Tall Fescue Lawn Maintenance

Millie Davenport
HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University

Tall fescue lawns need proper maintenance during the winter months because they are still actively growing. Proper maintenance steps include mowing, fertilizing, and watering. Tall fescue should be maintained at a height of 3 inches. Remember that when mowing, no more than ⅓ of the leaf blade should be removed at a time. So once the lawn reaches 4½ inches tall, it should be mowed to the recommended 3-inch height. And if you have deciduous trees in the area, take time to keep the lawn cleared of the fallen leaves.

Next, plan to make one last fertilizer application next month (February) if it has not been applied in the past six weeks. Ideally, a soil test should be done to determine what fertilizer is needed. However, in the absence of a soil test, a 16-4-8 fertilizer can be used. Apply the 16-4-8 fertilizer at a rate of 6 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft. Avoid fertilizing cool-season lawns after mid-March. CAUTION: Do NOT fertilize warm-season grasses (Bermudagrass, centipedegrass, St. Augustinegrass, and zoysiagrass) at this time.

The lawn can be irrigated if necessary to prevent excessive drying. About 1 inch of water per week is adequate.

For more information see, HGIC 1219, Tall Fescue Maintenance Calendar; HGIC 1205, Mowing Lawns; HGIC 1201, Fertilizing Lawns; HGIC 1207, Watering Lawns.

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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.