established in it. Even if it is planted in the fall (around the end of September), it should be frequently watered to get it started. Of course, if it is being planted by spreading seed, a cover must be used. The most common cover is straw, but I personally like some of the new, but more expensive, fiber biodegradable mat covers, as straw will many times contain weed seed that will infiltrate the fescue.
Anytime a new yard is planted with fescue, a starter fertilizer needs to be used as well.
If your yard is new or already established, to get a lush, green, thick stand of fescue, several things will need to be done. First, the yard must be fed. In the fall, a winterizer fertilizer should be used around the middle of October. I always try to get mine out 2-3 weeks before the leaves begin to fall. The next, and to me, the most important step is to apply a fertilizer with a crab grass preventer by mid January. Many of the fertilizer packagers will say early spring, but with the mild winters we have had the past several years, I have moved this step to mid January with good results. Since it hasn't been cold enough the past few winters to kill out all of the weeds, I also use a pull behind sprayer with a weed killer a week or so after I put out the fertilizer with crab grass killer. I usually follow up with another dose of weed killer around April 15th as well.
Depending on who you talk to, there are mixed opinions on when to feed your yard next. I have always used a "weed and feed" fertilizer again in late May, but many experts now say not to. I don't feed my lawn as heavily with the "weed and feed" as I did the fertilizer with crab grass preventer, but I do still apply it in late May. However, for a really thick growth of fescue, with our hot, dry summers, heavy watering may be needed to keep the fescue healthy. Experts say don't water but a couple of times a week, but I water every other day with good results. It is best to water in the late evening or during the night as more water is absorbed into the soil, and less is evaporated than when watering during the day. Underground sprinkler systems have really dropped in price in recent years, and really help to give your yard a uniform look. I have a very large yard, and in 1990, needed to loose a lot of weight. I trenched and installed more than 2500 feet of underground pipe for my sprinkler system, lost 75 pounds, and ended up with a lush green lawn to boot!
Now, let's get to the most common mistake people make with a fescue grass yard: improper mowing. A fescue lawn needs frequent mowing, never taking more than 1/3 of the height when you mow. Your mower needs to be set on a setting of at least 31/2 to 4 inches for best results. Since fescue grows best in cool to moderate weather, in the spring weather, I usually mow 2-3 times every week. Many of you might say, "There's no way I have that much time!" Believe it or not, it doesn't take that much time - it takes the right equipment!
In 1984, I bought a Wheel Horse lawn tractor with a 42" deck right after I moved into my house that had about a one acre lawn, not counting the house. The Wheel Horse was a much heavier built mower than a Murray of Craftsman, but if I mowed at a speed of over 3 miles per hour, it would just not deliver a smooth cut. Usually, it would take me about 2 to 21/2 hours to mow my lawn. If it takes a long time to mow your yard, the temptation is going to be there to mow it short so you don't have to mow it as often. By 1995, mowers were beginning to be graded as "residential" or "commercial." The perception was a residential grade mower was just as good at cutting the grass, but just wasn't built as heavy duty. BIG MISCONCEPTION! Pay close attention, as what I am about to say is the most important point of the article. A residential grade mower, even with a front deck and zero turn capability such as those you purchase at Home Depot, Lowe's, and Sears, will not even come close to what a commercial mower can do for you. The difference in a residential and a commercial mower is the speed of the blades. Let me say that one more time: the speed of the blades. In 1995, I purchased a $6500 "Byers Gold" 48" front deck zero turn commercial mower and I can honestly say it was one of the best purchases I have ever made in my life! From that point forward, mowing my grass went from drudgery to fun and pleasure. Remember "speed of the blades"? I went to Home Depot and Lowe's, and not one single mower they sold had the blade speed on the info card. If you check, even the John Deere models sold at the chain stores are not the same model number sold at a John Deere Dealer. My Byers Gold has a blade speed of about 14,000 rpm. My old Wheel Horse had a blade speed of under 5000 rpm. Translated into plain English: the 2 to 2½ hours I used to spend on the Wheel Horse is under 50 minutes on the Byers. I can now mow my yard twice a week in less time than I was spending once a week on the Wheel Horse. Also, I have spent 10 years mowing my yard twice a week, and about 5 acres of rental property I have once a week, and my mower has never had anything other than routine maintenance done to it. I would have probably gone through 3-4 residential grade mowers during that time.
There is even more good news - in the 11 years since I bought my commercial mower, commercial mowers have been refined even further. At Cleveland Tractor on North Lee Hwy, they sell the Encore mowers, which are not quite as well known as Toro and John Deere, but are very heavily built, and have a blade speed of 19,000 rpm. Since Encore is the new kid on the block so to speak, the company is owned by the former engineer of two other power equipment companies. Encore offers a bit lower pricing, yet the same quality, as the other brands of commercial mowers. Also, several times during the year, they have been offering "0" per cent financing as well. Probably the oldest and best known manufacturer of front deck zero turn commercial mowers is the Toro "Z". They are available at Vassey Lawn and Equipment Sales out on Georgetown Road, and these well built mowers have a blade speed of 19,000 rpm, also. Toro "Z" mowers are probably the most popular commercial mower used in this area. Homestead Equipment on the APD 40 By Pass is the John Deere and Scag Dealer. John Deere equipment has a legendary reputation, and the lesser known Scag brand is best known for its commercial walk behind mowers, but also make a tough zero turn rider as well. Both Scag and John Deere commercial mowers also have a blade speed of 19,000 or more. Homestead does offer one more thing for the serious mower: For $300 a year, if your commercial mower breaks down and takes more than one hour to repair, they will furnish you a loaner until yours is repaired.
No matter what brand you buy, any of these brands of mowers are a wise investment. I think many times people who can afford a true commercial mower are lulled into the belief there is not that much difference - trust me - there is.
If you truly want that lush, thick, green yard, try these tips, but don't expect overnight results. Usually, it will take 2-3 years to achieve the results you want, but when you finally achieve the results you want, it will be worth it.