Fescue is a bunch-type grass, which means it grows upright and slowly spreads in bunches. It is important for gardeners to understand the spreading and growing habits of fescue grass. Growing habits of this cool-season grass may determine if it is right for your lawn or whether there is an underlying problem.
Fescue's Spreading Habits
Fescue grass lacks rhizomes and stolons, according to "Grounds Maintenance Magazine." Rhizomes are stems that grow underground, while stolons are aboveground stems. Warm-season grass types spread through rhizomes and stolons, which is why they are known as spreading grass types. Because fescue grows in bunches, it takes the grass much longer than other spreading grasses to cover the lawn. While this can present a number of disadvantages for gardeners, those with shady lawns can benefit from fescue's growing habits and requirements.
Gardeners may see a high population of weeds growing among their fescue. Because this grass takes a long time to fill up in an area after being planted, weed seeds take advantage of the bare soil and lack of competition. Also, gardeners cannot prevent weed seeds from germinating by spraying a pre-emergent herbicide on their lawn before planting fescue. Pre-emergent herbicides will prevent both weed seeds and fescue grass seeds from germinating.
Fescue grass performs well in shady lawns that receive four to six hours of daily sun. Certain types of fescue thrive in the shade better than others. Hard fescue, chewings fescue and creeping red fescue tolerate shady conditions. To help your fescue spread in shady lawn areas, allow the grass to grow a half-inch to 1 inch higher than fescue growing in the sun. By allowing fescue to grow high, you'll encourage the grass to spread.
Gardeners should fertilize their fescue lawns to encourage spreading. Spread fertilizer when fescue grass does the majority of its growing--in September and June, according to gardening writer Walter Reeves. Apply fertilizer in late September, November, February and April. Avoid fertilizing fescue grass during the summer, when harsh temperatures combined with nitrogen fertilizer burns grass. To prevent burning your fescue lawn, apply an inch of water to the lawn after fertilizing.