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Spot-Seeding Lawns

Spot-seed with the same seed mixture each time

By: Sandy Feather 2010
Penn State Extension


Q. Can I overseed my young lawn, currently a mixture of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, with tall fescue? I like the positive things I have read about tall fescue, but are there drawbacks, too? What are the pros and cons?

A. The straight species of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is actually a pasture grass that has a much coarser texture and more rapid growth rate than turfgrass species such as Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne). A common variety or cultivar of tall fescue is Kentucky 31. You do not want to overseed your lawn with it. The varieties used for lawns are known as turf-type tall fescue. They are less coarse and have a more refined growth habit than those mentioned above.

But these varieties still tend to be coarser than Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass, and it is not recommended that you overseed an existing lawn with them. Turf-type tall fescues do not blend well with other types of lawn grasses. It would create a very patchy appearance if you use it to overseed your lawn.


Grass seed mixtures

Grass seed is often sold in mixtures of different types of grasses. A mixture of Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue is often sold as "Penn State Mix." (Penn State University DOES NOT sell grass seed). This creates a diverse lawn where one variety may be affected by a particular insect or disease problem while the others are unaffected.

 

Turf-type tall fescues are generally sold alone or with no more than 5 percent to 10 percent Kentucky bluegrass to help the lawn knit together faster. It is not recommended for use with perennial ryegrass.

Turf type tall fescue
Turf-Type Tall Fescue lawn renovation that also included
some perennial ryegrass in the seed mixture

Tall fescue has been used in low-maintenance situations because it tolerates poor soil (although it requires well-drained soil), has good wear tolerance and is drought tolerant once it is well established due to its extensive root system. It is commonly used to reclaim strip-mined areas. It is more shade tolerant than Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass, although not as shade tolerant as fine fescue. It does not require as high a level of fertility as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass. The newer varieties of turf-type tall fescue have good color and density, too.


VIDEO: Spot-Seeding a Lawn
 


Bunch-type Grasses

On the downside, it takes time to fill in because it is a bunch-type grass. A new tall fescue lawn knits together as the clumps increase in diameter, which can take a full growing season. It is also susceptible to winter injury as you go north in Pennsylvania, particularly when we have cold weather without snow cover. And even though the turf-type varieties are more refined than the straight species, they still look quite coarse when compared to Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. They are not for everyone.

MORE

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Lawn plantings in Fall

        


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