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Smirking rights go to fescue lawn owners

Posted Tuesday, September 21, 2004 - 10:39 am

By Durant Ashmore

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Fescue is a cool season grass that looks best during the winter months when all the warm season grasses are brown and dormant.

All summer long your warm season lawn neighbors have been smirking over the appearance of your lawn and the amount of water you have been applying. Now it is your turn to smirk.

This winter your lawn can be lush and green while theirs is dull and drab. On the other hand, if your nice green lawn is pockmarked with swaths of dormant areas it leads to a patchwork, checkerboard effect which actually can be one of the most unsightly appearances imaginable in the Piedmont landscape.

Some folks seem to take the shotgun approach to lawn establishment. They'll throw anything under the sun out there in hopes that one grass or another will take hold and dominate.

This can look OK for a while, particularly during the summer months. When these various grasses go dormant, the problems show up.

When fescue is mixed with warm season grasses or infested with weeds such as crabgrass or wild bermuda grass the situation becomes exceedingly obvious in winter. During the summer months the problem is masked. The lawn is green and everyone is happy. When these grasses go dormant in the winter the resulting effect is not one which is usually desired.

The best time to deal with these undesirables in the fescue lawn is now. Spray the wild bermuda in your fescue lawn with Roundup.

Bermuda is still actively growing and the Roundup will be effective. After bermuda goes dormant, Roundup is not effective. You still have plenty of time to reseed fescue after the wild bermuda dies out. Bill Batten of the Simpsonville Rotary Club points out that Fusillade is recommended for bermuda eradication in the fescue lawn. I have never used Fusilade, but if it can get rid of bermuda while preserving fescue it will really make fescue lawn care much easier.

After the bermuda has been sprayed and killed, aerate and overseed the lawn. Last week's column discussed this procedure in detail. If last week's column is lining the bird cage you can look it up at or go by the Tribune-Times office to get another copy.

Don't worry about spraying crabgrass now, just go ahead and aerate and overseed it. Crabgrass will die during the first cold snap of the winter and the emerging fescue will mature and establish dominance over the next several months. Use a pre-emergent herbicide or weed and feed next March to keep the million crabgrass seeds you now have laying dormant in your lawn from germinating next year.

If you do have a smorgasbord of grasses and weeds in the area you call your lawn there is another approach you can take. Not everyone cares if their lawn will make the cover of Southern Living. Some folks live in the country and like a nice green appearance, but aren't in the running for subdivision Yard of the Month honors. Some folks like to take shortcuts. and I'm about to reveal one.

If you overseed your yard with rye grass at this time it will come up and look good all winter long. You could have 14 different weeds and grasses in your lawn with the resulting contrasts in colors, textures and growing heights present. By overseeding with rye now you will have a uniform appearance this winter.

Next May the rye will die out and the existing situation will re-emerge. If your goal is year-round greenery for the lawn, you will be able to achieve it in this manner.

In many cases people with hybrid bermuda or centipede lawns will overseed now with rye so that they avoid the dormant appearance these lawns have in the winter. Emerald zoysia is usually too thick for seed germination to be effective if it is overseeded with rye.

There is an unsightly period during May when the rye is dying out due to heat and the warm season grasses have not fully broken dormancy. Rye grass actually impedes these grasses during this period. By mid-June this situation usually rectifies itself.

Whatever approach you take to fescue lawns, there is one tenet to keep foremost in your mind - right now is the optimal time for fescue lawn care.

Columnist Durant Ashmore, MLA, of Fountain Inn, is certified by the South Caroline Nursery Association. He can be reached at 243-3446 or by e-mail at

Tuesday, September 29  

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