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November 26, 2013

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.



April 5, 2013

I have had a couple of contacts on grass that was dormant seeded in the fall beginning to emerge in late March and early April.

The first one is from Rob Elder of Omaha Organics in Omaha.  He seeded some areas in drought damaged areas in November of last year in Omaha.  The picture below is from March 27.  In this situation, they did not rake the area first, they just put the tall fescue seed on the bare areas and covered them with compost.

The second picture is from Larry Ginger of American Lawn care in Des Moines.  The picture is from March 31 and shows emerging tall fescue.

Here is Larry's description of the process that he used.

  1. Late August:   Sprayed Roundup Pro at a 10% rate twice (2 days in a row) trying to kill exsisting wide-bladed tall fescue.
  2. During the week of Thanksgiving, 2012:
    1. Mowed the dead grass very short and dispersed the clippings to surrounding areas.
    2. Applied grass seed.
    3. Core aerated the areas 5 to 8 times.
    4. Waited one day for the cores to dry up.
    5. Then dragged the areas with a section of chain link fence.
    6. Then crossed my fingers wondering if the dormant seeding would emerge in the spring.

I dormant seeded about 10,000 sqaure feet around our place, and most areas are not showing new seedlings yet.  But it's very early, especially with the below normal March temperatures.

I seeded with "Enduro" turf-type tall fescue.  (Six Point, Five Point, and Falcon IV) 

Tall Fescue Seed 

As many of you know, I have never been a very big fan of dormant seeding.  I generally recommend that you keep the seed on the shelf until spring and seed when it is warm enough for germination.  The reason for this is the high mortality rate of seed applied in the fall.  While I am still concerned about dormant seeding of Kentucky bluegrass in the fall, I may change my mind on dormant seeding tall fescue into these damaged areas in lawns.  We will see how these establishments go this spring.

Dr. Minner is planning a longer article for the blog on this subject in the next few weeks.



November 10, 2012

Here is another post from Larry Ginger of "American Lawn Care" in Des Moines.  Larry has been keeping us updated on late grub damage and fall seeding on lawns that he manages.  Below are some pictures from Pleasant Hill, Ia showing active grubs on November 9.  I am going to have to change my teaching notes on this.  Generally the grubs have burrowed deep underground by this time, but here they are in November.

Larry also reports an 800% increase in his fall seeding business.  He is using a three-way blend of Falcon IV, Five Point and Six Point turf-type tall fescues.  He will send us some pictures of newly seeded lawns next week.

I have also been seeding areas that had been established to Kentucky bluegrass in the past, but were lost to the drought this summer.  I have tried turf-type tall fescues as well in some areas and will report the success with this next season.  My main concern is how well they will blend with the Kentucky bluegrass remaining on the area.

Figure 1.  Active grub on November 9 in central Iowa.
Grub Damage

Figure 2.  Grub damage.



September 27, 2012

Here is a post from Larry Ginger of ‘American Lawn Care’.  It goes along with that post by Dr. Minner two days ago about using turf-type tall fescues for lawns damaged by the drought.

Larry seeded turf-type fescues in the fall of 2011 and was very pleased with their performance in the drought of 2012.

I also seeded some turf-type fescues in some areas of my own lawn where the soil was thin and I was having a hard time keeping Kentucky bluegrass.  I was pleased with the results during the 2012 drought and have seeded some additional areas over my septic system and over the buried propane tank where I lost bluegrass this year.  I'll let you know next year how that worked out.

From Larry:

After tiring of brown/dormant bluegrass turf over the past few years, I decided to try "turf-type tall fescue" in the fall of 2011. 

On the day before Thanksgiving 2011" I did the following things:

1) Mowed my Kentucky bluegrass lawn nearly "down to the soil surface".
2) Raked off all grass clippings.
3) Spread a 3-way blend of Falcon ll, Falcon III, Falcon IV turf-type tall fescue grass seed over top. 
4) Then I aerated multiple times.   (approx 12 passes with 3 machines running)  see Figure 1 -- lots of plugs, holes, mud.
Then we just left it alone.  Never dragged it.  Never watered.  Never fertilized.

Four weeks later on Dec. 22, the grass began to emerge.  The new turf-type tall fescue resembled "moss".  (see Figure 1)  I realize the mild weather helped.  My concern at that point was possible "winter kill", but that never happened. 

(This is surprising, I often get winter kill on late seedings of tall fescue.  I would recommend seeding in August or early September if you can.  It is amazing that this worked so well.  Nick Christians)

By April 20, 2012, I had mowed this lawn several times, and it never received any treatments of any kind.  (Figure 2).  This picture shows that my lawn was already completely established (filled in), and it had been mowed 3 times..  It's the only pic I have of my lawn from this past spring.
I was holding a one-quart rechargeable spot sprayer that I just purchased.   (A lawn care company in Kansas wanted a pic of this sprayer)

Figure 3 shows my lawn "after the drought of 2012".  It was taken August 18, 2012.  It shows a few 'semi dormant'  patches (in full sun areas), yet no areas of this new lawn are dead. During the 2012 growing season, this lawn handled the drought remarkably well.  I fertilized the lawn in late July and early August.  The first application contained Merit, the fertilizer was 50% slow release.  The second application was 3 weeks later with a 50 % slow release.   I have been very pleased with the performance of my turf-type tall fescue this year.

Larry Ginger
American Lawn Care
5880 NW 2nd St
Des Moines, IA  50313
(800) 700-6330



 Figure 1.  Just after emergence of seedlings in the fall of 2011.

Figure 2.  April 20, 2012.

 Tall Fescue Turf

Figure 3.  August 18, 2012 after a couple of months of drought with a little rain in early August.

Tall Fescue Turf



August 9, 2012

On Friday July 20, 2012, I put up a blog post about some 1988 work that we did with an Iowa lawn care company, All American Turf Beauty, that involved putting lawn care treatments on dormant lawns.  After that post went up, I discussed the possibility of updating the work in the drought of 2012.  The same questions that arose in 1988 from customers worried about damage to their lawns by late-summer applications on dormant lawns are coming up again this year.

All American has changed their program since 1988 and now use granular fertilizer in their July/August treatments at a rate of 0.5 lb. nitrogen (N)/1000 ft2.   The fertilizer is an 18-0-4 with 50% slow release N.

We applied the treatments separately to non-irrigated Kentucky bluegrass, tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass areas.  We left an untreated control, and then applied 1 plot at 0.5 lbs N/1000 ft2 to one plot, 1.0 lb N/1000 ft2, and 2.0 lb N/1000 ft2.  We also applied 1.0 lb N/1000 ft2and 2.0 lb N/1000 ft2 to separate plots using urea 46-0-0.

There are two questions.  Number 1, will any of the treatments do any harm?  Number 2 which treatments will prove to be beneficial?

The treatments were applied on August 8.  At the research area, we have had 3.4 inches of rain in the last 12 days.  The bluegrass and perennial ryegrass areas are just beginning to show recovery and the tall fescue has nearly recovered.  We had 0.3 inches of rain on the site shortly after treatment.

I will be following these plots over the next few weeks and I will be reporting on the effects of the treatments as the turf further recovers into the fall.

Thanks to All American Turf Beauty for their help with this project.

The next two pictures are of the bluegrass area by the turf building.  It was completely dormant and is just beginning to recover.

The perennial ryegrass is in the foreground and the tall fescue area in the background.  The tall fescue is recovering much faster than the rye.