Keeping A Healthy Fescue Lawn

Cyndi Lauderdale

Horticulture Extension Agent

November 5, 2012

                                                Keeping a Healthy Fescue Lawn

 Wilson is considered in the “transition zone” for growing cool or warm season turf grass.  That means either can be grown here successfully if good management practices are considered.  While Wilson’s summers typically are too hot and dry for tall fescue to survive, fescue does do well in light shade and if you have an irrigation system.  If you are growing tall fescue here are some helpful hints to keep it growing successfully.

Aeration is very helpful especially if you have compacted or clay soils.  Aeration will stimulate root growth of established fescue.  A core aerator removes a core of soil from the lawn and deposits it on top which is preferred over a spike aerator.

Fescue lawns are considered the holiday turf grass.  Meaning during several holidays you need to be out doing something to your turf.  Fescue needs to be fertilized on Labor Day (September), Thanksgiving (November) and Valentine’s Day (February).  It is best to soil test at least every three years to determine the optimal lime and fertilizer requirements for your lawn.  Soil kits are available through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Wilson Co. Center, at the Wilson Ag. Center,1806 SW Goldsboro Street.  Take advantage of this free service!  In absence of a soil test NC State University recommends a turf-grade fertilizer such as 16-4-8.  Fertilization applications should be made in September and November with 1 pound Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and then again in February with 1/2 to 1 pound Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. 

Post-emergence annual weeds can be sprayed for November through March, such as henbit.  Post-emergence summer weeds, like crabgrass, can be treated from April until mid-June.  Perennial weeds like dandelions can be sprayed for October and November or April and May. 

You may be able to combine your fertilization with weed prevention by using a weed and feed product.  Just make sure it is safe on tall fescue and labeled for the weeds you want to kill.  Plus it needs to be applied at the correct time to fertilize and the correct time for weed control.  These two things sometimes do not occur at the same time.

Spraying weeds is not always the answer to a weedy yard.  Many weeds are a sign of other maintenance problems.  Examples include plantain grows in areas were the pH is too high (too much lime).  Annual blue grass is a sign of too high soil Nitrogen, therefore another excellent reason to soil test.

Irrigation helps reduce chances of grass decline or other pest problems.  Please remember the golden rule of irrigation, once your lawn is established, is to water deeply and less frequently.  You also need to know how much water your irrigation system puts out.  Use rain gauges to measure the water coming out of each Zone and adjust your irrigation timer accordingly. 

To learn more fescue or the proper herbicide to use contact the Wilson County Extension Master Gardener Garden Helpline on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 1-3 PM at 252-237-0113 or email wilsonemgv@hotmail.com.


TheWilsonBotanical Gardens,1806 SW Goldsboro Street, has turf grass demonstration plots.  Come see how different grasses grow.   

                                                Keeping a Healthy Fescue Lawn

Wilson is considered in the “transition zone” for growing cool or warm season turf grass.  That means either can be grown here successfully if good management practices are considered.  While Wilson’s summers typically are too hot and dry for tall fescue to survive, fescue does do well in light shade and if you have an irrigation system.  If you are growing tall fescue here are some helpful hints to keep it growing successfully.

Aeration is very helpful especially if you have compacted or clay soils.  Aeration will stimulate root growth of established fescue.  A core aerator removes a core of soil from the lawn and deposits it on top which is preferred over a spike aerator.

Fescue lawns are considered the holiday turf grass.  Meaning during several holidays you need to be out doing something to your turf.  Fescue needs to be fertilized on Labor Day (September), Thanksgiving (November) and Valentine’s Day (February).  It is best to soil test at least every three years to determine the optimal lime and fertilizer requirements for your lawn.  Soil kits are available through the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Wilson Co. Center, at the Wilson Ag. Center,1806 SW Goldsboro Street.  Take advantage of this free service!  In absence of a soil test NC State University recommends a turf-grade fertilizer such as 16-4-8.  Fertilization applications should be made in September and November with 1 pound Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet and then again in February with 1/2 to 1 pound Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. 

Post-emergence annual weeds can be sprayed for November through March, such as henbit.  Post-emergence summer weeds, like crabgrass, can be treated from April until mid-June.  Perennial weeds like dandelions can be sprayed for October and November or April and May. 

You may be able to combine your fertilization with weed prevention by using a weed and feed product.  Just make sure it is safe on tall fescue and labeled for the weeds you want to kill.  Plus it needs to be applied at the correct time to fertilize and the correct time for weed control.  These two things sometimes do not occur at the same time.

Spraying weeds is not always the answer to a weedy yard.  Many weeds are a sign of other maintenance problems.  Examples include plantain grows in areas were the pH is too high (too much lime).  Annual blue grass is a sign of too high soil Nitrogen, therefore another excellent reason to soil test.

Irrigation helps reduce chances of grass decline or other pest problems.  Please remember the golden rule of irrigation, once your lawn is established, is to water deeply and less frequently.  You also need to know how much water your irrigation system puts out.  Use rain gauges to measure the water coming out of each Zone and adjust your irrigation timer accordingly. 

To learn more fescue or the proper herbicide to use contact the Wilson County Extension Master Gardener Garden Helpline on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 1-3 PM at 252-237-0113 or email wilsonemgv@hotmail.com.


TheWilsonBotanical Gardens,1806 SW Goldsboro Street, has turf grass demonstration plots.  Come see how different grasses grow.

Written By

Linda CreechCounty Extension Secretary (252) 237-0112 Wilson County, North Carolina

Posted on Nov 5, 2012

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