Red fescue (festuca rubra) is a species of grass native to North America. It grows in 43 American states and all Canadian provinces. Gardeners, landscapers and scientists use red fescue, also known as creeping red fescue, and its many cultivars in a number of applications. Knowing when and how to seed red fescue is important in maintaining plant health and optimal growth. Proper culture, or growing environment, and maintenance are also important in maintaining healthy specimens.
When to Plant
According to University of Tennessee professors Tom Samples and John Sorochan, there are two ideal red fescue planting periods in the year. Late summer or early fall planting is more highly recommended, though plants can also be seeded in the late winter or early spring. The ideal planting and growing temperature for red fescue, a cool season grass, is 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. In Tennessee, late August to mid October planting is ideal -- planting time for the species should be adjusted to meet the climate in which seeds are planted.
How to Plant
Red fescue is commonly planted in a seed mixture with other similar species of grass. In moist coastal regions, bentgrass (Agrostis spp) and red fescue seed mixtures are common. In dry interior regions, Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) or one of its many cultivars is commonly mixed with red fescue.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, red fescue seed mixture distribution is ideal at 2 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. Gardeners and landscapers should base planting methods on this formula. Ideally, red fescue is planted in a prepared seedbed. Tossing seeds on freshly disturbed earth is a viable alternative when seedbed establishment proves impossible.
Culture and Maintenance
Red fescue flourishes in soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5, though it tolerates acidic or calcareous soils if necessary. Specimens thrive in sun or shade and require moist, well-drained soils. In regions receiving less than 18 inches average annual rainfall, irrigation is necessary.
Fertilization encourages red fescue growth, though the excessive use of nitrogen is best avoided. According to University of Missouri horticulturalist Brad S. Fresenburg, grass species such as red fescue should receive no more than 2 lbs. of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet annually.
Red fescue has numerous uses. In landscaping, red fescue and its cultivars make excellent ground cover for lawns, turf and golf greens, particularly in shaded or sandy regions. In gardening, specimens are ideal for groundcover or ornamental species in areas heavy with shade or sandy or gravelly soil. Scientists use red fescue in stabilization and erosion control projects. Combining red fescue with taller species creates ideal bird nesting environments in wildlife habitats.
- USDA Plant Profile: Festuca rubra
- United States Department of Agriculture; "Creeping Red Fescue Plant Fact Sheet"; 2002
- University of Tennessee Extension; "When to Plant Turfgrass"; Tom Samples and John Sorochan; 2007
- University of Missouri Extension; "Establishing and Maintaining Laws in Lowlight"; Brad S. Fresenburg; 2005
- Photo Credit grass image by ana malin from Fotolia.com
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