Landscaping in America

Cool season grasses for homeowners living in northern America

Cool season fine-fescue type grasses

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Fine Fescue

Three grasses go under the common name of fine fescue: chewings fescue, creeping red fescue, and hard fescue. All three survive extreme cold and combine well with other cool-season grasses.

None of the fine fescues tolerate wear and tear, but they have the unusual talent of being able to grow in dry shade. Hard fescue has a strong bunching habit that makes it appear less refined than other lawn grasses, but will persist in difficult sites that are unusually cold, windy, and dry.

The Fescues: The fescues are cool season grasses that are adapted to the transition zone and into Canada. The fescue species are easily seeded and include the sub species of tall bunching grasses named tall fescue and fine shorter fescues named creeping red, hard fescue, chewings and sheep fescue.

All of the fescues share the same variety characteristics with the three dominant ones being shade tolerance, staying green all year, and having good drought resistance. Fine Fescues are more cold and shade tolerant than Tall Fescue, but both are used though-out much of the Central to Northern USA states.
Working with Fine Fescue

Depending on your soil and climate, it may be wise to diversify a fine fescue lawn by including other cool-season grasses. Bluegrass gives the lawn vibrant green color and helps hold soil in place with its spreading habit, and perennial ryegrass helps the lawn recover quickly from wear and tear. In some sites, it is a good idea to emphasize these species and use fine fescue mostly to improve the lawn's appearance in shade or to improve its ability to withstand extreme cold. Reliable mixtures are available as both seed and sod. Plant fine fescue seed or sod in early spring or early fall so it can grow vigorously during cool weather.

Look at the contents label on bags of grass seed to identify the varieties of fine fescue and companion species. Avoid fine fescue seed that shows some annual bluegrass on its contents label under "weed seed content". Annual bluegrass is a weed.

Recommendations for the best selections of fine fescue are constantly changing. New selections undergo extensive evaluation at numerous sites in different climates, and the grass seed industry is quick to make use of new selections that show superior overall quality or outstanding resistance to common diseases. When buying hard fescue seed to plant in low maintenance areas, the species name to look for is Fesutca ovina, which translates literally as sheep fescue.