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Fixing Common Tall Fescue Grass Problems Full Guide of 2023

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7 common tall fescue grass problems and how to fix themWhen it comes to lawn care, prevention is key. Taking the time to identify and address common problems with tall fescue grass early on is essential for a healthy, lush landscape that will last all season long.

From brown patches and yellowing leaves to weed infestations and thinning grass, there are several issues that can arise in your tall fescue lawn if not properly cared for.

Key Takeaways

  • Prevention is crucial for maintaining healthy tall fescue grass.
  • Fertilization, soil testing, and soil amendments are essential for maintaining healthy grass.
  • Thinning grass can be improved through overseeding and proper care.
  • Proper watering techniques, weed control, and insect control are important for maintaining a healthy lawn.

Brown Patches

Brown Patches
Your tall fescue lawn may develop some common issues, such as yellowing leaves indicating a nutrient deficiency, thinning grass due to poor soil conditions, fungal diseases in humid weather, and pesky weeds popping up through the grass.

Properly identifying the causes and using the right treatments will get your lawn looking lush and healthy again.

Yellowing Leaves

You’ve nourished your lawn all season long, yet those sickly yellow leaves taunt you – don’t despair, a balanced fertilizer will nurse your fescue back to a healthy green and restore your pride.

  1. Test soil pH and nutrients.
  2. Choose a balanced fertilizer.
  3. Apply according to label directions.

With the right diagnosis and treatment, your lawn will soon regain its vibrant color and fullness.

Thinning Grass

Thinning grass isn’t fun, but you can test the soil, amend deficiencies, or cycle livestock off the lawn. Don’t worry though, overseeding in the fall helps thicken things up. Use high-quality grass seed and spread it after aerating.

Fill bare spots with topsoil first for the best results. Mow high, fertilize, and water deeply to give those new seeds the care they need.

Fungal Infections

Fungal disease on your lawn manifests as brown patches; determine if it’s brown patch, dollar spot, or another infection before grabbing fungicides. Prevent fungal infections by promoting proper drainage, reducing thatch buildup, and following a balanced fertilization schedule.

Weed Control

Prickly weeds invading the lawn demand immediate action before they spread their sharp seeds everywhere. Mulching bare spots helps prevent weeds. Organic herbicides target lawn pests without harming grass.

For minor outbreaks, hand weeding avoids chemicals. Weeding tips: water the soil first for easy removal, get the root, discard pulled weeds so they don’t reroot.

How to Fix Thin Tall Fescue Grass

How to Fix Thin Tall Fescue Grass
Thin and sparse tall fescue can be frustrating, but following proper practices for water, soil, aeration, weeds, and treatment helps fill it in. Regular deep watering, fertilizing with organic matter, aerating for airflow, using herbicides on weeds, and fungicides for disease will increase density so you have an attractive lawn to enjoy.

Proper Watering Techniques

You’re watering deeply and infrequently to promote those healthy roots your fescue needs.

  1. Water early in the morning before evaporation.
  2. Soak the soil 6-8 inches deep.
  3. Allow the soil to partially dry between waterings.
  4. Water once or twice per week based on weather.
  5. Adjust for rainfall – less watering after heavy rain.

Fescue needs about an inch of water weekly for strong roots and growth. Proper watering technique provides a sturdy foundation for your lawn’s health.

Fertilization and Soil Amendments

It’s crucial for you to amend the soil with organic matter and use slow-release fertilizers, as this can increase the nutrient levels in the soil by up to 50% over the first growing season. Good soil means good grass. Test it annually. Add compost or manure. Spread organic matter.

Meet the lawn’s needs with timely fertilization. Aerate compacted soil. Your grass will thrive with proper feeding and care.

Aeration and Overseeding

Getting air to the roots while adding new grass seed thickens up thin spots in tall fescue lawns. Renovate in the fall or spring with core aeration for airflow, then overseed bare patches with high-quality tall fescue blends.

This rejuvenates lawns, reducing brown spots, yellow grass, and the need for insect control.

Fungicides and Other Treatments

Didn’t you know fungal diseases are some of the most common problems plaguing tall fescue lawns?

  • Use preventative fungicides in spring and fall to stop fungal diseases before they start.
  • Improve drainage and reduce shade to make conditions less favorable for fungus.
  • Apply curative fungicides to eradicate active infections.
  • Boost overall lawn health with proper mowing, watering, aeration, and fertilization practices.
  • Consult a professional if fungal issues persist despite your best efforts.

Healthy soil and timely treatments are your best defenses against stubborn fungal diseases.

Weed Control Strategies

You’ll need to attack those weeds aggressively to prevent them from taking over your tall fescue. Pre-emergent herbicides provide critical prevention. Proper lawn fertilization thickens grass to crowd out weeds.

Overseeding improves lawn density and health. Aeration and dog urine solutions reduce bare spots for weeds.

Ugly Brown Spots on Your Lawn

Ugly Brown Spots on Your Lawn
Understanding the cause of brown spots in your tall fescue lawn is crucial before taking action. Carefully examine the affected areas to determine if it’s grubs, fungus, dog urine, or another issue. Then, use the proper treatment method for the best results, whether that involves applying grub control, antifungal agents, or products to neutralize dog urine spots.

Identifying the Cause

Simply point out those ugly brown spots in the tall fescue grass to determine the possible causes, such as grubs, fungus, or dog urine, before seeking a remedy. Careful lawn inspection and diagnostic techniques, like soil testing, allow for accurate problem analysis and identification of the underlying cause before treatment.

Treating Grubs

Got grubs wrecking your lawn? Grab some GrubEx to give them the boot before further damage ensues. Beating grub infestations requires early prevention by applying this trusted grub killer in spring and summer before the eggs hatch.

Though not a quick fix for existing grubs, using GrubEx annually fortifies your soil and equips your lawn for the long war against these ruinous pests.

Dealing With Fungal Issues

If fungal diseases rear their ugly heads in your lawn, act quickly by applying appropriate fungicides and following proper maintenance practices. Treating grass fungus as soon as you spot it is key to saving your lawn. Apply fungicides like Bayer Advanced Fungus Control or Scotts DiseaseEx at the first signs of fungal disease.

Rake up dead debris and avoid overwatering to discourage fungal growth. Mowing, fertilizing, and watering properly will strengthen grass to resist disease. With prompt fungicide applications and vigilant care, you can conquer lawn fungi.

Addressing Dog Urine Spots

You’ll want to treat those pesky brown spots from your dog’s urine as soon as you notice them to prevent the nitrogen in the urine from burning the grass and creating dead patches. Use a liquid or granular nitrogen-free fertilizer to help dilute the nitrogen. Consider training your dog to use one area so that the burns are localized and easier to treat.

Managing Weed Problems in Your Tall Fescue Lawn

Managing Weed Problems in Your Tall Fescue Lawn
7 common tall fescue grass problems and how to fix them

Weeds can be a frustrating problem for your tall fescue lawn, but with the right strategies, you can tackle them successfully. Pre-emergent herbicides for preventive weed management, post-emergent herbicides for killing existing weeds, diligent hand removal methods, and spot weed control all have their place in an integrated weed management plan.

Together, they can help you keep your lawn lush while controlling weed problems.

Pre-Emergent Herbicides for Prevention

Killing two birds with one stone by applying a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring, before weeds poke through the turfgrass.

  1. Stop weeds before they germinate.
  2. No need for post-emergence herbicides.
  3. Achieve a weed-free lawn all season.

Select an herbicide like prodiamine, apply before the soil reaches 55 degrees, and use it safely by following label directions. With a pre-emergent herbicide program, you’ll stop weeds in their tracks before they invade and ruin your beautiful lawn.

Post-Emergent Herbicides for Existing Weeds

Grab those stubborn, unsightly weeds from your tall fescue lawn by the roots with effective post-emergent herbicides – they’ll eliminate those pesky invaders for good so your grass stays full and lush.

Weed Species:

  • Crabgrass: Quinclorac, Fenoxaprop
  • Dandelion: 2,4-D, Dicamba, Triclopyr
  • Chickweed: 2,4-D, Dicamba, Carfentrazone
  • Dollarweed: 2,4-D, Triclopyr
  • Spurge: 2,4-D, Dicamba

Timing of Application:

  • Crabgrass: Summer, early fall
  • Dandelion: Spring through fall
  • Chickweed: Early spring, fall
  • Dollarweed: Spring, summer, early fall
  • Spurge: Spring through early fall

Target existing weeds with selective post-emergent herbicides to restore your tall fescue’s health and beauty.

Hand Removal Techniques

Pull those weeds yourself to remove unwanted plants from your lawn without chemicals. Hand-pull broadleaf weeds like dandelions by gripping low and firmly near the root before extraction. For persistent perennial weeds, use a dandelion weeder tool to remove the entire taproot.

When renovating a lawn, consider tall fescue’s shade tolerance before seeding bare spots. Careful hand weeding prevents chemical usage while improving your lawn’s health.

Spot Weed Control for Lawns

Want better weed control in your fescue? Try spot treating with herbicides. Selective products like Turf Builder Spot Weed Control can target lawn weeds without harming the grass. Carefully follow label directions for best results. Proper lawn maintenance and aeration help prevent weeds naturally.

Address underlying issues such as fungal infections, poor drainage, or grub infestations for healthy turf.

Dealing With Crabgrass in Your Tall Fescue Lawn

Dealing With Crabgrass in Your Tall Fescue Lawn
Getting overrun with crabgrass in your lawn? Preventing it from taking hold in the first place is your best defense. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide like Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer in early spring before the seeds germinate, and use a post-emergent herbicide like Spot Weed Control for Lawns to kill any existing plants that appear.

Preventing Crabgrass With Pre-Emergent Herbicides

You’ll save yourself headaches by applying a crabgrass preventer in early spring before the devilish weed emerges.

  • Apply when forsythia blooms or soil temps reach 55-60°F.
  • Use Scotts Turf Builder Halts Crabgrass Preventer or a similar product.

Water the product into the soil after application.

Reapply every 8-10 weeks if the problem persists through summer.

Pre-emergent herbicides form a barrier that prevents crabgrass seeds from germinating. Proper timing and application of these products will help prevent stubborn crabgrass infestations. Focus on prevention to avoid costly remedies down the road. Crabgrass can quickly take over if you don’t get ahead of it.

Killing Existing Crabgrass With Spot Weed Control

If stubborn crabgrass has already taken root, you’d treat individual weeds with a post-emergent herbicide like Scotts® Spot Weed Control for Lawns. This targeted crabgrass killer will disrupt weed growth without harming surrounding grass when applied properly.

Spot treatment gives you precision in improving lawn appearance and managing weeds amidst renovation.

With diligent crabgrass control, you’ll maintain a lush, weed-free lawn.

Weed Type: Crabgrass

Treatment Timing: Summer through early fall when actively growing

Application Method: Spray on individual weeds

Weed Type: Broadleaf weeds like dandelions

Treatment Timing: Spring and fall when weeds are young and actively growing

Application Method: Spray on individual weeds or across the lawn

Preventive crabgrass control should be done in early spring before soil temperatures reach 55°F.

Yellow Stripes in Your Lawn

Yellow Stripes in Your Lawn
Improper fertilizer application can leave unsightly yellow stripes in your lawn. To prevent this, make sure to overlap passes as you apply fertilizer using a broadcast spreader for full, even coverage across the grass.

Proper Fertilizer Application Techniques

Spread fertilizer evenly to prevent those unsightly yellow stripes in your lawn. Overlap passes with your spreader, walking at an even pace in straight lines across your yard. This ensures the fertilizer covers every square inch of soil evenly for proper nutrient distribution.

Strive for consistent coverage so that all grass absorbs nutrients at the same rate. Healthy soil grows healthy grass. Pay close attention to the application instructions for the fertilizer product you select.

Applying too much or too little can negatively impact the grass. Proper fertilization encourages deep roots, vigorous growth, and rich color in your lawn.

Using a Spreader for Even Coverage

The most epic way to annihilate those horrendous yellow stripes is to meticulously blanket every inch of your lawn using a spreader for flawless coverage. Choose an appropriate spreader for your lawn’s size. Calibrate it properly according to the product’s instructions.

Walk at a steady pace in straight, overlapping passes to distribute fertilizer evenly across the entire lawn. Take care around landscaping beds and boundaries. Loading the hopper properly and using the correct spreader technique ensures full, uniform coverage to banish ugly stripes from your luscious lawn.

Best Practices for Mowing and Lawn Care

Best Practices for Mowing and Lawn Care
Mowing and fertilizing properly are crucial for a lush, healthy lawn. To keep your tall fescue looking its best, maintain the ideal cutting height, fertilize at the right times, water deeply and infrequently, control damaging insects, and aerate annually in the fall.

Proper Mowing Heights

You’re cutting your tall fescue too short if it’s under 2 1/2 inches; aim for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inches for optimal health. Proper mowing height maintains lawn aesthetics and grass health. Set your mower high, keep the blades sharp, and mow frequently for vigorous growth.

Fertilization Guidelines

Adding organic matter and using high-quality, slow-release fertilizers will further enrich the soil and provide a steady supply of nutrients for those thirsty fescue roots. Soil testing, lawn aeration, selecting quality fertilizers and grass seeds, proper watering, and routine care will keep your lawn lush.

Watering Recommendations

Checking your tall fescue lawn’s moisture before watering avoids oversaturating the soil while ensuring adequate hydration. Water early in the morning, using a deep soak to encourage root growth. Adjust timing and quantity based on weather and season.

Prioritize conservation, considering efficient irrigation systems or smart controllers.

Insect Control Measures

Seeing grubs damage your lawn? Applying GrubEx in spring or early summer controls grubs in 75% of lawns.

  1. Attract natural predators like birds and beneficial insects.
  2. Use nematodes for chemical-free grub control.
  3. Opt for less toxic pesticides labeled lawn-friendly.

Consider pest-resistant grass varieties and cultural practices that discourage pests for a safe, natural-looking lawn.

Aeration Techniques

You’ll want to aerate your lawn in the fall or spring to promote air circulation and encourage thick, healthy growth. Aeration punches holes to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate compacted soil.

Core aeration is best, removing plugs of thatch and soil for thorough penetration. Use a core aerator or hire a professional for optimal results. Proper aeration relieves soil compaction, improving root development.


Overall, tall fescue grass is a hardy and resilient turfgrass. But, like any other lawn, it can be subject to various issues such as brown patches, yellowing leaves, thinning grass, fungal infections, weed control, and insect infestations.

To keep your tall fescue lawn healthy, it’s important to tackle these issues with the right strategies. From proper watering techniques to insect control measures, there are many important steps you can take to ensure your tall fescue grass is thriving.

With a bit of extra care and attention, you can easily fix common tall fescue grass problems and enjoy a lush and vibrant lawn.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.