When it comes to all-round performance, we recommend tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) as the best lawn grass for homeowners in eastern Pennsylvania and central New Jersey. This cool-season lawn grass is quick to establish and easy to grow in our area, and no other lawn grasses for the region can compete with its adaptability and resilience.
Benefits of a Tall Fescue Lawn
Tall fescue is a vigorous bunch grass that grows lush lawns that look great from summer to winter. The grass blades are broad, coarse, and deep green. Unlike other cool-season grasses, tall fescue can withstand moderate heat and drought—making it a great choice for “transition zones” like NJ and PA where other cool-season grasses scorch in the summer heat and warm-season grasses can’t take the cold winters.
Tall fescue offers many benefits -
- It germinates quickly and is easy to establish from seed
- It tolerates both heat and drought
- Tall fescue is resistant to many lawn diseases
- Unlike many grasses, tall fescue will grow well in partial shade
- Even in poor soils, tall fescue will still grow (although fertilization is always a good idea)
- It can repel some broad-leaved weeds, including clovers
- Walk on it all you want – tall fescue holds up well to foot traffic
- It's less likely to develop excessive thatch than other cool-season turfgrasses
Starting a Tall Fescue Lawn From Seed
There are several ways to establish a tall fescue lawn. Sod is available, but most homeowners choose the more economical method of planting their lawn from seed.
Starting a tall fescue lawn from seed can be done in spring or fall. Early spring seeding will get the lawn established by the time summer arrives, as long as the late spring weather remains mild and cool. Early fall seeding often yields better results, though you may end up with some thin lawn patches the following spring. If you see them, simply apply more seed as needed. Fall is also the best time to overseed an existing fescue lawn.
Whether you plant a new fescue lawn from scratch or overseed an existing lawn, there are several things you should do to get the best results. Just follow the steps below to ensure that most of the grass seeds germinate and the lawn fills in properly.
- Prepare the soil before seeding by making sure it’s tilled, smooth, and weed-free
- Buy fresh, top-quality seed – don’t use any bags of seed left over from last year
- Make sure you have good seed coverage by using a push broadcast spreader or slit seeder
- After spreading the seed, cover it with ⅛ to ¼ inch of soil
- Use a lawn roller to press the seed into the soil – lawn seed needs good seed-to-soil contact to germinate
- Cover your newly seeded lawn area with a light straw cover to reduce erosion and help keep the seed moist
- Keep newly planted seed lightly moist until it germinates
- Apply an OMRI Listed® organic lawn fertilizer
Once the grass sprouts emerge, don’t walk on them for three weeks to one month. This will give them the best opportunity to build strong roots for a lush lawn.
Tall fescue seedlings thrive when conditions are cool and lightly moist so if growing conditions become unexpectedly hot and dry, irrigate as needed.
Caring For A Tall Fescue Lawn
Once tall fescue lawns reach a height of 3 to 3.5 inches, it’s time to mow the grass (follow these 5 simple mowing practices to get the best lawn).
Ultimately, tall fescue is the lawn grass of choice for central New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania because it’s trouble-free, drought resistant, attractive and holds up well to foot traffic. It’s the grass we use for most of our lawn care services, including overseeding in fall.