I have been experimenting with tall fescue in various situations. In the fall of 2012, following the serious drought that we had that year, I planted tall fescue in various parts of my lawn where I had lost Kentucky bluegrass during the drought. This included areas on my septic mound where the soil was thin and on an area above my buried propane tank.
I had mixed results with that experiment. We had another drought in 2013 that lasted from late June to October. I went a full 90 days without mowing non-irrigated areas. While some of the tall fescue did survive on the septic mound, some of it did not. On the thin soil over the propane tank, I lost the tall fescue late in the 2013 season. In a few other drought affected areas in my lawn, the tall fescue did survive the drought.
Tall fescue clearly stays green longer in droughts than does either Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. The picture below was taken at the research station in August of 2013 during the peak of this year’s drought. The foreground is dormant Kentucky bluegrass. The tall fescue is in the background and it remained green through much of the drought.
In this picture, there is tall fescue surrounding our perennial ryegrass cultivar study. All of the ryegrass is nearly dormant, whereas the tall fescue around the outer edge of the trial remained green weeks longer.
I have also been noticing something else interesting about tall fescue late this fall. While seedling tall fescue has remained green well into the fall, mature tall fescue has gone off color earlier that either the Kentucky bluegrass or the perennial ryegrass at the research station. I have also noticed this on other mature tall fescue areas around Ames. HaS anyone else noticed the tall fescue going off-color earlier than usual this year?
The light brown area on the right is tall fescue and the green areas surrounding the tall fescue are Kentucky bluegrass.