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Establishing a tall fescue lawn

By Ray Ridlen

September is a good time to start thinking about establishing a tall fescue lawn. Because tall fescue seed needs a longer amount of time to germinate and grow before winter, the earlier started, the better the results will be.

An important step in establishing a tall fescue lawn is to remove existing weeds or grass. Apply Roundup herbicide according to label recommendations. This will remove all existing vegetation in the lawn area. Allow at least two weeks to make sure the unwanted weeds and grasses were effectively killed.

Next, prepare the seed-bed by uniformly Roto-tilling to a depth of 6 to 8 inches the area planned for planting. Carefully rake and level the area making sure water will drain away from buildings. Firm the seed-bed by rolling. Ideally, the area should be firm enough to walk on without sinking into the soil. Only the top 1/4- to 1/2-inch of soil should remain loose in a properly prepared seed bed.

Before planting the turf area, and following a soil test, adjust the P, K and pH to recommended levels. At planting time, apply one pound of actual nitrogen per 100 square feet, using a 10-10-10 or 10-20-10 fertilizer (i.e., 10 pounds of 10-10-10 per 1,000 square feet will yield one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet).

Apply 6 to 8 pounds of tall turf type fescue seed per 1,000 square feet. Calibrate a spreader to apply the seed in two to three directions to ensure uniform coverage. On small areas use a drop seeder because it does a better job. However, a rotary spreader will get the job done faster on larger areas.

Lightly rake the seed and fertilizer into the top 1/8 inch of soil. Then roll the area with a weighted roller helping to make good seed-to-soil contact.

Mulch will help to keep the soil moist between watering. Wood-cellulose fiber, clean (weed-free) wheat straw, or finely ground bark, are three good choices. Blanket type mulches are good for steep slopes.

Watering lightly three times per day for the first two weeks is easily accomplished for small areas. Water once in the morning, at noon, and evening, with a fan-type nozzle. Apply water until it begins to puddle on the surface, about half an inch to wet the soil to a depth of one inch. For large lawn areas water one time per day in the late morning or early afternoon. Make sure to use a mulch to extend the amount of time the soil stays moist.

Date: 9-24-2012

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