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Take it to the Next Level: NC Tall Fescue Lawn Care

11 years ago

I have spent considerable time and expense on my lawn (~3000 sqft tall fescue) with pretty good results. I like to do yard work, so I am happy to spend lots of time on the lawn. My question is essentially, how do I take my lawn to the next level?

Folks who hire a lawn service around me routinely have a 1) quicker spring green up and thickening of turf, their 2)turf is greener and thicker through the winter months, they stay 3) greener through the dog days of summer and they 4)do not seem to have constant invasions of crabgrass and broad-leaf weeds like I do. I know I spend more time on my lawn then the lawn service guy spends on the neighbor's lawn. I should be able to get professional results with this amount of time. I am close, but not quite there yet.

We have heavy clay soils, but my top 5-7 inches have been significantly amended. I also have a sprinkler system and use it regularly (watering from about 4 AM - 7:15 AM) when it does not rain.

My normal yearly routine:


-Core Aerate and apply organic fertilizer (usually Lawn Restore) at one pound N per 1000 sqft.

-Over-seed with turf-type tall fescue (various brands).

-Apply lime every 1-2 years.

-Intensive repair of bare spots (left after summer heat/drought) with seed/top-soil/fertilizer and regular watering.

Late Fall:

-clean fall debris, mow down to about 2 inches to over-winter.

Mid February:

-Apply organic fertilizer (usually Lawn Restore) at one pound N per 1000 sqft.

*This year I applied corn gluten meal (50 lbs of 9-0-0) instead of Lawn Restore hoping to prevent some weeds.

-Repair of bare spots (this year I will wait until 6 weeks after the corn gluten was applied to reseed bare spots).

-Sharpen mower blades.

Early Spring:

-Pull buckets of weeds and crabgrass by hand!

Spring - Summer - Fall:

-Mow at highest mower setting. Irrigate when rain is lacking.

The results of this program are a pretty good looking lawn in spring, although it is weedy if I can't pull them. I struggle to keep turf from thinning out through the summer months, even with significant watering. Lawn usually recovers OK in fall but needs some moderate renovation in spots. Winter months seem to thin out my lawn as well, with the grass looking pretty yellow/brown by the spring. But, most of the lawn greens up again in the spring, and I have to renovate some areas again.

So, spending this much time and money on my lawn, what can I do to keep my lawn healthier through summer and winter. My ideas:

-fertilize more...I have seen recommendations to fertilize up to 6 times per year, but NC Coop Ext says not to fertilize tall fescue after March 15?

-top-dress...I think this would certainly help, but it is expensive and intensive, and I never see any of the lawn service people out there with a shovel and wheel barrow.

-Soil Testing...I did send off a soil sample to the state in Feb. This is a component I have been lazy on. I just assumed that NC soils are slightly acidic and apply lime every couple years.

-Treating with Iron and other nutrient supplements...

-Applying anti-stress products in summer.

Well, that is a lot of information. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

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