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Hard Fescue (Festuca trachyphylla)

Hard fescue is a species that often gets overlooked in favour of the other main fescue species; strong creeping redslender creeping red and Chewings. However, it does have some qualities that make it a very useful grass, specifically around its low maintenance and drought tolerance attributes. Hard fescue is very closely related to Sheep’s fescue – in some countries no distinction is made between the two species. However, the key difference is that Sheep’s fescue forms distinct tufts which do not blend in well with other grasses, leading to a bumpy and uneven surface.

Introduction

One of the key attributes of hard fescue is its fine leaf texture, which contributes to a lush and attractive appearance. This makes it a desirable choice for lawns, golf course roughs, and ornamental landscapes. The grass forms dense, low-growing tufts, creating a carpet-like effect that is both visually appealing and functional.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, hard fescue is known for its ability to thrive in challenging environments. It exhibits excellent tolerance to shade, making it suitable for areas with limited sunlight, such as under trees or alongside buildings. Additionally, this grass species is well-adapted to poor soils and exhibits good drought resistance, requiring less water than some other turfgrass varieties. Its resilience to adverse conditions makes it a sustainable and environmentally friendly choice for landscaping.

Hard fescue is often used in low-input and sustainable turfgrass management programs. Its slow growth habit means that it requires less frequent mowing, reducing the need for fuel and maintenance. Furthermore, its ability to establish deep root systems contributes to soil stabilization and erosion control.

In the context of biodiversity and habitat creation, hard fescue plays a role in supporting diverse ecosystems. Its dense growth provides cover and foraging opportunities for small wildlife, contributing to the overall ecological balance.

Key Characteristics

  • Exceptional drought tolerance
  • Very good heat tolerance
  • Thrives in acidic soils
  • Performs well in shade
  • Slow growing
  • Darker colour than most other fescue species

Sowing times

Hard fescue seed requires constant soil temperatures of 10 degrees Celsius for optimum germination. In the UK this would typically be between April and early October.

Germination time

Hard fescue seed will germinate in 14-21 days, subject to conditions.

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What is hard fescue used for?

Golf Fairways:

Hard fescue is often used in good quality grass seed mixtures for golf course fairways. Hard fescue is a species that is found growing naturally in areas of naturally fescue dominant turf, such as acidic heath or coastal links land. Its tolerance of dry, nutrient depleted conditions makes it an ideal grass on such sites. It is also a very slow growing grass which makes it desirable for fairways.

Golf Roughs:

Hard fescue makes an ideal component in grass seed mixtures for golf course roughs for two reasons. Firstly, it is slow growing, so it never gets too thick causing players to loose balls. Secondly, it forms a very open and ‘whispy’ rough when it is allowed to grow up tall and produce a seed head. All in all, it creates an attractive looking rough that, with good management will not get out of control.

General Lawn & Landscaping:

Hard fescue grass seed does get used in some mixtures for lawns and landscaping. Often it will get used in mixtures that are specifically designed for drought, shade and low maintenance. It is often included at fairly low percentages in the mixture, at around 15-20%, this is mainly due to its smaller seed size.

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