Ultimate Guide To Tall Fescue!

tall fescue

I’ve been working with different grass types for quite some time now, and one type of grass that grabs me a lot of questions is tall fescue. I know it sounds flashy and can be quite useful, but I want to take some time today to answer any questions you may have about Tall Fescue. So, with that being said, I hope you’re ready for my ultimate guide to tall fescue.

I’ll be going over quite a bit of information today, and I’m sure a lot of you have different levels of knowledge, so please feel free to jump around if you need to. I’ll be breaking everything down into easy-to-read sections to make this even easier.

Regardless of whether you know a little bit about tall fescue -or even quite a bit- I believe this guide will truly make your life a bit easier. So now that you know what I’ll be going over today, let’s get right down to it, and take a look at my ultimate guide to tall fescue.

Tall fescue is a cool-season grass, and it gives off a dark green color once it’s fully grown. It can be used as a type of turf and can handle heat stress better than most types of cool-season grass. Unfortunately, if left wild, tall fescue will typically act as a weed. It can also be quite invasive as well.

Is tall fescue good for lawns?

One question that comes a lot is whether or not tall fescue can be good for your lawn. This is a pretty common question with most grass types because you’ll want to know whether or not it poses a threat. Let’s take a look.

The benefits

Tall fescue has a range of benefits and can be absolutely fantastic if used as a turf. I’ve noticed that it can take quite a bit of punishment, and it will hold its color better than other types of cool-season grasses out there. I wouldn’t recommend using it outside of turf or agriculture, though, because it likes to act as a weed.

The dangers

Tall fescue can be good for lawns, but it really depends on the lawn. It produces a nice shade of green, but if you’re not maintaining it, it will end up being more of a nuisance. I’ve noticed that this is the case if you’re not using tall fescue for turf applications, agriculture, or as a decoration.

The moral of the story here is that tall fescue can be good for your lawn, but it has to be used right.

Check out all my ultimate guides for different grass varieties.

What does tall fescue grass look like?

I know that a lot of you may not be familiar with what exactly tall fescue looks like. So, with that being said, I want to set some time aside to go ahead and provide you with a brief description of tall fescue. Let’s have ourselves a look.

What does it look like in the wild?

Tall fescue looks much different than usual when in the wild. I’ve noticed that if tall fescue is left to the elements, it will grow in very unorganized patches. Also, if left alone in the wild, it can reach heights up to around 3 or 4 feet.

wild tall fescue

What does tall fescue look like when taken care of?

If you’ll be working with tall fescue, and taking care of it, you’ll notice that it looks quite nice all year round. You should mow tall fescue to around 3 inches in height, and if done right, it will be dark green in color. Now, aside from color, it will actually resemble a strong turf.

Tall fescue grass will be dark green, and it will resemble a turf like texture. The blades will be narrow and long, and you can even notice it sprout.

When to plant tall fescue?

If you’ll be working with tall fescue, you’ll need to know when to plant it. Every grass type has a good time and a bad time to plant, so let’s take a look at how tall fescue should be planted.

Which season should I plant tall fescue in?

I can’t stress this fact enough; tall fescue is a cool-season grass, and you need to treat it that way. This means that it needs to be given a decent temperature to grow in. Now, with that being said, I would definitely suggest planting this grass during the spring.

This will keep the soil temperature right around that 50-70 degree Fahrenheit mark, and will allow it to sprout before the summer months. This is key, because if it does become too hot the tall fescue can become dormant. If you fail to have it sprouting before this occurs, well, you might lose your grass.

Some people will say that you can also plant tall fescue in the fall, but I would definitely recommend sticking to the spring. Check out my spring lawn care ultimate guide.

Is tall fescue a cool-season grass?

Cool-season grasses typically need to be in an area that doesn’t get too hot. I know it sounds strange, but this is something you definitely need to consider. So I want to set some time aside to talk about whether or not tall fescue is a cool-season grass.

In short, yes

Tall fescue is definitely a cool-season grass. This means that it tends to prefer cooler temperatures, and will typically survive in less harsh conditions. The interesting thing to know about tall fescue, though, is that it can take much more punishment than other cool-season grass types.

Check out my full article on Cool-season grasses.

What do I mean by this?

Tall fescue may be a cool-season grass, but it has very deep roots (2-3 feet deep). This means that it can actually stay cooler than other cool-season grasses if the temperature is a bit hotter than usual.

So while tall fescue may be a cool-season grass, you’ll be pleased to hear that it can stand up better against the elements in comparison to other cool-season grasses.

What does tall fescue look like when it sprouts?

I know I’ve given you a brief description of tall fescue already, but it actually looks different when it sprouts. This can be a good way to figure out whether or not you’re dealing with tall fescue, so you’ll want to pay close attention to this section.

Does it look different when it sprouts?

When tall fescue sprouts it will look a bit different. This is due to the fact that it will have a light green tint to it, and will be much shorter than usual. I’ve noticed that tall fescue will also look very thin when it’s growing, so I would suggest monitoring the patches. If they do remain thin, a little overseeding can actually help.

Is tall fescue invasive?

Tall fescue tends to get a bad reputation for a couple of reasons. As you may have guessed, tall fescue can definitely be an invasive type of grass. This is why it’s essential that you understand how to work with it.

How can it be invasive?

If you live somewhere where tall fescue grows naturally, you’ll find that it can be quite invasive.

I’ve noticed that the roots will dig themselves in deep, and if you live somewhere that has a good temperature for sprouting, tall fescue can actually take over your lawn. This is why California has actually classified this grass as an invasive weed in southern areas.

Tall fescue can be a great grass for various applications, but if it’s not kept in check, it can become very invasive.

What is tall fescue used for?

Tall fescue actually has quite a few different uses. So in this section, I want to show you some of the more popular applications that tall fescue has. Let’s take a look.

It can be used as turf

If tall fescue can be mowed to a safe height, it can actually be used as turf grass. While you won’t see it on a place like a golf course, you can find it in southern areas on other sporting grounds.

tall fescue soccer pitch

What else can tall fescue be used for?

Tall fescue actually has quite a few uses. Here are some of the common uses:

  • Decoration
  • Turf grass
  • Agriculture
  • Soil

So while tall fescue is primarily used as turf, you’ll find that it can be used for quite a few other applications as well.

Check out all my ultimate guides for different grass varieties.

How long does tall fescue take to establish?

A lot of common grass will establish itself quite quickly. The tricky thing about dealing with a grass like tall fescue, is that it can take quite some time to actually establish itself.

That’s why, in this section, I’ll be breaking this down for you.

Seeding to germination

Cool-season grasses are known as being a hassle when it comes to development.

This is due to the fact that most cool-season grass types will actually require quite a bit of time to establish their roots within the ground. Now, while this may be true for tall fescue as well, you won’t have to be too patient.

When it comes to germination, you can expect tall fescue to begin germinating within 10 to 15 days.

This will also be influenced by the temperature, but if your soil is right around that 65-degree Fahrenheit range, you can expect the seeds to germinate within 2 weeks.

Once the tall fescue has germinated, it will begin to place roots deep within the ground. This is how it will spread and establish itself, and once this process occurs, your tall fescue should be in good shape.

Will tall fescue germinate in summer?

Germination occurs when seeds finally begin to turn into the actual grass that you know and love. I know that I’ve mentioned that tall fescue is a cool-season grass, so if it is possible to have it germinate during the warmer months? Let’s take a look.

Is it possible?

Tall fescue is definitely a cool-season grass, which means that it does best when exposed to cooler temperatures. While this may be true, as I’ve mentioned earlier, tall fescue is a bit more forgiving. This means that you might be able to get seeds to germinate during the summer months.

How can I make this work?

A lot of this is going to come down to the region you live in. If you live in southern climates, where summers can be hot and dry, the chances of this occurring are very rare. Fortunately, if you happen to live towards the north, you’ll find that you can find success. So to be honest with you, it comes down to your location.

If you live in an area that has a mild summer, there is no reason as to why tall fescue germination wouldn’t be possible. Unfortunately, if you do live somewhere hot or dry, you’ll have a very tough time getting this done.

Is tall fescue more forgiving than other cool-season grass? Absolutely, but it still has its limits.

When does tall fescue go dormant?

I know that some grass will stick around all year, even in the winter, but this is not exactly the case for tall fescue. I want to make sure you know how to determine whether or not tall fescue is dead or dormant, so let’s take a look.

In the summer

Tall fescue will go dormant if it becomes too hot.

This is due to the fact that tall fescue is designed for cooler temperatures, and while it can hold up well against heat stress, it’s not invincible. Therefore, if it’s exposed to temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit for too long, it will go dormant. There is no need to panic, though, because it will still maintain its color.

In the winter

Cool-season grasses thrive when it’s cool, but there is definitely such thing as too cold. Now, with that being said, I’ve noticed that tall fescue can end up going dormant if exposed to temperatures under 50 degrees Fahrenheit for a prolonged period of time.

So as you can see, tall fescue can actually end up becoming dormant if its needs are not being met (temperature-wise).

Is tall fescue shade tolerant?

I’ve been working with tall fescue for quite a while now, and one thing I’ve noticed is that it has some unique traits. So one thing I want to bring up is whether or not it can be shade tolerant. This is something important to consider, because you always want your grass to survive the conditions you’ll be growing it in.

So is tall fescue able to handle a little bit of shade?

Tall fescue is definitely able to handle some shade. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to plant it in an entirely shaded area, as it does prefer a bit of sunlight, but if it will be exposed to shade it can handle it.

Therefore, to be blunt, I would recommend exposing tall fescue to sunlight as often as possible.

Shade tolerance is always a good quality, but you still want to make sure it has sunlight. I’ve seen too many people keep this grass in the dark, and I don’t want you to make the same mistake. This is why we say shade tolerant, and not shade proof.

Check out my full article on the best grass for growing in shade.

Is tall fescue good for horses?

fescue grass as horse pasture

Horses are awesome animals. They can provide you with a good time, some quality adventures, and even better companions. This is why I want to show you whether or not tall fescue is good for horses or not. Let’s have a look.

Can it support horses?

I’ve noticed that tall fescue has kind of been regarded as a bad grass for horses. I see where people are coming from, but let me debunk this for you. Tall fescue is commonly used in pastures across Europe, and to be quite honest, it works very well for most species of horses.

Tall fescue is a fine grass to use for horse care, but there are a few exceptions. So just be sure to do some research depending on the horse.

How does tall fescue spread?

If you’ll be dealing with tall fescue, or fighting against it, you’ll need to know how this grass spreads. Trust me on this one, the answer may surprise you, so you’ll definitely want to pay close attention to this section.

Does it use stolons?

Many of you may know that most cool-season grass types will spread through the use of stolons. While this may be the case for a grass type like creeping bentgrass, this is not the case for tall fescue.

So how does tall fescue spread?

Tall fescue spreads in a way that’s a bit unique. This is due to the fact that it clumps itself up in order to spread, and this is usually done using tillers. Tillers are a type of sprout that shoots out from the bottom of the grass, so this process can actually be seen above ground. Pretty cool, right?

Check out my article on making your grass greener and thicker.

Does tall fescue grass stay green in winter?

A question I get a lot, and this really comes up with any grass, is whether or not that grass will hold its color during the winter months. I know that tall fescue can become dormant, so let’s talk about what it can look like when this occurs.

It depends on how you treat it

Tall fescue can remain green during the colder months, but it comes at a cost. This means that you’ll need to fight with its dormant cycle, which could require you to do some light overseeding in the winter months.

The beauty of tall fescue is that it won’t usually outright die if it becomes too cold, as it will lie dormant instead.

The good news is that tall fescue can hold it’s dark green color in most cases of being dormant. If it’s presented with extremes, be careful, because it could die.

Check out my article on reviving grass after winter.

Tall fescue watering requirements?

Grass is a living thing. This means that it needs proper care in order to survive, so I want to make sure that you have all the knowledge you need to care for tall fescue. So let’s take a look at how you should handle the water needs of tall fescue.

how much water for tall fescue

How much water do I need?

The rule of thumb to follow when caring for tall fescue is to make sure that you provide it with at least one inch of water when watering it. This is due to the fact that tall fescue has deeper roots than most grass, so you need to make sure that the water can seep down into the ground.

Check out my full article on how to water your lawn with a sprinkler system.

How often should I water tall fescue?

This varies depending on the type of soil that you’ll be using, and the climate of your area. Here is a quick little guide:

  • Use 1 inch of water every week if your tall fescue is within normal conditions
  • If the soil your using is a bit on the sandy side, you’ll want to use about a half-inch of water every 3 days
  • If you’ll be having your tall fescue in the warmer months, you’ll want to use about half an inch of water every 4 days

So as you can see, when it comes to watering tall fescue, you need to make sure that you understand the soil and conditions you have it planted in.

Check out the answer to will watering your lawn in the sun burn it?

Is overseeding necessary with tall fescue?

The final thing I want to talk about is overseeding. This is a question I get asked a lot, and that’s because it can be tough to wake it up when the dormant season is over. So I want to set some time to go over that.

When is overseeding okay?

Overseeding is always a good idea if you’ll be entering the spring months. This is due to the fact that dormant tall fescue can have quite a bit of trouble if the patches are damaged. So I would definitely recommend overseeding any areas that may be a little light coming into the spring.

The main thing to know about overseeding, is that it will usually do good things for your grass. I wouldn’t overdo it or anything, but a light overseeding coming into the spring is always a good idea.

Final thoughts

I know that went a bit over the top in my ultimate guide to tall fescue, but I want to make sure that you know everything you need to. Dealing with tall fescue is not like dealing with regular grass, so making sure that you’re prepared is absolutely fundamental.

If you ever feel a bit lost or confused, I completely understand, so please feel free to use this article as a guide if you need to.

Now that you know the facts, and how to handle tall fescue, I hope that my ultimate guide has helped you.


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