By Kathy Van Mullekom
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By now, your fescue lawn probably looks ragged and tired.
I know mine does. Rain, high humidity and hot, hot temperatures took their toll on our cool-season grass, so now we are prepping to renovate it this fall.
In August, we used a strong weed killer to eliminate all the many weeds crowding out any good grass. Right now, more of the yard is brown than green but that’s ok because it will soon change.
Before late October, we will reseed the yard with a fescue seed choice from the Virginia turfgrass variety 2021 recommendations at https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/SPES/SPES-237/SPES-237.html. Those seeds have been tested at turf-growing plots throughout the state. One of those turf testing stations is located at the Hampton Roads Agricultural Research and Extension Center on Diamond Springs Road, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, in Virginia Beach — https://www.arec.vaes.vt.edu/arec/hampton-roads.html. You can walk and examine the turf test site and adjacent demonstration flower fields, as well as tree arboretum, as self-guided tours. Parking and admission are free.
Virginia Tech’s approved seeds are also part of the Ken Matthews ‘Tall Fescue Blend’ you can get at Ken Matthews Garden Center on Route 17 in York County.
“We have it blended with three types of tall fescue seed chosen from the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Turfgrass Recommendations so it does fantastic in this area,” says Kat Falcon. This year, those seeds include Avenger II, Firecracker SLS and Spyder LS. Find more fall seeding tips from the garden center at: https://kenmatthewsgardencenter.com/garden-helps-tips/fescue-lawn-establishment-in-tidewater-virginia/
If seeding is not your thing because you need to totally re-establish a new lawn, consider putting down sod. It’s instant lawn without all the daily worry of keeping seed moist so it germinates.
“I stopped installing seed lawns several years ago, and only install sod lawns fall through May 1,” says landscape designer Eric Bailey of Landscapes by Eric Bailey in Hampton. — https://www.landscapesbyeb.com/.
“As far as seeding goes. I personally think seeding Sept. 10-Oct. 1 is the prime time. Once you get in to October you have to deal with leaves falling, and much cooler temps. With much cooler temps brings longer germination times. I know you can safely seed from early September thru and or past Halloween here, but I think the sweet spot is my above time frame.”
“I would also suggest watering new seed for short amounts of time two to three times a day to keep it moist. I like to think of water like your Dr. Pepper — 10, 2, and 4 p.m.
Fall lawn-care 101
Seed new lawn. First, research your needs, such as location, level of use, sun exposure, drainage and so on.
Reseed existing lawn. Spread seed over your existing lawn and then water lightly and regularly, making sure the reseeded areas stay moist until new grass grows in.
Dethatch. Some thatch — the tightly packed layer of organic matter between grass blades and soil surface — benefits your lawn. Ifthe layer exceeds a half-inch, it can keep moisture and oxygen from reaching the soil and can harbor fungus and insect pests.
Aerate. Older or heavily trafficked lawns suffer from soil compaction. A core aerator with hollow tines pulls small plugs of soil out of the ground, allowing increased movement of water and air throughout the top layers of good soil.
Raise mower blades. Let grass grow a bit taller in the fall, usually between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 inches. Use a mulching mower to return nutrients and moisture back into soil.
Get some help
Master gardeners and extension agents can answer gardening and lawn questions and provide guidance. Locate an extension office near you at http://www.ext.vt.edu/offices.
Lawn care online
Virginia Tech turf tips: pubs.ext.vt.edu/category/turf.html
Virginia turfgrass variety 2021 recommendations: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/SPES/SPES-237/SPES-237.html
Virginia Cooperative Extension’s cool- and warm-season lawn-care maintenance calendars and other helpful lawn-care publications: pubs.ext.vt.edu/category/turf.html.