Fall is the best time to plant tall fescue seed. Fall offers several advantages not available any other time of year. As air temperatures drop in autumn, soil still retains some summer warmth.
Seeding rates for tall fescue lawns are between 5-10 pounds seeded at 1000 square feet and between 220-435 pounds seeded per acre. Pasture seeding rates for tall fescue grass are generally around 15-30 pounds per acre. Please see individual seed products for more accurate seeding rates.
Prepare the Soil
Follow these three steps to create an ideal growing environment for your grass seeds:
Remove all debris, wood or stones from the planting area.
Use a spade and garden rake to scratch the soil 1-2 inches at the surface. If your soil is compacted or has large amounts of clay, you’ll need to go a step further and till the soil to allow for proper drainage.
Add seeding soil to the top of your existing soil and smooth it out with a landscape rake. Make sure you fill in any sunken areas and level out any higher areas, making the planting surface as even as you can. Ideally, you want about 3 inches of good, rich soil for the seeds to take root in. If you choose not to use seeding soil, which contains fertilizer, you can instead add starter fertilizer on top of your existing soil using a spreader.
Plant the Seeds
A healthy lawn starts with good seed.
Measure the planting area, and refer to the seed packaging for the amount to use per square foot.
As a general rule, you’ll need about 4-8 lbs. per 1000 square feet. It may be tempting to apply extra seed in order to get a thicker lawn right away, but this harms more than it helps. It leads to overcrowding as the grass matures, choking growth.
A spreader is required for uniform growth of the new grass. Use a broadcast spreader or drop spreader on large areas for uniform coverage. For small areas, you can use a hand spreader.
1. Use a lawn roller weighted with water or sand to tamp the seed down. This helps prevent erosion, as well as birds eating the seeds. Many lawn & garden and home improvement stores have lawn rollers available to rent.
2. Mulch with a thin layer of straw to help protect the seeds from washing away in heavy rainfall. Don’t use too much—you should be able to see the seedbed through the mulch. On slopes, you may want to use a seed mat for extra protection.
3. Sufficient watering is the most important factor in a successful fall grass planting. The soil should remain moist throughout the germination process, and you should water enough that you get soil penetration of 6-8 inches. Morning and night are the best times for watering. If you’re experiencing a dry fall, you may need to water 3-4 times a day. Water with a gentle sprinkler or hand sprinkler to avoid washing away the seeds. Don’t rush—the water needs time to soak into the ground, or you’ll end up with a lake in your yard.
Once the Grass Sprouts
If it’s been more than two weeks and there are few or no grass sprouts, you’ll need to reseed and try again.
Once seedlings are visible, continue your daily watering schedule until the grass is about a half-inch high.
Once the grass it tall enough to mow, reduce the watering to a rate of 1 inch per week. At this stage, it’s more important to water deeply and less frequently than to water every day. This will help the roots establish, so your grass will be ready to survive the coming winter.