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What is Fescue Grass?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Fescue grass is a large group of grasses which contains hundreds of species. These grasses are native to Europe, and they have been widely exported all over the world for use in grazing pastures and ornamental landscaping. They are famous for being very durable and drought resistant, and they are popular in a range of climates and areas of the world.

Classically, fescue grass is sold in the form of seed which must be scattered, although it is also available in the form of grass plugs or sod. This grass tolerates lots of soil types, and it can handle shade as well as sun exposure. Like other grasses, fescue does best when it has ample water, but it can survive drought periods, and it likes to be fertilized in the late spring and fall with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer which will promote healthy growth.

Most of the fescue grasses in use are tall grasses. These grasses like to be kept at a moderate length of around two inches (five centimeters). They tend to have a coarse growth, and they will eventually mat to choke out weeds. Tall fescue grass also puts down strong, deep roots, which makes it an excellent candidate for erosion control. Some special varieties of fescue include creeping fescue, with a lower growth habit, along with blue fescue, red fescue, and hard fescue grass.

Seed mixes for lawns often contain fescue, and fescue grass seed can also be purchased alone, without any other grasses. Gardeners who have difficulty starting grasses from seed might consider fescue sod, which has been grown and cultured in a nursery. Laying sod can be challenging, but it has the benefit of immediately covering an area, rather than taking several weeks to develop, as happens with seed.

These grasses prefer temperate climates. They go dormant in extremely hot or cold temperatures, making it important to plant fescue grass in the most mild parts of the spring and fall so that the grass has time to establish itself without becoming damaged. Dormancy can cause a fescue planting to look a bit unsightly, but it will eventually recover with support in the form of fertilizer and watering.

Fescue grass can be allowed to grow without mowing, for people who like a more wild look or who are using the grass for pasturing. If a fescue lawn is left unmowed, a strip should be kept trimmed around structures, or material like gravel should be laid down to create a buffer so that long grass will not increase the risk of fire or harbor moisture which could cause structural damage. Long lawns will also need to be cut down as the grass dies off so that the new growth has room.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By medicchristy — On Jul 27, 2010

@alex94: We have fescue grass and we tilled the area first. Early fall is the best time to plant fescue. Once you have finished tilling, level the ground by raking it. Remove any hills or holes.

It’s time to plant the seeds. You can do it by hand but it is much easier to use a lawn seeder. There are some very inexpensive models that you can buy. This ensures that the seed is planted evenly.

Once the seeds are sowed, rake over the seeded area so that the seeds are lightly covered. An ideal covering is ¼ inch.

Water the area daily until it starts germinating. If it rains, you don’t need to re-water. Add fertilizer at different intervals throughout the growing season.

By christym — On Jul 27, 2010

@alex94: It depends on if you are overseeding your lawn or if you are starting from scratch. If you are overseeding (planting grass where there is already grass), you need to till up your lawn. That ensures that no weeds and grasses are living in the area where you are going to plant. If you don’t till, there is competition between the existing grass and the new grass for sunlight and nutrients.

If you have newly established or bare soil, straw (wheat straw is best) is used to reduce moisture evaporation rates and to prevent erosion of newly planted areas. If you are adding fescue seeds to existing fescue lawns, it is not necessary to use straw.

By alex94 — On Jul 27, 2010

We are going to be planting grass seed soon and my husband loves fescue grass. Is it hard to grow? Do you plant it like you would regular grass?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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