With ideal conditions, a tall fescue lawn will typically take two weeks to germinate. Once the lawn is seeded, it must be kept moist to encourage germination. Good germination can be achieved by light daily watering. For best results, water two to six times a day. During the first two weeks the soil should be monitored closely to make sure it is moist and to prevent erosion from runoff. If runoff occurs, stop watering and move the sprinkler to a different location. If you have an automatic sprinkler system, turn on the next zone. The soil surface should be moist to the touch at all times during the first two weeks. There should be no traffic on the lawn.
By the third week the lawn will have fully germinated. At the start of the third week it is important to shift from watering light and frequently to deep and infrequently. For this stage of establishment, water five days a week with the length of time moderately increased. After you are finished watering, you should be able to take a screw driver and push it one to three inches into the ground with little to no resistance. If the screw driver will slide easily more than four inches, reduce the length of time you run the sprinkler. If the screw driver will barely enter the surface, the time should be increased. In addition to watering, it is okay to mow the new grass as long as the soil is not wet. It is best to mow on one of the two days water is withheld.
Now that the lawn has started to establish itself, it will begin to send roots deeper into the ground. At the start of the fourth week, continue to shift from watering light and frequently to deep and infrequently. It is important to get the water deeper into the soil profile to encourage the seedlings roots to explore deep into the soil. At this stage, cut back to watering three days a week. (Ex. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) Increase the length of watering time significantly. After watering the lawn you should be able to push a screw driver four to six inches into the soil surface. If you can push the screwdriver further than six inches decrease the time the sprinklers run. If you can not push a screw driver down a good four inches into the soil, water longer. At this stage, having followed the instructions, the lawn should be ready to take frequent mowing as long as the soil is dry. Avoid mowing after watering, and never remove more than one third of the total height of the grass at one time.
Between weeks three and four grass seedlings will begin to tiller (shoot new leaves from the base of the plant). It is normal to have some spaces between seedlings. Over time tall fescue will tiller to fill bare areas up to the size of a footprint. Mowing regularly greatly increases this natural process and will help control any broadleaf weeds that have germinated with the grass. It is normal for weeds to germinate at the same time as your turf. Weed seeds naturally exist in almost every soil and will germinate during favorable conditions. It is important that you do not spray broadleaf weeds until the grass has tillered at least twice. If you spray too early you will stunt or kill your new lawn. Do not apply a crab grass pre-emergent until you turf is established. If you wait until these chemicals can be safely applied it will save you the expense of having to seed your lawn again.
Finally, the turf must be maintained properly to keep it healthy. Week five and there after, it is a good idea to water deep and infrequently as needed during the growing season. One should be able to use the screw driver technique to help insure the right amount of water is applied. In addition, it is important to mow weekly following the 1/3 rule. Maintain your lawn with a fertilizer, pest, and weed control programs that fits your budget and expectations.