What Is Fescue? Everything You Need to Know About This Grass

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Did you know that the grass in your yard has a name? It does — and depending on where you live, it could be fescue. But what is fescue grass, anyway?

Even if your lawn doesn’t have fescue yet, this type of grass can make a useful addition. Fescue is actually a type of grass that has several different sub-types. But what they all share is low-maintenance hardiness and the ability to grow well in many different climates.

Understanding what’s in your lawn, and what you can add, is your first step to improving it. Fescue grass holds the answer for people in many areas, thanks to its hardy versatility. What is fescue, and is it right for your yard? Keep reading as we delve into the answers!

What Is Fescue? The Basics

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Fescue is a “cool season” grass because it grows well even in cool weather and heavy shade. In fact, no other grass will grow in the shade all year round like fescue does. But to properly answer “What is fescue?” we have to break it down into its two main types.

Tall Fescue

Tall fescue thrives in a wider variety of conditions than almost any other grass type. It can survive not only shade but also extreme temperatures and even drought. Even when mixed with other grass types, it can make your lawn more durable, without adding extra maintenance.

This grass comes from Europe, which is why it’s so well-adapted to cool, northern climates. Over the centuries since it’s become popular, a few different types of tall fescue have been developed. That includes fescues with richer color, better heat and drought resistance, and more.

So, in addition to having been a hardy grass from the start, it’s also been selectively bred to give the best results.

Still, tall fescue thrives best in cool weather, so you’ll see the most growth during the temperate months of spring and fall. But it is unique among cool-season grasses in that it is more tolerant to heat than the rest of them.

When you start tall fescue from seed, you’ll notice that it grows much faster than other grass types. It also has a deeper root system than most grasses, which is what makes it so hardy even in drought. Those extensive roots do an excellent job of soaking up any available water from the soil.

Tall fescue has a clump-like growing pattern, which also makes it easy to control if you want to plant it along the edges of your garden beds.

Fine fescue

Fine fescue shares many of the properties of tall fescue, but has a few distinct differences.

The main difference is that fine fescue has a narrower blade with finer leaves — hence the name. Fine fescues have actually been popular for lawns for longer than tall fescues have: the tall varieties have only just started coming into fashion.

One of the main things that makes fine fescue so appealing is that it looks good even when you don’t mow it. Because fine fescue doesn’t grow very tall, it needs less mowing maintenance than tall fescue. However, even tall fescue only needs monthly mowing, so both types are very low-maintenance options.

Fine fescue also doesn’t hold up as well to lots of traffic as tall fescue does. So, if you plan to walk and hang out on your lawn often, you might want to opt for the sturdier tall fescue.

When And How To Plant Fescue

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Now that you know how to answer “What is fescue?” let’s take a look at how it can realistically benefit your lawn.

If you decide to plant fescue, you’ll get the best results in spring or fall, when it grows best. You may also want to overseed, so that the grass will grow evenly, not in patchy-looking clumps.

Fescue doesn’t need frequent watering, but it does benefit from deep watering since its roots spread so deeply underground. If you live in a hotter, drier area, you might want to get a variety of fescue that’s bred for hotter weather. These types will need even less water.

However, for the most part, fescue isn’t well-suited for very hot, dry climates. It stands up to heat better than many grass types. But without enough water, it will turn brown and become weak quickly. If you live in a dry area, make sure you can water your fescue as often as it needs. If not, opt for a variety better-suited for the climate.

Your fescue lawn also won’t need much fertilizer compared to other grass types, like Kentucky bluegrass. Overall, planting fescue is an easy way to get a lawn that thrives all year with minimal time, effort, and money.

Benefits Of Fescue Grass

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Fescue is one of the most popular grasses in the United States. Tall fescue alone covers more than 35 million acres. If you don’t know what your lawn was planted with, there’s a good chance it could be fescue.

And if you decide to plant something new, there are many good reasons to choose either tall or fine fescue.

Your hardy, low-maintenance fescue will have all of your friends soon asking, “What is fescue, anyway?” Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of choosing fescue for your lawn.

Endophytes

Endophytes are a type of beneficial organism that lives in symbiosis with some plants. Not all grasses can host endophytes, but fescue can.

Endophytes can actually include several different types of organism, such as fungi and bacteria. Plants that can host endophytes tend to hold up better to climate-related problems like drought and heat.

They also are more resistant to damage from insects and other animals. The endophytes make their home between the cells of the plant, making it stronger.

Even if your fescue doesn’t have endophytes, you can add endophytes to it to make it stronger and healthier. You’ll just need to buy fescue seed that’s been inoculated with endophytes.

Weed Resistance

Fescue is also resistant to weeds, which is a welcome benefit for most lawn owners. Because tall fescue grows in strong, dense clumps, weeds have a difficult time finding the space to pop up among fescue grass.

And if a weed does crop up, it’ll be contained in a limited area, since the clumps of fescue keep it from spreading.

Fine fescue has its own defense against weeds, too. This type of grass actually creates an amino acid called meta-tyrosine. This amino acid is created in the roots and spreads into the surrounding soil.

Although it doesn’t harm the fescue, meta-tyrosine is actually herbicidal. That means it stunts or kills other nearby plants — such as the weeds you don’t want. Fine fescue naturally kills off weeds for you, making lawn maintenance much easier.

Still, if you need to kill off the occasional persistent weed, we recommend this weed killer.

Hardiness

If you plan to play sports on your lawn, or otherwise treat it roughly, fescue is the way to go. Tall fescue has the hardiness needed to stand up to this kind of traffic, unlike most lawn grasses.

It’s ideal if you have dogs, kids, or frequent outdoor parties. Nothing’s better than spending all the time you want outside without worrying about damaging the lawn.

Year-round Appeal

Many people abandon the idea of maintaining a nice lawn in the winter and take up the effort again in the spring. But fescue does well in the winter in many areas, giving it year-round appeal.

Even though it holds up to drought and heat better than some grasses, it’s still a cool weather grass. That means your fescue won’t just survive the winter — it will thrive. You won’t need to do much maintenance to keep your lawn happy in the cool months. That means less time outside in the cold, wet weather doing yard work.

Drawbacks Of Fescue Grass

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Our answer to “What is fescue?” wouldn’t be thorough if we didn’t also mention the drawbacks. Many people find that the benefits of fescue outweigh these issues. Still, here are some things to be aware of.

Yearly Overseeding

Fescue typically requires overseeding to stay lush — especially if you live in a hot area. You might find yourself needing to overseed your lawn each fall to bring your patchy, dry fescue back to life.

Heavy Watering

Because it’s a cool season grass, fescue also needs heavier watering during the warm months. It’s a low-maintenance grass in winter, but the trade-off is that you have to do a little more work during summer. Of course, if you live in a damp, rainy area, this won’t be an issue.

Possible Patchiness

If your fescue doesn’t like the local climate, or if you neglect to maintain it well, it could develop unsightly brown patches, which most often happens in humid regions. However, some fescue types are more resistant to this effect than others.

What Is Fescue, And Is It Right For Your Lawn?

Now that we’ve definitively covered the answer to “What is fescue?” there’s only one last thing to consider — whether or not it’s right for you.

For most people, the answer depends on the climate. As long as it’s not especially hot, dry, or humid in your area, either fine or tall fescue will likely make a good choice.

However, even if you live in a region that’s less fescue-friendly, you might still find a grass blend with some fescue mixed in for hardiness. New types of fescue also get developed regularly. If one type doesn’t work well for your lawn, you can try another.

Looking for more ways to improve your home’s outdoor spaces? Don’t miss our guide to starting an organic garden!

About the Author Emily Taylor

My name is Emily Taylor, gardening is my passion and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. I know that there are millions of people out there want their backyard and garden be attractive just like their front yard, so I am here to help you create your own backyard paradise.

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