grass is green but not actively growing).* (* leads to fertilizer application rate sample calculation)


Irrigation

Water following guidelines for March through May.


Weed Control

Apply broadleaf herbicides to control dandelions and other weeds if necessary. Caution: Some herbicides may affect newly seeded turf. Follow label directions. See Pest Control for Professional Turfgrass Managers, AG-408.


Insect Control

Check for white grubs in September and October; fall is the ideal time to control white grubs. (See White Grubs in Turf, ENT/ORT-67, AG-366.)


Aerification

Core lawns subject to heavy traffic or on clay soils to minimize compaction and improve rooting. Break up plugs.


Renovation

Piedmont and Coastal Plain Regions Only! (See June-August for western region.) Overseed thin, bare areas as grass begins to respond to cooler temperatures in September and early October. Use a blend of tall fescue cultivars at 6 pounds per thousand square feet. Apply a starter-type (high phosphorus) fertilizer at time of seeding. Keep the seedbed moist with light, frequent sprinklings several times a day to ensure good germination.


Thatch Removal

It is not necessary to remove thatch.


Return to Main Index

December through February


Mowing

Remove lawn debris (rocks, sticks, and leaves). Mow lawn at 3 inches and remove clipping debris at spring greenup. Mow before grass gets taller than 5 inches. Remember grasscycling and leave clippings on the lawn.


Fertilization

Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per thousand square feet in February. * (Click here for sample calculations) In absence of soil test results, use a complete (N-P-K) turf-grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio.


Irrigation

Water, if needed, to prevent excessive drying. About 1 inch of water per application each week is adequate.


Weed Control

Apply broadleaf herbicides as necessary for control of chickweed, henbit, or other weeds. See Pest Control for Professional Turfgrass Managers, AG-408.


Aerification

Delay coring until fall.


Thatch Removal

It is not necessary to remove thatch.


Return to Main Index

* Calculating Fertilizer Application Rates


To determine the amount of product required to apply 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet, divide 100 by the first number an the fertilizer bag.


Example 1:

A 16-4-8 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 16 = 6.25 (100/16 = 6.25) pounds of product applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.


Example 2:

A 10-10-10 fertilizer. Dividing 100 by 10 = 10 (100/10 = 10) pounds of product to be applied per thousand square feet to deliver 1 pound of nitrogen.

Return to Main Index

GRASSCYCLING...
an ecologically and financially sound program for your lawn.


Facts About Grass Clippings

  • North Carolina state law prohibits disposal of yard wastes, including grass clippings, in landfills.
  • Using grass clippings as a nutrient source for your lawn can save time and money and protect the environment.
  • Grass clippings don't cause thatch.

The Grasscycling Concept

Leave grass clippings on the lawn! Grass clippings are 75 to 85 percent water and a good source of nutrients. When left on the lawn after mowing they quickly decompose and release nutrients. Through grasscycling, you can supply up to 25 percent of the lawn's yearly fertilizer needs, which means saving money and time. (And it means you do not have to rake and bag for hours.)


By following the management guidelines in this turf calendar and adding grasscycling to your routine, you will no longer need to bag clippings and your lawn will grow at an acceptable rate, retain a green color, ands develop a deeper root system.


For more information on grasscycling, contact your county Cooperative Extension Center.

Return to Main Index

Integrated Pest Management: The Sensible Approach to Lawn Care


Many pest problems can cause your turf to look bad --diseases, weeds, insects, and animals. If you are really unlucky, you may have all of them at one time.


So what do you do? Use a pesticide? Or make changes in cultural practices? Both methods, and some others as well, may be needed. The balanced use of all available methods is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).


The idea is simple. It involves the use of all available prevention and control methods to keep pests from reaching damaging levels. The goal is to produce a good turf and minimize the influence of pesticides on man, the environment, and turf.


IPM methods include:

  1. Use of best adapted grasses.
  2. Proper use of cultural practices such as watering, mowing, and fertilization
  3. Proper selection and use of pesticides when necessary.

Early detection and prevention, or both, will minimize pest damage, saving time, effort, and money. Should a problem occur, determine the cause or causes, then choose the safest, most effective control or controls available.


When chemical control is necessary, select the proper pesticide, follow label directions, and apply when the pest is susceptible. Treat only those areas in need. Regard pesticides as only one of many tools available for turf care.


To learn more about integrated pest management, pest identification, turf care, and proper use of pesticides, contact your county Cooperative Extension Center.

Return to Main Index

DISCLAIMER: Recommendations for the use of agricultural chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use agricultural chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage regulations and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service agent.


Prepared by: Arthur H. Bruneau, Crop Science Extension Specialist, Turfgrass

Fred H. Yelverton, Extension Crop Science Specialist, Weed Management

Charles H. Peacock, Turfgrass Research and Teaching

Henry C. Wetzel, Extension Plant Pathology Specialist, Turfgrass

Rick L. Brandenburg, Extension Entomologist

Cale A. Bigelow, Extension Associate, Turfgrass

 

Published by North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service

Publication Number: AG-367 Revised: December 2000
This Electronic Version: Sept, 2007

 

This publication is available on the TurfFiles Web site at http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/.

KEYWORDS FOUND IN THIS ARTICLE:
aeration
grasscycling
lawn maintenance
thatch
brown patch
grub
management
turfgrass maintenance
chickweed
henbit
mowing
turfgrass management
cool season
herbicide
nitrogen
turfgrass weed control
cultivar
insect control
pesticide
watering
drought
irrigation
seeding
weed control
fertilizer
large patch
take all patch
weed management
fescue
lawn care
tall fescue
white grubs
goosegrass
TurfFiles Logo Copyright © 2000-2017 North Carolina State University. All Rights Reserved.
TurfFiles Logo TurfFiles is funded by the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research & Education (CENTERE) through public and private grants.