Chewings Fescue

Asked August 15, 2016, 2:53 PM EDT

8/15/2016 Hello. I am an agronomist in southern Illinois. My son and daughter-in law recently moved to Rochester, MN. They asked me which lawn turf grass is best for their area and pressure on a lawn from dogs. Their lot is sunny, no trees or significant shade. I did some research: Seems to me chewings fescue is a good choice for wear from dogs and a lower maintenance turf. But the general literature does not give chewings fescue good marks for turf. So I need a tie-breaker? Is chewings fescue a good, lower maintenance grass for lawns in Rochester, MN? If yes please provide a link to establishment from seed and maintenance. TY Donald G. Purdy 314.302.4606

Madison County Illinois lawns and turf fine fescues

1 Response

Thank you for the question. The fine fescue grasses are good options for lower maintenance lawns. They are pleasing to look at due to their fine texture and blue to green color. One reason they are lower input grasses is because they are slower growing and put down deeper roots than bluegrass species, thereby needing less supplemental watering and mowing. Because they are slower growing, their recovery from traffic stress is slower which can lead to patchiness and some weed invasion. While the studies show some good results when used on intensively managed golf courses, I'm not sure that passes of a drum type traffic simulator to assess response to traffic is the same as wear and tear from dogs. The number of dogs, their size, and how much time they spend in the yard are factors to consider.
If your son wants to try a low maintenance lawn, a mixture of fine fescues are recommended rather than use of one species. Some are bunch forming grasses, others spread slowly by rhizomes. The combination gives a more pleasing appearance and a diverse stand is more resistant to threats.
On a personal note, I have tried establishing a low maintenance fescue mixture in my Ramsey County yard. Proper preparation is vital because the grasses are slower to establish than bluegrass and competition from weeds is ever present. All weeds must be killed before seeding! I allowed the grass to stay on the taller side, 3-4 inches and only needed to mow about 5 times during the season. It was lovely. However, after 2 years, I had thatch build up and weed encroachment which we battled for several years. We gave up on having a 100% fescue lawn and reseeded with a 3/4 fescue/1/4 Kentucky bluegrass mixture which has worked out great. The bluegrass is faster growing so weeds can't get hold as well and it helps compensate for the bunchiness of some of the fescue varieties such as Chewings. Since the bluegrass is a low percentage, we still don't need to mow or water much more than before. One big difference in my yard is that I have very little traffic-no children, no dogs.

I hope this information is helpful. Please check out the University of Minnesota Sustainable Urban Landscape Series (SULIS) for more information on the different turf grasses and how to establish a lawn:

Thank you for contacting Extension.