Tall fescue – the cool season go-to lawn for much of Southern Australia – is a wonderful choice of grass for a wonderful amount of reasons.
For its hardiness, whether it be in the face of an extended drought, or coping with a heavy frost, there’s almost no better choice for the cooler climates of Australia than this unfussy, low maintenance lawn.
Low maintenance doesn’t mean no maintenance though, and while it can certainly survive in harsh conditions, you may need to give it a bit of a helping hand if you’re looking for it to thrive. Here are some general guidelines to help you get your patch of fescue to be the talk of your street.
Drought tolerance and generally minimal water requirements are key strengths of fescue, which means you want to be careful not to over-water. For the cooler climates of Australia where air and overnight moisture isn’t lacking, only the most infrequent watering should be required.
When over-watered, fescue can be prone to diseases that are fostered in the damp. If you’re in a humid area where the moisture is unavoidable, a preventative fungicide treatment may be in order.
In the case of an extended dry spell, if the grass isn’t watered it will go into a state of dormancy, ready to jump back into life when sufficient moisture returns. If you want your backyard to be green all year round, a timely water will avoid this, but it is reassuring to know the lawn itself is hard to actually kill off.
If you keep a steady lawn maintenance routine, you can easily keep your fescue at a nice green hue all year round. If you’re seeing some thinner patches, or are noticing a less dense sod, overseeding may be the answer. Overseeding should be done in autumn or spring. Thinning of the lawn can happen for a variety of different reasons, including insect damage, heat stress and disease.
Overseeding can be a great chance to inject some different life into your lawn. New varieties of fescue with different strengths are coming out every year, and may help keep your lawn looking healthy even when your original variety is struggling.
To overseed fescue:
- Mow your lawn as low as is advised for the variety
- Rake to remove cuttings and debris
- Aerate the patch
- Apply a new seed fertiliser
- Sow at the recommended overseeding rate (usually around 20g per square metre)
- Water to keep the lawn moist for 2-3 weeks while the seeds germinate
Again, being a hardy grass, you might look at your fescue lawn and think “it’s doing just fine without me.” And for the most part, you’d be correct. A mildly fertile soil is usually more than enough to get fescue up and healthy.
But like all grasses, to reach its full potential a little bit of help goes a long way. The addition of a good fertiliser will have you lawn looking the best it can look.
Fescue loves the taste of nitrogen, so giving it a healthy dose throughout the year will have it licking its leafy lips. Being a cool season grass, autumn is the best time to do the bulk of your fertilising, while it is wise to avoid sprinkling it on over summer.
The key is in the name when it comes to cutting back your tall fescue. Mowing to a blade height of 7-10cm is ideal, but can be lowered if your turf needs to survive a bit of knocking around on things like sports fields.
Mowing under 4-5cm will dry the grass’s sod out, particularly in warmer areas, and will cause the grass to thin out. It’s also advisable to uilise the visibility of the fresh mown grass to hunt for any potential problems, such as pests, disease and thinning.
It needs to be noted that the maintenance of your fescue grass will depend on the exact variety you have and the conditions in which it is growing. For any questions of concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your local McKays team.