Fescue Lawns

— Written By and last updated by Margaret Green

Time to Think About Fescue Lawns

If you have a fescue lawn then you have been fortunate this summer due to all the rain we have experienced. Often, our summers are hot, dry and humid which leads to thinning fescue lawns. However, this summer we have had plenty of rain and not many temperatures above 90 degrees. The rain has also made the crabgrass grow very quickly. If you do have a tremendous amount of crabgrass then it is time to think about getting rid of this weed and consider renovating your lawn in the fall. The easiest way to get rid of the crabgrass and other broadleaf weeds is to use a labeled herbicide. Make sure the herbicide you apply is used four weeks prior to renovating or reseeding. If you would like to start a new fescue lawn from the beginning then use a non-selective herbicide that will kill the entire lawn.

The ideal time to renovate or aerate and reseed a fescue lawn for our area is September 15th – October 15th. When choosing fescue seed, it is best to select a two or three way blend that has certain varieties in the mixture that will tolerate the different micro-climates we have in our yards. Below are some more timely tips to consider when caring for a fescue lawn.


*Mow at 3-3 ½ inches.

*If you have not done a soil test, apply a complete nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-

  K) grade fertilizer with a 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio (that is, 12-4-8 or 16-4-8). Fertilize with 1

  pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in mid-September and again in


 How do you determine how to apply 1 pound of nitrogen from a bag of fertilizer? If you want 1 pound then convert the first number on the bag to a percentage and divide 1 by that percentage  (the first number always represents nitrogen content). For example, if you have 10-10-10 divide 1 by .10 and you get 10. That means you need to buy 10 pounds of fertilizer for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. You can also divide 100 by the first number on the fertilizer bag and get the same result. Let’s say you are using a ratio that is 18-24-12. Then you would divide 1 by .18 and you would get 5.5 pounds of this fertilizer per 1,000 square feet to achieve 1 pound of nitrogen. For example, if you had 3,000 square feet of lawn and you were applying 10-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet then you would need 30 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer. If you had 45,000 square feet of lawn and you were applying 10-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 1 pound of nitrogen per thousand square feet then you would need 450 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer.

*Apply broadleaf herbicides to control broadleaf weeds like chickweed, henbit, and other

  weeds as necessary.

*Check for white grubs and control if needed.

*Aerate lawns that are grown in compacted soils or lawns with heavy foot traffic. Core (plug) aerating is recommended over spike aerating to avoid additional compaction.

*Overseed lawns from September through October. Use a blend of turf-type fescue cultivars at 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet, and apply a starter type fertilizer (high in phosphorous). Do not let the seedlings dry out.


*Mow at 3 inches and remove debris.

*Fertilize with 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet in February.

*Apply broadleaf herbicides as necessary for control of chickweed, henbit, or other weeds.

 If you have further questions about renovating or establishing lawns do not hesitate to call your local Franklin County Cooperative Extension Office at 919-496-3344. You can also visit our website at franklin.ces.ncsu.edu. We provide our residents easy access to the resources and expertise of NC State University and NC A&T State University.