Why Your Fescue Lawn Looks Dead

by Ben Bowen

Tall Fescue In Portland's Winter?

You are smart.

portland winter fescue lawn.JPG

Fescue Lawns

A casualty of Portland's cold winter?

When you replaced your lawn you did your research (or your landscape designer did) and came across rhizomatous fescue sod. Most of your neighbors have perennial rye lawns. But fescue uses less water, less fertilizer, is self repairing, and looks pretty nice too.

Every summer your fescue lawn has been the best looking one on the block, all while saving you time and money. Yep, you feel pretty good about your fescue lawn.

Or at least you did. 

What does your fescue look like now? My clients with tall fescue sod from JB Sod have lawns that look like wet straw. Not good. I called JB Sod and asked them about it. Here is what is going on:

We have had a much colder winter that normal and fescue lawns have gone dormant. In fact the sod fields at JB are dormant too! This is not normal, but Portland had a very unusual January. It was very cold and very snowy for a very long time.

What To Do With A Dormant Fescue Lawn?

So the good news is that your lawn is not dead. It is dormant and will come back to life as nighttime temperatures get into the 50's. The bad news is that you just have to live with a very ugly lawn into then.

Keep the wait to a minimum by applying a high nitrogen fertilizer now. You might consider overseeding in mid-April to speed things up.

Yes, your lawn looks horrible right now. But take comfort in knowing that your lawn will be back to being the best soon!