In Tulsa (zone 7), we grow fescue in the shade, because it’s a cool season grass that’s  heat-intolerant.  Fescue will grow in full sun farther north, and in those areas, it’s probably fine to seed in the spring.  But here in Tulsa, the life cycle of fescue is different. 

Fescue, like all grasses, needs sunlight to grow and be healthy. But we plant it in the shade, because it gets too hot in the sun for fescue. By planting it in the fall, we ensure that the new baby seedlings won’t get too hot because the temperatures are cooler, and we ensure it will get sunlight to grow and make food for itself (through photosynthesis) because the leaves are falling off the trees.  All winter long, the fescue gets sunlight, makes food, and stores carbohydrates to get it through the long, hot summer.

Fescue looks its best in the spring, and it’s green and growing and lovely before the bermuda even comes out of dormancy.  If you seed in the spring, it will look beautiful!  But as soon as the hot weather hits, it will suffer because it hasn’t had enough time to get a good root system down. And it hasn’t had sunlight all winter to make food for itself.  So, you will lose about half of what you seeded, maybe more.  Even established fescue that was seeded last fall will falter in the 100⁰+ temperatures and drought during the summer.  Unless you keep it thoroughly irrigated, you will lose some of your fescue to our hot summers, every year – which is why you should overseed it every fall.

During the summer, when temperatures are above 90⁰, your fescue will need to be watered lightly every day, just to cool it off.  Then, it will also need its regular deep watering twice weekly.

If you have bare areas in the shade that you just can’t live with until next fall, go ahead and seed them, and the fescue will look nice for a little while – just bear in mind that you will lose a lot of it and you really need to reseed all your fescue in the fall.  Note: ALWAYS let your lawn care company know that you are planning to seed.  It may affect what they put on your lawn!

If keeping up with overseeding your fescue is a bit much for you, we’d be happy to give you a free estimate for fall overseeding.  Or, you might want to consider putting in some ground cover or doing something else in your shade areas.