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Agronomic Services — News Release


Contact: Jagathi Kamalakanthan, agronomist
NCDA&CS Agronomic Division
(919) 733-2655

Sample fescue lawns now for lime and fertilizer needs

RALEIGH—Fescue is a cool-season grass, so it grows best in fall, winter and early spring. In the heat of summer, it goes somewhat dormant and persists in survival mode. But, as fall approaches, the time is right to prepare for reseeding and fertilization.

“Now is a good time to collect soil samples from fescue lawns,” said Jagathi Kamalakanthan, agronomist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “The most common fertility problem found in lawns across North Carolina is low soil pH. One advantage of sampling now is that you can find out exactly how much lime is needed, and then go ahead and apply it before fescue begins its growth spurt. Since lime requires several months to take effect, early application is important.”

Unlike fertilizer, which should be applied only when plants are actively growing, lime can be applied at any time of year. Applying the right amount, however, is critical. Putting out too much lime can adversely affect soil fertility.

“Homeowners should always follow the lime recommendations given on a recent soil report,” Kamalakanthan said. “One lime application can be sufficient for several years . . . until a new soil test indicates that more is needed.

“Nitrogen, on the other hand, should be applied to fescue several times over the growing season—usually 1 pound per 1,000 square feet in mid-September, in November and again in February. An easy way to remember this schedule is to mentally associate it with the holidays Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. This regimen should be repeated every year.”

The amount of phosphorus and potassium to apply, however, is not routine. If the fertilizer recommended on a soil report contains phosphorus or potassium, then homeowners should follow that recommendation for the first application of the season. Subsequent applications should contain nitrogen only.

As a rule, there is no need to sample every year. Nitrogen recommendations for fescue do not change. However, if a soil report indicates a need for potassium or phosphorus or both, then it is advisable to test every two to three years to get updated recommendations for these nutrients. It is not economically or environmentally sound to apply these nutrients unless they are needed.

Lawn and garden soil samples can nearly always be taken from April through October. Sampling during this time frame can save time and money because soil analyses are usually completed within two weeks and at no charge to the homeowner. December through March, on the other hand, is the lab’s busy season when farmers submit tens of thousands of samples. Beginning this fall, there will be a fee charged for soil samples received from the Thanksgiving holiday period through March 31, 2014. The new $4-per-sample fee was recently approved by the N.C. General Assembly.

“It is important to collect a good, representative soil sample from your lawn, and that you collect enough soil to be tested,” Kamalakanthan said.

The NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division provides information on collecting and submitting soil samples at A pictorial guide to sampling home lawns is also available at


Last Update August 16, 2013


NCDA&CS Agronomic Services Division, Colleen M. Hudak-Wise, Ph.D., Director
Mailing Address: 1040 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1040
Physical Address: 4300 Reedy Creek Road, Raleigh NC 27607-6465
Phone: (919) 733-2655; FAX: (919) 733-2837

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