K31 & Turf Type Tall Fescue Maintenance Program & Annual Care Schedule

tall fescue maintenance plan

Today I’m going to be bringing you my full maintenance plan for turf type tall fescue lawns. Included below is basic and advanced techniques you can use to better care for your tall fescue turf grass all year round.

I am a big proponent in getting things done well without going overboard so expect only the easiest and simplest solutions that actually work on the problems fescue sees throughout the year.

For the most part this plan will also work for Kentucky 31 Tall fescue as well although it does grow a bit faster that Turf Type, For K31 lawns so you may simply have to accelerate mowing frequency a tad.

Make sure to see the video embedded below to learn more about the differences between TTTF and K31.

You can also watch a full length video webinar below as an alternative to reading this entire article.

The best time to start taking better care of your fescue lawn isn’t in the Spring or the Fall… or even the Summer. It’s right now, whenever you happen to be waiting this video.

► Let’s start with Tall Fescue’s characteristics to better understand why we need to do all of this stuff.

  • Tall fescue brought to the states in the 1800s as forage grass, in 1931 a strain Kentucky 31 was discovered as the first lawn style tall fescue, then in the 70s the TTTF strain was developed as an improvement.
  • TTTF is suited to full sun locations and can do well in cold northern climates down to the southern transition zone where K31 and other cold season grasses can and will struggle.
  • Germinates quickly, under 10 days normally making it easy to overseed with.
  • It can thin out over summer during high heat and drought and this is why annual overseeding in the early fall is important.
  • TTTF grows better in slightly acidic soil so keeping an eye on your pH can help minimize thinning grass due to heat, drought, and disease.
  • Should be overseeded annually and this grass benefits from core aeration (deepest cores possible) because it’s root systems can go so deep. Delivering water and air and nutrients down quickly is helpful.
  • Deep roots can extend well beyond 6 inches up to 36 inches meaning it can do well in very low water scenarios.

Make sure to see the video linked in the description below to learn more about the overseeding process and how to be successful overseeding without wasting too much time and money on seed and equipment.

► Now Let’s Talk About Cutting Turf Type Tall Fescue

  • Tall fescue likes to be long or tall so don’t fight it. Keep it really long. Many people regularly keep their TTTF on the highest setting your mower will go, 4.5 inches to 5 inches in height are not uncommon. Try not to cut it lower than 3.5” as the leaf blade stores a lot of the water in the plant, this is especially important for summer mowing.
  • During summer let TTTF grow taller and cut a little less frequently, always abiding by the 1/3 rule.
  • Serrated saw-like grass blade edges
  • Must regularly sharpen your mower blades because TTTF is fibrous and will dull them. Dull blades rip the grass instead of cutting the grass making the blades more susceptible to fungus and disease.
  • During high heat low water summers cut even less often even if the grass starts getting too long for comfort. The extra length will retain water, color, and shade the soil surface and growth will slow.
  • Cut your fescue a bit shorter in mid autumn then airate before going into winter with a slightly shorter cut in the 3.5-4” vicinity to help mitigate winter fungal attacks like snow mold.

► Now Let’s Talk About The Best Watering Practices For Fescue Turf Grass

  • Water deeply only in early morning to prevent fungus, disease, and evaporation
  • Water between 1-2 inches per week, especially in hot weeks and on sloped yards
  • During periods of extreme heat run your sprinklers for a few minutes at the hottest part of the afternoon, not to water the lawn but to cool off the grass blades and surface of the soil – this helps to manage heat stress which is different from drought stress.

► Here’s The Fertilization Schedule For TTTF

  • Fertilize with balanced organics from late winter through late spring and then again late summer through mid fall. Do not apply fertilizers during the heat of summer from Late June through Late August.
  • Apply a grassy-weed Pre-Emergent in the early spring to control weeds and crabgrass – ground temp near 50 or even 45 when daytime temp forecasts for a spring warm up. A high app rate is best otherwise two smaller apps about 4-weeks apart work too. This is far easier to apply now than it is to try and control weeds after they start growing later in the year.
  • Apply a grub control product like GrubEX in the late spring around memorial day to prevent grub infestations later in the year.
  • In early august apply a preventative fungicide (disease) product like DiseaseEX to prevent late summer problems as temperatures start coming down later in the month and in Sept when fescue is most likely to develop fungus.
  • In the heat of summer (early Late June & early August) apply liquid aeration products which don’t include nitrogen and are typically packed with humic acids and potassium. At the same time apply Hydretain to your lawn to further limit heat and drought stress during the summer without pushing top growth.
  • Lastly limit unnecessary foot traffic on a stressed lawn during the summer months. You can do whatever you want on the lawn but if it’s heat and drought stressed and you throw a big backyard party then you run the risk of damaging parts of the lawn making overseeding in the fall even more important.