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The fescues are cool season grasses that are adapted to the transition zone and into Canada. The fescue species are easily seeded and all share the same variety characteristics with the three dominant ones being shade tolerance, staying green all year, and having good drought resistance. Fine fescues are more cold and shade tolerant than tall fescue, but both are used throughout much of the Central to Northern U.S.
They require less fertilizer and moisture than any of the lawn grasses adapted to the cool or Northern regions of the U.S. Thus, they have the lowest overall maintenance requirements. They are well adapted to poor, sandy soils of low fertility and will tolerate soil acidity within the pH range of 5-6½. Fine fescues germinate rapidly and establish generally without delay. Thus, they are excellent choices for reseeding thin and rundown lawns.
Three grasses go under the common name of fine fescue: chewings fescue, creeping red fescue and hard fescue. All survive extreme cold and combine well with other cool season grasses. None of the fine fescues tolerate wear and tear, but they have the unusual talent of being able to grow in dry shade. Hard fescue has a strong bunching habit that makes it appear less refined than other lawn grasses, but will persist in difficult sites that are unusually cold, windy and dry.
Uses: Shaded lawns, ground cover
Growth Habit: Bunch, creeping and/or spreading low, slow growing
Blade: 1-2 mm., needle-like tip
Narrow-leaved, cool season perennial and creeping and/or bunch growth habit, found mostly in shaded areas. Leaves have folded vernation (stem) and a dull underside.
Chewing fescues have a bunch type growth habit, forms denser turf than the strong creeping red fescue, tends to be more disease resistant and persistent under lower maintenance. Of the fine fescues, chewing fescue is the most tolerant of close, continuous mowing and traffic pressure. From Northern Europe and bred for improved turf quality in hotter, dryer climates of North America.
Strong Creeping Red Fescue
Strong creeping red fescues have rhizomes and a distinct spreading growth habit. They have greater, longer and less prolific rhizomes than the slender creeping red fescues. Strong creepers also tend to be more tolerant of patch and crown disease and are often mixed with Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass in hot and humid regions.
Slender Creeping Red Fescue
Slender creeping red fescues are very tolerant of saline soil conditions, respond well to low mowing heights and can be used in winter overseeding programs where rapid spring transition is desired. Slender red fescue is often used as component in roadside turf mixes where salting of roadsides is required.
Hard fescues are similar in appearance to sheep and blue fescue, but have wider, tougher, less glaucus (bluish-green) leaves and are more tolerant of higher fertility and moist soil conditions. Hard fescues are more similar to chewing fescue with similar turf density and texture, but have lower nutrient requirements and slower vertical growth rates. Hard fescues are also used as a component in low maintenance turf mixes where a “windswept” or “links” look is desired. Hard fescue is also used for wildflower mixes.
Sheep & Blue Fescue
Sheep and blue fescues exhibit a stiff bunch type, non-creeping growth habit, bluish green to dark green leaves, require little maintenance and do poorly under intensive cultural practices. Sheep and blue fescue are often used in wildflower mixes because of their non-aggressive ornamental appearance. Sheep fescue is used for wildflower mixes and blue fescue is used extensively for ornamental landscape plantings. Both species produce very good turf under shade conditions.
lbs./1,000 sq. ft.: 5-8
Germination: 8-16 days
Seeds/lb.: 500,000-615,000, depending on species
Slow establisher like tall fescue. Ideal for shade.
Tall fescue is a cool season grass, well adapted to sunny or partially shady areas. When densely sown, a pure stand forms a moderate to coarse-textured lawn that is uniform in appearance with good weed and disease resistance. Tall fescue tolerates warm summer temperatures and stays green during cool, but not severe winter conditions. Tall fescue is a good species to plant for general lawn use.
Tall fescue is a coarse-textured medium to dark-green grass. It has an extensive root system, is low maintenance, and will tolerate moderate traffic and infrequent mowing. Because tall fescue has a bunch-type growth habit, rather than a creeping-type, open areas may develop and need to be reseeded. This species is not well adapted to high altitudes.
Uses: (Turf-Type) Lawns, athletic fields, commercial, slopes, parks, reclamation. Ideal in sun or shade or limited water.
Growth Habit: Bunch type, tillers, some with Rhizomes
Blade: 2-5 mm., broad, spear
Deep rooted, cool season perennial bunchgrass. Grows from tillers. Leaf blades are glossy on the underside/serrated on margins. Leaf blades may be wide with rolled vernation (stem), blades smooth on turf-type, coarse on others.
lbs./1,000 sq. ft.: 8-10
Germination: 8-14 days
Slow, but not as slow as bluegrass. Needs plentiful water to establish, then very drought tolerant.
To estimate the right amount of seed for your professional turf project, view our useful turf coverage areas and metric conversion resource.
Determining How Much Seed and Fertilizer to Buy
Follow these steps for starting a successful lawn.
1. Measure area to be seeded – Total square footage of lot less non-lawn areas such as house, walkways and gardens.
2. Test, don’t guess! – Obtain soil test to identify essential soil needs/amendments (lime, potassium, phosphorus, etc). Add needed amendments per soil test. See attachment for more information on Fertilizer applications: Fertilizer 101.pdf
3. Select appropriate Earth Carpet® mix – Consult with your dealer for the Earth Carpet® mix right for you.
4. Spray out lawn with herbicide containing glyphosate – Follow manufacturer’s directions for proper use!
Continue to New Lawn or Renovation Steps:
New Lawn Steps
5. Rough Grade – Remove golf ball size+ rocks or debris. Lot slope should move downhill from house to lot edge. Level high/low areas.
6. Final Grade – Rake and smooth. Apply a fine mist from hose to soil before seeding. No Puddles should form.
5. Scalp lawn down as close as possible – Mow as low as possible without stalling mower. Rake and remove clippings.
6. Core aerate lawn to encourage abundant root growth – Plant new seed no deeper than 1/8 in. with mechanical planting equipment. Equipment should be available for rental in your area.
7. Apply seed evenly in two directions – First north & south then west & east. Use seeding rate appropriate for your mix.
8. Apply starter fertilizer – Important for root development.
9. Roll surface – Use an unfilled lawn roller to firm, but not over pack, the soil surface.
10. Irrigate frequently at least 3 times/day for 6 weeks – Keep top 1/2 in. of soil moist, not soaking. Pay attention that soil does not dry in afternoon heat.
11. Apply 2nd application of starter fertilizer 3 weeks after seeding (CRUCIAL).
12. Begin weekly mowing when at 1½-2 in. – Set height to 1 ½ in. Mowing right after irrigation may hurt seedlings.
13. Raise mowing height to 3-3½ in. after 6 weeks – Never remove more than 1/3 of grass blade at a time.
14. Begin standard fertilization/irrigation programs at 8 weeks – Do not apply weed control products until lawn has been mowed at least 4 times and 8 weeks has passed.