We are about to wrap up the window of opportunity for seeding tall fescue in Carolina lawns now that we are into October. It’s best to seed fescue from mid-September to about mid-October, allowing for the seed to germinate and grow some before winter sets in. Then as the warm spring weather hits in March and April, new fescue turf will quickly develop maturity, thicken up, and develop a stronger root system, increasing the chances for surviving the summer heat and disease pressures. Using a blend of quality fescue seed is very important, especially in keeping other weeds and foreign grass types out of the turf. Proper soil preparation is vital, in making sure that the seed comes into contact with the soil to germinate. The most important factor though is keeping the seed bed moist for at least 10 days, and not allowing it to dry out.
At LawnAmerica, we recommend watering 3 times daily if possible for about 15 minutes per watering if possible. If you don’t have an irrigation system, that will be tougher to do. So you can water once a day for longer, and then go out by hand and lightly sprinkle once or twice daily. And, if we are lucky enough to get one of those nice fall soaking rains, then that is ideal, so you can cut back on some of your irrigation. It’s been a dry fall though, after a dry summer, so you’ll need to help out a bunch, since Mother Nature does not seem to be helping much. After about 10 days, new seedlings should be popping up through the soil, so you can cut back to about once per day watering, but for a longer duration, to get the soil wet at deeper levels and stimulate the new roots to grow deep. As the seedlings reach about 3-4″ in height in a few weeks, you can carefully mow for the first time. And by then, you should be able to cut back even more on the irrigation frequency, while watering longer (up to 30 minutes per cycle) for deeper wetting of the soil.
The bottom line is that it is hard to over-water your fescue seedlings in the fall. Better for too much water than not enough. We’ve seen too many cases where we use the best seed, do a great job of seeding, only to have a homeowner neglect the discipline of watering the new seed and it just does not come up, or dies soon after germinating. So we need your help! And, when leaves start falling soon, it’s important to keep those raked up, so the tender seedlings will not be smothered. When you mow, remove your leaves by using a bagger to keep your fescue turf free of leaves later in the fall.