5 Steps to Confidently Care for Fescue Lawn in Oklahoma

Brendon Willis
Fescue grass closeup

Have or Want Fescue Grass? Here’s How To Care For A Fescue Lawn in Oklahoma

Fescue isn’t just for million dollar homes and commercial landscaping. It can actually be grown in most places in Oklahoma as long as good lawn management practices are performed. Sure, it’s trickier than Bermuda grass – but a healthy fescue lawn is within reach for many lawn enthusiasts.

  1. About fescue grass lawns
  2. Establishing a fescue lawn
  3. Watering a fescue lawn
  4. Mowing a fescue lawn
  5. Fertilizing a fescue lawn
  6. Controlling weeds in fescue lawn

About Fescue Grass Lawns

  • Great for areas with up to 75% shade.
  • Needs more water than Bermuda
  • Best kept taller and is darker green than Bermuda
  • Beautiful “classic” grass look
  • High risk of disease when it stays too wet in May, June, July, and August
  • Needs to be re-seeded occasionally to remain thick

How to Confidently Establish a Fescue Lawn in Oklahoma

The best time to establish a fescue lawn in Oklahoma is in the fall with September 15th being the “rule of thumb” day for planting fescue. But, usually anytime between September 10th and 30th is a good time. The second best time is spring – early to mid March. However, often fescue lawns seeded in the spring are not able to mature enough to make it through the Oklahoma summer.

You can easily establish a fescue lawn by sod, though it is much more expensive and can be quite labor intensive.

Growing a fescue lawn from seed isn’t too bad, it just requires patience. Be sure to start out with a lawn that has been completely killed off if a different grass or weeds were there before. You can grow a fescue lawn by simple throwing the seed down on the soil, but it will work much better if you loosen up the ground first – especially if you’re seeding bare ground.

Typically for a completely new start you’ll want to use 10 to 15 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn area.

If you are simply trying to thicken up an already-established fescue lawn you can use 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet and the lawn will thicken up nicely.

Be sure to water the lawn very gently but 3-4 times per day for the first 2-3 weeks. The key here is for the seed and soil to stay moist, but not water logged. If the seed dries out before it has a chance to establish roots (2-3 weeks), it can be very detrimental to the results of the overseeding.

After 3 weeks or so, the lawn should have a general green look to it. At this time, re-seed any areas that are still brown or thin. Continue to water once per day for another few weeks until reducing to once per week or so in the fall and winter.

How to Correctly Water a Fescue Lawn in Oklahoma

For an established lawn, you’ll want to water it enough to reach a 4-6″ soil depth. This works out to watering about 1″ weekly in the cooler months and 2″ weekly in hotter months, depending on the amount of rainfall, wind, and soil type. With sandier soils, more water will be needed than with clay soils.

How Long to Water Fescue

The best rule of thumb is to not water when the soil is already “wet” – slightly damp is acceptable, but it’s best to water grass when the soil is beginning to dry out but before the grass is looking bad.

Fescue, even in the hottest months of the year, only needs to be watered once per day. Watering more than this, especially in the hottest months, will make your fescue highly susceptible to disease. Believe it or not, the grass needs a chance to “dry out” during the day. Because of this, fescue doesn’t do super well in areas where air does not easily circulate.

Spray vs rotor sprinkler system
Rotor heads vs Spray heads

NOTE: These time are approximate and can vary greatly depending on soil type, sprinkler nozzle type, slope, wind, rain, drainage, and shade.

For sprinkler system zones with “fan” nozzles, typically watering 5 minutes in the cooler months and 10-12 minutes in the hotter months will be adequate.

For zones with “rotor” nozzles, try 15 minutes per zone in the cooler months and 25-30 minutes per zone in the hotter months.

How Not to Water Fescue

  • Don’t water multiple times throughout the day
  • Don’t water it to “cool it down”
  • Don’t water more than it needs

How to Properly Mow a Fescue Lawn in Oklahoma

Fescue does best when it is mowed once per week at a height of 2.5 to 3.5 inches. Any shorter and the plant is likely to be damaged. Much taller and it will look thinner and will be more susceptible to disease. In more northern climates it is sometimes kept taller, but it’s not advisable in Oklahoma because of the humid conditions. Air needs to circulate easily in the lawn.

For best results, bag your clippings to assist in disease prevention. Using sharp blades is very important when mowing fescue. Using dull blades will tear the grass instead of cutting it, which will make the lawn always look a little brown on the top and will make the grass more susceptible to disease.

How to Properly Fertilize a Fescue Lawn in Oklahoma

Fescue does really with a quick release ammonium sulfate fertilizer at the rate of about 4 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet in March, April, and September. Fescue doesn’t benefit much from fertilizing over the winter months.

During the hottest summer months you can fertilize with a high-iron fertilizer but stay away from high nitrogen fertilizers as the excessive growth can stress out the lawn and create a great opportunity for disease.

How to Effectively Control Weeds in Fescue Lawns in Oklahoma

The most ideal way to control weeds in Fescue is to prevent them from coming in in the first place. This is done with a pre-emergent herbicide. Pre-emergent will prevent grass seed from germinating, so use caution on when you apply a pre-emergent if you are planning to over-seed your lawn.

The best time to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to a fescue lawn in Oklahoma is in the early spring, before the summer weed seeds start to germinate. This is usually around April 15th.. You can also apply a second treatment about 6-8 weeks later, in order to ensure that any late-germinating weed seeds are also controlled.

Before applying the pre-emergent, be sure to mow your lawn and remove any debris, such as leaves or twigs. Water the lawn deeply the day after applying the herbicide, as this will help the product to stick to the soil and be more effective. When applying the herbicide, be sure to follow the instructions on the product label carefully, as the rate of application and timing will vary depending on the specific product you are using.

Hopefully this fescue guide helped!

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