Question on fescue lawn: I put in a new lawn one year ago using Kentucky-31 fescue seed. It does well in shaded areas but not where there is full sun all day long. Is there a cool weather grass or blend that would withstand the heat better? I’d like to overseed with something that won’t dry up and turn brown during hot weather. Any suggestions?

Kentucky-31 is the old grand-daddy of tall fescue grass seed mixes. It is really more a pasture grass than one for lawns. Better turf-type fescues have been developed through modern research. Today’s fescue varieties have finer leaves, better disease resistance and other desirable turf characteristics. Some improved fescue brand names include the Rebel series — Rebel Exede, Rebel Supreme, and Rebel IV as well as Defiant XRE made by Pennington. Scott markets Summer Lawn Plus, Matador (dwarf) and Mow Less. Go to your local retailer or garden center. Read the labels to find one of the improved seed mixes on sale there that is formulated for Tennessee’s “Transitional Turfgrass Zone” and also is intended for sunny locations.

I recommend a publication by Dr. Tom Samples, “PB1576 Selecting Fescues.” The booklet may be available at your local UT Extension office or download it from the Extension Web site using your home computer and print it. To get this document from the Internet, open the Web page www.utextension.utk.edu/publications and select “Home Garden, Lawn and Landscape” then click on “Lawn Management” and choose “Selecting Fescues (PB1576).” Read about finding the right fescue variety type — tall, chewing, creeping red, fine turf-type, or hard fescue for your site conditions, establishing a new lawn and maintaining fescue turf.

When our region experiences high heat with little rain, most cool season lawns suffer. You might consider switching to a warm season grass such as Zoysia. Warm season turf grasses stand up to heat. (The drawback is they are straw-colored rather than green during the winter.)

If you want to stay with a fescue lawn, some maintenance practices help during a drought. Mow high. Keep fescue turf at 2 1/2 to 3 inches high. If you irrigate, do so only once or twice in each seven-day period and for long enough each time to supply at least one inch of water to the lawn. Mowing high and infrequent-but-deep watering both help promote deeper roots. Deep roots are critical to turfgrass survival under drought stress. Be sure the soil pH is right for the type of grass you are trying to grow. Most turf likes a pH range of 7.0 to 6.5. Many Tennessee locations are too acidic—in other words the pH is too low. In that case lime needs to be applied. Extension offices do soil testing. A UT soil report tells you how much lime is needed. A soil sample submitted now should be processed quickly.

September or October in the autumn and March or early April in the spring are good times to fertilize. Just be sure to water well afterwards. Fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content applied between mid-April and mid-August (when cool season grass isn’t actively growing) can produce brown or dead patches in a lawn if the weather is as hot and dry as it was this year.

Question on pruning freeze-damaged Japanese maple: During the severe cold spell in Crossville this spring, our dwarf Japanese maple suffered damage. Lately new leaves have been sprouting from the bottom of the tree. Should we prune off the dead looking branches? If so, when and how? We hate to lose our 20-year old tree.

Answer in next week’s column on pruning freeze-damaged trees and shrubs.

Plateau Gardening is written by Tennessee Master Gardeners about home landscapes and gardening in our state’s Upper Cumberland Region. For answers to specific yard and garden questions or to learn how to become a Master Gardener, contact UT Extension Cumberland County, P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557, (phone 484-6743). E-mail inquiries to mgardenerrae@frontiernet.net. E-mail questions may be answered either individually or through future newspaper articles.

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