10 Nov Fescue Overseeding for Oklahoma Outdoor Living Spaces
Although the majority of lawns in Oklahoma are planted with Bermuda grass, Tall Fescue varieties, such as; Adventure, Houndog, and others are considered by the Oklahoma State University Extension Service to be hardy enough to survive Oklahoma climates. You can read more of their recommendations here. I recommend for you to find a transitional blend of fescue, there are many types of fescue that are hardy in various soil and sun conditions. So a blend gives you a better shot at getting a good stand. Buying a single type of fescue can be like playing Russian Roulette.
Tall Fescue is traditionally considered a cool weather grass. It stays green through the Winter, making it an attractive option, it also struggles with Oklahoma’s hot Summers and is mostly used as a shade grass, since it will thrive in less than full sun but if managed properly with adequate water it can be a full sun turf-grass.
Fall is the best time to over-seed your tall Fescue. Over-seeding now will send roots deeper, due to cooler temperatures, than planting in Spring, which gives quick growth but will have shallower roots that are not as hardy. In fact, I recommend September 15th as the time to start. Even if temperatures haven’t begun to moderate the warm temps will accelerate seed germination, and soon to follow are cooler days. We do recommend touch-up seeding in the spring to fill in thin areas. Remember one seed equals one plant with fescue unlike sun loving turf grasses that spread. As a point of maintenance, remove any leaf build up in the fall as this can smother the living cool weather grasses. We recommend a leaf blower not rakes for fescue. The potential of disturbing the roots with a rake can inhibit or even kill freshly germinated fescue. I also tell our clients to keep a bag of fescue on hand for touch up seeding.
Before over-seeding, consider taking a soil sample to your local extension office for testing. You can ask at a locally owned garden center if you do not know how to contact them. A soil test will allow them to give you recommendations on specific feeding, watering and fertilization methods to create strong turf.
Start by breaking up the soil lightly, working around any rooted fescue that is already established. Use a rake, or handheld garden tilling tool to break the surface up lightly, for larger areas a power rake or dethach machine can be rented locally, just remember to put the machine on a medium, depth around 2 inches. Remember that seed to soil contact is critical. once you’ve seeded we recommend raking the soil again to ensure good contact. Another trick is to use a sod roller about 1/5th full of water to lightly compact the seeded areas.
Add fertilizer to this mix. Either purchase a mix based on your soil sample or use a “starter” blend to help your grass get rooted.
Light straw mulch over your seed can be helpful in exposed areas, especially on slopes. This helps to keep the seed in place until it roots.
Scatter seed with a broadcaster for the evenest spread. A hand-held broadcaster is usually sufficient for small areas, wheeled versions are also available and can be rented from tool rental shops if you do not want the investment of buying your own.
Water your grass so that the top two inches of the soil remains slightly moist, checking it daily until sprouts are two inches high. I recommend once the seed has germinated and is a couple inches tall to oscillate from watering heavy for a day and then let the soil become mostly dry. This causes the roots to chase the water downward stabilizing your stand of turf before winter hits. It is important to know that fescue requires 3 times more water than sun-loving grasses.
Fescue can be cut when it reaches 3 inches (height number 5 on most mowers). It should be kept fairly tall, maintaining it so that cutting does not remove more than 20% of the grasses height. Fescue, unlike sun-loving grasses, stores its water in the leaf of the plant, not in the roots or legumes. So mowing it short can stress it greatly.
Let us know if you have questions, call Jerry at 405-615-0939 Ward Design Group