Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Kentucky bluegrass, Fescue, Rye and Bent, etc
PW405
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Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 15th, 2017, 9:37 pm

As I am still new to managing a lawn of mixed Fescue & Bermuda in central OK, I am curious as to what many view as the best philosophy for getting Fescue through the HOT & dry summers relatively unscathed.

To summarize the last 9 months, I planted/overseeded fescue in the shade portion of my lawn September. I overseeded again in late March. The lawn really looked great until the past ~2 weeks as temps have come up to ~95. Noticing much of the new fescue is losing it's vigor. It is still green for the most part, but some of the thinner blades are dying out.

I don't think a lack of water is the issue, currently watering every other day around 5:00 AM.

While I feel as if I am doing everything right, the next 10 weeks are going to be pretty rough, as temps will exceed 100°. I'm trying to understand a few things:

1. Does the heat actually kills the fescue, or is something else at play?
2. If heat is the problem, could one do a BRIEF watering every morning to help cool the lawn during the high temp of the day?
3. Is every other day of watering too much? Too little? (assuming ~0.5"/watering)
4. Do people with fescue in hot climates just let it die and plant again in fall?

I purchased a soil probe and plan to take samples tomorrow.

How do you embed a picture here?! I've got some images I'm trying to post (hosted by I m g u r), but they won't work!

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by Green » June 15th, 2017, 10:15 pm

You'll get more replies from people in similar climates...but until then...a few ideas...

-My Tall Fescue tends to brown out/wilt, even sometimes the day of watering, when it's hot. These are cool-season grasses, and they can only handle heat so well.

-Have you tried the screwdriver test, both before and after watering? If not, that soil probe will be handy soon enough.

-Are you really watering 0.5" each time? As in measured/calibrated?

-Even if you are, you might want to do a full inch every so often if your soil can handle it.

-Syringing (very brief watering) on a hot dry day can be helpful.

-Disease management is critical, too. Are you doing anything preventative?

PW405
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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 15th, 2017, 10:18 pm

Test image post.
Image

Green
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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by Green » June 15th, 2017, 10:45 pm

Your grass is right under that tree...it's going to be a challenge keeping it watered when the tree uses most of the moisture.

I would keep watering at the very first sign that it needs it, and hopefully it'll make it through the Summer.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 15th, 2017, 10:49 pm

Green wrote:
June 15th, 2017, 10:15 pm
You'll get more replies from people in similar climates...but until then...a few ideas...

-My Tall Fescue tends to brown out/wilt, even sometimes the day of watering, when it's hot. These are cool-season grasses, and they can only handle heat so well.

-Have you tried the screwdriver test, both before and after watering? If not, that soil probe will be handy soon enough.

-Are you really watering 0.5" each time? As in measured/calibrated?

-Even if you are, you might want to do a full inch every so often if your soil can handle it.

-Syringing (very brief watering) on a hot dry day can be helpful.

-Disease management is critical, too. Are you doing anything preventative?
Thanks for the reply!
RE: .5"/watering. Have not measured accurately, only ballparking with tuna can! I've gone through an agonizing process of replacing all my rainbird rotors with 5000/42SA+ models due to their slip clutch feature, they are super easy to aim & calibrate. Coverage is good. Replaced corner rotors with 1.5 GPM nozzles & left the 180° rotors with a 3 GPM nozzle. Will buy some rain gauges to be sure.

Full inch - Only able to soak deep with a manual sprinkler in the evenings, so I've only done it once this year. Will do again this weekend if we don't get rain.

Screwdriver test - in a few spots, I know I have issues with tree roots. For the most part, screwdriver goes in with slight effort. Certainly not as compacted as my previous lawn.

Disease management - I haven't done any this year. I did apply some Scott's fungus control late last fall, as I feared I may have rust. Seemed great this spring. Nothing so far seems to indicate a disease, any preventative measures you would suggest?

Soil - most of OK soil is heavy, red clay. To my surprise, my lawn is actually quite sandy. Seems to drain well, but doesn't hold water very long. Applied some Revive soil conditioner last week

Food - April 10, Milo at directed rate. May 7, Scott's green max, directed rate. June 8th, Milo, directed rate.

Syringing - should have my Rachio on Monday. Will program something to see if it helps a bit.

Thanks again for the tips! Can't wait to see what soil test shows! I know something isn't quite right. My employer has (what appears to be) stunning fescue that grows well in sun & shade. They are only a few miles from my house, so I know it is possible.


Green
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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by Green » June 15th, 2017, 11:03 pm

You'll get a lot of great input on those questions from a diverse group.

One question...was there any Fescue there before, or just Bermuda? If not, what made you want to get into overseeding with it?

PW405
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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 15th, 2017, 11:16 pm

Green wrote:
June 15th, 2017, 11:03 pm
You'll get a lot of great input on those questions from a diverse group.

One question...was there any Fescue there before, or just Bermuda? If not, what made you want to get into overseeding with it?
Yes, there seemed to be some very healthy fescue closer to the house. When I took over 2 summers ago, only the wide bladed, course fescue was still alive. Bermuda grows great closer to the driveway. Down by the street, it seems that much of the soil washed away and there were only a few rugged fescue pathces that survived. Whatever the cultivar, it is some hardy stuff!

Here's a picture of the fescue that survived the 6 years of neglect from the previous owner.
Image

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by STL » June 16th, 2017, 7:36 am

I have a first year tttf lawn in St. Louis. So far it's doing pretty good overall. The parts exposed to the hot days, we've hit mid 90s and very humid, AND all day full sun get stressed. The parts of my lawn that get at least some afternoon shade are doing great. I've only had to irrigate once so far. We've had a lot of rain this spring and it rained 1.5 inches in the last day so that helps. The all day sun sections look much better after it gets water. My plan is to irrigate as deep and as infrequent as possible but still giving the grass water when it needs it. That'll probably be 2-3 times per week when it gets really hot and dry for extended periods this summer. If you're doing to syringe, very light watering, you're probably better off doing it during the hottest part of the day to cool the grass off. I'd also get a plan for fungus control. Heritage and Scott's are among the best for brown patch. Hot weather + stressed grass + extra water (very likely) = brown patch on tttf.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by Owlnsr » June 16th, 2017, 8:31 am

Ive found that mowing at twice per week at a height of 2.5-3 inches and bagging clippings in the spring helps tall fescue avoid the diseases (brown patch) that later show up ... about now.

The cut at the lower height initially helps the grass blades dry out in between the frequent spring rains. The frequency of the cut encourages the TTTF that I have to produce more tillers, forming a thick canopy that shades the root system.

That usually gets me to early June. I've just now switched to "early summer mode" raising height of cut from 3 to 3.5 inches and mulching clippings, only cutting once per week. Watering 1 inch per week from sprinklers.

In mid July-ish, I'll switch to straight up "summer survival mode" --- 4 inch cut of height, mulched. I won't cut it but maybe once every 2 weeks to avoid stressing it during the heat. I will probably water 2 times per week, about 0.5 inches per session.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by bernstem » June 16th, 2017, 10:23 am

If you have sand, you will need to water more often. Every other day or even every day when it is 100 degrees is likely reasonable. The soil will be losing a lot of water, maybe as much as 0.3-0.4 inches per day from evapotranspiration. You need to replace that to keep the turf happy. The tree will also be adding to water losses from its root zone. It is possible that 0.5 inches every other day is not enough when it is really hot.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PeterS » June 16th, 2017, 10:38 am

My experience with this has been that any fescue which wasn't established in the fall won't have adequate time to root deeply and establish well enough to survive ongoing hot weather. I did a spring overseed about three years ago and found that about 50-75% of the spring seeded fescue died off, despite regular watering and syringing when the temps got above 90. If you overseed in the fall, that generally gives the new turf enough time to root and have better odds of surviving the hot weather.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 17th, 2017, 12:46 pm

Interesting, thanks all for contributing some tips! I think one of the challenges I"m having is that we had a very wet spring, followed by a sudden, and dramatic early summer where temps shot up rapidly, and deep rains have vanished. I've lived here my whole life, and I have a hunch this is going to be brutal summer. Bermuda will look great!

Interesting observation yesterday taking soil samples. I ran my normal sprinkler cycle of 18 minutes, then took samples. Pretty sure I'm not getting anywhere near enough water where it needs to be. Just the ACT of taking soil samples was pretty telling. The first 1-2" were damp. The middle 2" were far more clay-like than I realized. The last 1"-2" came out of the tube were straight DUST. What appeared to be an odd mix of clay & sand. Typical Oklahoma red color, but a sandy/powder texture. Unlike my old lawn, I didn't feel as if I could build an adobe house from it though.

Also thinking some disease is in play. Put down the last of the Scott's Fungus control I had from last year and have been using the oscillating sprinkler to soak the trouble spots.

Also applied a little more Scott's Every Drop (granular wetting agent) to help the water reach the payzone.

Judging by some of the areas, I won't be surprised if I lose 40%-60% of it over the summer. I may have started preventative measures a bit too late in the season. By the time I get soil samples back, this summer may already be out of the question for saving much of it.

If disease is a contributing factor, any other products (aside from Scott's Lawn Fungus control) you would suggest for this summer?

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by andy10917 » June 17th, 2017, 1:03 pm

Pretty sure I'm not getting anywhere near enough water where it needs to be.
Please explain how you measured and determined that 18 minutes was appropriate to deliver 1" of water all at once.

How many irrigation cycles do you run per week?

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by Fronta1 » June 17th, 2017, 1:35 pm

Yeah I'll second what Peter said, best defense is good preparation, et al deep and infrequent waterings to encourage deep root growth, cutting it high to shade the soil and minimize evaporation, and just maintaining a healthy care schedule and overseeding when necessary to increase density which also helps moisture retention.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 17th, 2017, 2:00 pm

andy10917 wrote:
June 17th, 2017, 1:03 pm
Pretty sure I'm not getting anywhere near enough water where it needs to be.
Please explain how you measured and determined that 18 minutes was appropriate to deliver 1" of water all at once.

How many irrigation cycles do you run per week?
I hadn't ever determined that 18 minutes was enough to deliver 1" of water all at once.

One of things I'm struggling with is the transition out of the germinating water cycle. When I germinated seed this spring, I was watering (this zone) 2x daily (05:00 & 13:00) for two weeks. On week 3, I cut back to 1x in the morning, then I transitioned to every other day, where I have been since. During instances of heavy rain, I left the system off for 3-4 days at a time because the soil was saturated.

What would you suggest is a better way to transition back to normal watering cycle?

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 23rd, 2017, 5:50 pm

A few updates here:

-Installed Rachio, changed watering schedule to double duration for Fescue zones, half the frequency (Every other even day, 38 minutes)
-Applied Bayer Lawn Fungus control on all fescue areas
-Have a daily "syringe" cycle on the Rachio to sprinkle fescue zones for 2 minutes at 5:00pm
-Soil sample has been delivered. Waiting on results!

Here are some close-ups of the trouble areas from last week. The main concern is the blades that have turned brown. This is the original problem that prompted me to create this thread.

Image

Image


Does anybody have some guidelines for calculating inches of water, given the flow rate, duration, and area? This zone? This zone outputs ~15GPM and is roughly 2,000 sqft.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by Green » June 23rd, 2017, 9:06 pm

You're going to have to measure the water output to know it. Use short, perfectly cylindrical containers (like tuna cans) in various areas.

As far as syringing, I would only it on hot/dry days, not really humid or wet days. Otherwise, disease becomes more likely to form or get out of control. Also, 5PM might be a bit on the late side. Our sunset time here is about 8:25PM right now, and I syringed at 2PM the other day.

That grass doesn't look bad, but it does look like some disease is present.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by nclawnguy » June 24th, 2017, 9:49 am

I've had cool season lawns in NC since 2004. Heat will not kill fescue or kbg, improper watering and disease will.

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by PW405 » June 24th, 2017, 11:02 am

nclawnguy wrote:
June 24th, 2017, 9:49 am
I've had cool season lawns in NC since 2004. Heat will not kill fescue or kbg, improper watering and disease will.
Do you think that the practice of "syringing" isn't valuable then?

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Re: Managing Fescue During HOT Summers - Philosophy?

Post by bernstem » June 24th, 2017, 12:38 pm

I have never found syringing to be terribly useful on my lawn. That may be because of the humidity so it may work better in dryer climates.

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