Prepare Now for Renovating Your Lawn This Fall

Posted On July 30, 2019— Written By

Summer is here in full force, and if your lawn is tall fescue, it may be looking a bit sad. Don’t worry – this is normal for tall fescue, which is a cool-season turfgrass. Tall fescue grows well in the fall and spring, but may go dormant in the summer. The lawn is more likely to go dormant if it is not getting watered through the summer months. If your tall fescue lawn starts to go brown this summer, it is likely that the grass is dormant, not dead. As the weather cools off this fall, you should see the lawn start to grow again.

If you want to help your tall fescue lawn get back to a lush green state, it is a good time to take a break from sweating in your garden and think about what you’ll do to manage the lawn this fall. First, think about taking a soil test. If you do your soil test now, you’ve got time for it to go to the lab in Raleigh and still get your results back before you start renovations in late August or in September.

This brochure gives information on how to take a soil test, and you will need to fill out this form to accompany your soil test boxes. Soil test kits are available at your local Extension office.

Your soil test results will give you 2 important pieces of information.

  1. A fertilizer recommendation. For any lawn, you only want to fertilize when it is actively growing. A tall fescue lawn should be fertilized in the fall and spring, but not during the summer when it is dormant. Any excess fertilizer you apply above what the plant needs can runoff and pollute bodies of water around you. It’s also a waste of your time and money. Use the recommendation in your soil test report to make sure you’re fertilizing correctly.
  2. A recommendation for lime. Lime is used to raise your soil’s pH, if necessary. Plants thrive in a soil pH around 6. This soil pH helps make sure the nutrients plants need in the soil are available in the correct amounts. A common misconception is that lime should be applied every year. You only want to apply lime if your soil pH is too low. Otherwise, applying lime may increase your soil pH to a level that is not good for plant growth. Again, follow the recommendation that you get in your soil test report when it’s time to apply lime.

*Note: a warm-season lawn, such as bermudagrass or zoysiagrass is actively growing in the summer and requires a different maintenance schedule. Soil testing is still a great idea for these lawns. See information at the end for more resources that can help you with a warm-season lawn.

If your fescue lawn is starting to look patchy, it may be time to overseed. Fescue is a bunching grass, so to keep it full it’s a good idea to overseed every 2 to 3 years. As you’re getting ready for fall, you may want to start looking for the seed you’ll use. There are a few things to know when selecting seed.

  • Select a seed blend that contains multiple varieties of tall fescue. Some varieties may grow well in specific areas of your yard where others don’t, so this helps ensure a full lawn.
  • Choose the best varieties possible. Another lawn misconception is that Kentucky 31 is the best variety of tall fescue. There are actually many other varieties that grow better in our area, and NC State University has researched these for you. View NC State University’s list of top-performing tall fescue cultivars for North Carolina. Use the time you have now to look for a seed mix that contains some of these varieties.

Grass in a lawn

As you work on your plan for your fall lawn, here are some more resources that might help you:

Carolina Lawns is an excellent guide for homeowners wanting to know about establishing and maintaining a lawn.

For even more in-depth information, read the Lawns chapter of the Extension Gardener Handbook.

Visit NC State University’s TurfFiles website for a variety of information about lawns and lawncare. You can even find maintenance calendars specific to your lawn type. Note that warm-season lawns such as bermudagrass and zoysiagrass are maintained on a different schedule than tall fescue lawns.