I have to admit I’m lovin’ my lawn right now. This is our third spring in this home and the lawn is beginning to look very nice. It’s not perfect, in fact far from it. Weeds can be found within a few feet of anywhere you look but the fescue is taking over. Areas that used to be clumps of weeds are now filled with new grass planted in the last two falls. I have to admit something else, I have only aerated one time, two years ago and I have never fertilized. Never. Now it’s possible that I have received some runoff fertilizer from my neighbors lawns but I can safely attribute most of my turf’s success to two important lawn techniques: Cutting the grass high and fall overseeding.
Cutting the grass high is extremely important for fescue lawns like mine. When you cut the grass short it causes two things to happen: it limits the length of the grass’s root system and it allows weeds to see the sun. All plants like sunlight, some more than others, and most lawn weeds think it’s the best thing since sliced bread! Chickweed, henbit, ragweed, thistle, and dandelions all love the sun. That’s not to say that weeds won’t grow underneath the shade of the grass but they will grow less vigorously which can mean the difference between controlling your weeds and an outbreak of unwanted invaders. Cutting the grass high definitely limits the light the weeds receive while allowing the grass to form a more established root system. It also encourages the roots to grow deep which makes the grass more drought tolerant since it can reach the water under the soil’s surface. Most of the time I have the mower on one of the top two deck height settings. In the summer this is especially important. Grass will grow at the same rate no matter how high you cut it so the old myth that you will have to cut it more often is just that, a myth.
Fall overseeding isn’t a secret but I can’t figure out why more people don’t do it. Overseeding thickens the lawn by adding more seed during the cool season in the fall. The grass germinates and sends down roots where they will continue to grow through the cold season. When spring comes the grass is ready to flush out with new growth invigorated by the root system it began establishing in the fall.
To me these are two of the most important techniques for maintaining a fescue lawn. One more quick tip, never mow the lawn when it doesn’t need it! Every summer I see people out mowing their lawns in the middle of dry spells (most likely out of habit). Maybe they just need something to do? Maybe they are trying to raise the price of gas in America? If the grass isn’t growing it doesn’t need mowing!