How to Care for New Fescue Sod

Fescues (Festuca spp.) are perennial grasses suited for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9. Fescue sod does best laid in early spring or mid-fall, when these cool-season grasses are actively growing. Fescue sods vary slightly depending on the variety used. Creeping red fescue (Festuca rubra ), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 7, is a spreading grass that forms densely rooted sod. Non-spreading tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7, roots differently because of its clumping growth. Given proper care, well-maintained fescue sod will thrive.

Laying sod for new lawn
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New sod needs extra attention while roots get established.

Step 1

Irrigate new fescue sod as soon as you finish sodding. Keep the top 1 to 2 inches constantly moist. Depending on your climate and the time of year, this may mean watering several times each day. Don't allow sod to dry out until it roots well. This can take up to three weeks, depending on your sod and your weather. Avoid walking on newly sodded fescue.

Step 2

Increase intervals between irrigation once fescue sod roots. Encourage deep root growth with less frequent, heavier irrigation. Water in the mornings to reduce evaporation and allow fescue to dry well before evening. Irrigate active, rooted fescue to a 4- to 6-inch depth each week. This requires 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week, or 630 to 945 gallons per 1,000 square feet.

Step 3

Mow new fescue sod when the grass reaches a height one and a third times the height you want it kept. If your intended height is 2 inches, make your first mowing when fescue reaches 2 2/3 inches tall. Never remove more than one-fourth to one-third of the fescue's height in a single mowing. Let the short cuttings lie to provide additional nutrients. Keep mower blades sharp; fescue tears easily.

Step 4

Mow sodded areas diligently to keep new fescue at your desired height. Mow when the grass is dry, never when it's wet. Fine fescues, such as creeping red fescue, do well when kept at 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches tall. Tall fescue prefers 2- to 3-inch heights. During drought or temperature extremes -- high or low -- raise your mowing height. Take the extra height off gradually when normal conditions return.

Step 5

Fertilize well-rooted fescue sod in early spring and autumn during its periods of active, cool-season growth. A soil test confirms the amount of fertilizer needed, as well as any need for pH-adjusting soil amendments. Fescues generally require 1/2 to 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet, per twice-yearly application. Never fertilize fescue sod during the summer months. Summer fertilizing stresses fescue roots and encourages turf disease.