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Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

Turf-type fescue is best choice for lawns

September 19, 2004

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Fall is traditionally the time to renovate cool-season lawns, such as fescue, bluegrass and ryegrass.

Mild night temperatures and timely rains create ideal growing conditions. Seeds germinate quickly and establish root systems well before the winter chill arrives.

If a lawn needs attention, or there are small bare spots to fill, here are some tips:

For home lawns, there are many different cool-season turfgrass species. Turf-type tall fescue is the best choice for lawns in the Lawrence area. It is the best adapted grass for a year-round lawn. Although K-31 fescue has been planted for many years, the newer turf-type cultivars surpass it in quality and desirability. Turf-type tall fescues are more dense, finer-textured, darker green and not as prone to clumping as the K-31. K-31 still may be a good choice for large, open acreage. However, the new cultivars will give better performance for those who desire a high-quality turf for a smaller residential lawn. Regardless of the specific variety selected, it is better to buy or create a blend of multiple varieties to minimize the risk of failure and increase the health of the turf.

Every year Kansas State rates 160 tall fescue varieties for color, green-up, quality and texture at their research center just outside of Wichita. Quality ratings are taken monthly from March through October. K-31 consistently rates near the bottom. The highest named cultivars from last year's ratings were Justice, Falcon IV, Avenger, Scorpion, Coshise III, Coyote, Grande II, Picasso, Raptor, Millennium, Finelawn Elite, Legitimate and Matador. Each of these varieties averaged a rating of at least 5.6 on a scale of 0 to 9, with 9 being the best. There are many varieties not listed that performed just as well as the top-rated ones.

Choosing seed can be confusing and sometimes frustrating. A small investment in time and money will pay dividends in the quality of the turfgrass to come. Buying quality seed is one of the most important steps to successfully planting or over-seeding a lawn. If you are not careful, you may be introducing unwanted intruders into the lawn, such as orchard grass and/or rough bluegrass. These are both perennial grassy weeds that cannot be selectively controlled once they are established. To prevent introducing these weeds, buy seed that is pure (free from weed seed) and has very little "other crop." Both orchard grass and rough bluegrass fall into one of these categories. Seed labels are required by law to show the percentage (by weight) of "other crop" in the bag. Even the smallest amount may be to much. For example, if a bag of tall fescue seed contained 0.5 percent orchard grass, the buyer would end up "planting" 12 to 16 orchard grass seeds per square foot.

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