Preparing for Fall-Tall Fescue Management

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Tall Fescue

As the days keep creeping toward September landscapers and homeowners should be preparing themselves for cool-season grass management. Timing and preparation are half the battle when it comes to building a beautiful stand of turf. Tall Fescue is a popular choice of cool-season grass here in the Piedmont with qualities such as heat, drought, and disease resistance. Tall Fescue is an ideal choice for a green lawn year-round, however, excessive summer stress can create patches and thin spots within a yard.

Establishing New Tall Fescue Lawns

  • Obtain a Soil Test (Contact our office to pick up boxes and forms)                                                        (704-922-0301).
  • Incorporate soil reports recommended amount of lime and fertilizer into top 6-8 inches of soil (using a tiller).
  • Rake until grade is level and smooth (small soil particles are desirable).
  • Choose your seed, check your bag for what varsities it includes (a blend of varieties is recommended). Find a brand of seed with at least 50% of the contents consists of NC State University’s high-performing cultivars.
  • Seed pure Tall Fescue seed at 6 lb/1000 sq ft. For Kentucky Bluegrass/ Tall Fescue blends seed 5 lbs of Tall Fescue and 1 lb of Kentucky Bluegrass/1000 sq ft. Use a rotary spreader to distribute seed uniformly.
  • Cover the seed by hand raking or dragging with a mat or span of chain-link fence, then roll the soil to ensure seed to soil contact. To combat erosion and hold in moisture utilize a weed-free grain straw to cover soil ( 1-2 bales per 1000 sq ft.).
  • Lightly water in your seeded lawn and continue a light watering two or three times a day for 7 to 21 days. As the seedlings grow and root, water less often but for longer periods.

Established Tall Fescue Lawns

  • Soil should be tested every two to three years (contact 704-922-0301 for box and form pick up).
  • Fertilize based on soil test recommendations. If you opt not to test, apply 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). Apply in mid-September at 1 lb Nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Make a repeat application in November.
  • Tall Fescue lawns should receive 1 to 114 inches of water a week. Supplement water if rainfall is not adequate. Ideal times for irrigation are between 2 a.m. to 8 a.m.
  • Fall is the ideal time to aerate a Tall Fescue Lawn on clay soil. Remove and break up plugs and return the soil to the lawn.
  • Overseed thin or bare areas in early September following seeding instruction above for establishing new lawns.
  • Mow Tall Fescue lawns to 212 to 3 inches in height.

Helpful Resources

Tall Fescue Lawn Maintenance Calendar 

Carolina Lawns: A Guide to Maintaining Quality Turf in the Landscape

Soil Testing for Lawns and Garden

N.C. Cooperative Extension of Gaston County is happy to help answer any turf questions you may have.

Call-704-922-2119 or email

Fescue turf