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Bad Fescue vs. Good Fescue

April 23, 2012

Hear the grass name “Fescue” and you may immediately have good or bad thoughts.

Coarse Fescue, “The Bad Fescue” is a clumpy, wide-bladed grass that grows taller than your good grass.  The only way to get rid of it in your lawn is to dig it up or spray individual plants with Roundup.  (Note:  Roundup will also kill your good grass so be careful where you spray.)  Kentucky 31 Fescue is a coarse fescue that is often sold for roadside plantings.

“The Good Fescue” is one of the many turf-type fescue varieties.  In my experience the best way I know to buy the good fescues is in a blend we sell called Scotts Turf Builder Heat-Tolerant Blue (click here to learn more).

I think you will agree from these two pictures why one Fescue is “Bad” and the other is “Good”.

“Bad Fescue” is a clumpy, wide-bladed grass that grows taller than your good grass

“Good Fescue”. My Scotts Heat-Tolerant Blue lawn is nice and thick and has a pleasing texture.


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  1. This is an interesting read. I just bought a house up here in Michigan and the front yard appears to be a mixture of these. Most of the lawn is rough fescue like you’ve mentioned above and other coarse grass. There are patches, though, of very soft grass. Perhaps the previous homeowner had put down seed there.

    How would you handle that situation to achieve the best, most uniform lawn?

    • Hi Will Eifert
      You are describing what many folks find in an older lawn: a mixture of different grasses with a range of texture. The sections you find undesirable can not be eliminated without using a herbicide like Roundup that kills the grasses you want to keep as well as the ones you want to get rid of. Having said that the easier approach is to feed your lawn 4 times a year and mow with one of the taller settings so that your grass is around 2-1/2 to 3 inches after the cut. You may find that the thicker, taller grass is ok even though the texture is not uniform. If you decide that you want to replace your existing lawn and start over with new grass you should read my blog which suggests that late summer/early fall is the best time of year to do this in your area: This approach requires lots of extra work and is easier for a smaller lawn than a larger one. Hope this info helps you figure out your next step.

  2. If I set the mower to a short length, will that allow the more preferable fescue to eventually choke out the taller fescue ?? The problem with killing it with Roundup or other herbicides is that you can’t reseed for several weeks.

    • Hi Mike Houlihan
      Fescues like a 2-1/2 inch to a 4 inch mowing height. The turf-type tall fescues can be mowed at the lower end of the range. I do not believe that regular mowing at the lower height will eventually get rid of the old clumping type tall fescue even though they will not like the shorter mowing height. If you were to treat your coarse tall fescue clumps with a Roundup formula that is easier to control where you treat, you may be able to spot treat your clumps. Here is a link to info on Roundup Gel: The good news is that you can seed those areas about 5 days after treating. You might want to time your killing near the time for fall seeding in Late August/early September. Hope this helps.

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