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Tall Fescue lawns in the Raleigh, NC area can suffer some damage during the summer from drought, heat, fungus, lawn equipment, pests, pets, or playtime. Fall is the season to fix the damage and get your Fescue lawn looking its best. Between about early/mid-September and mid-October in the Raleigh, NC area is the best time for Tall Fescue grass seed to germinate, and Tall Fescue seedlings that sprout in the fall have several months to become established in order to survive the following summer. Spring-seeded Tall Fescue is unlikely to survive summer stresses.

What Should a Lawn Renovation Consist Of?
A Tall Fescue lawn renovation should consist of core aeration, a good quality fertilizer with a balance of macro and micro nutrients, and a good quality blend of Tall Fescue seed.

How Can I Get My Lawn Aerated? 

You have a couple of options for getting your lawn aerated. You could do it yourself by renting an aerator from a local equipment rental store. A few of your neighbors may be interested in splitting the cost and doing their lawn renovations at the same time. Another option is to hire a lawn care service, such as Crownover Green, to aerate your lawn. For Crownover Green clients, core aeration is included in our seasonal lawn care program.

How Can I Get the Most out of My Fall Lawn Renovation?
Besides arranging for aeration, and choosing a good quality fertilizer and grass seed, here are a few other important considerations for maximizing the success of your fall Tall Fescue lawn renovation:

Clearly Mark TV/Internet Cables, Pet Fence Wires, & Irrigation Components
If you are hiring someone else to aerate your lawn, use brightly colored spray paint or marking flags to mark obstacles. Mark sprinkler heads, valve covers, pest control stations, and anything in your turf that aerator tines could damage if workers do not notice them. Small obstacles at ground level or those partially obscured by grass may not be observable while operating machinery, so your are better off to be safe than sorry. Additionally, if you know a neighbor has underground obstacles near your property line, please arrange to either mark the obstacles or mark the property line ahead of time. Most aerator tines may penetrate the soil about 3-4 inches. TV/Internet cables and underground pet fences are typically not deep enough to avoid damage. Other utilities such as electric, gas, and water lines are safe. Call 811 to have your TV/Internet cable marked if you do not know where it is.

Prepare to Water Briefly Multiple Times Per Day Until the Grass Sprouts
Keeping your new grass seeds constantly moist is the most critical factor for germination. Watering seeds once or twice per day will not  produce the best results, and watering deeply is not useful for the seeds, which are at the surface of the soil. Plan to water briefly (just enough to wet the seeds at the surface of the soil) several times per day until the grass has sprouted. Tall Fescue seeds will begin germinating in 7-10 days if they are watered properly.
If you don’t have an automated irrigation system, consider investing in a programmable timer for your hose-end sprinklers to help you continue frequent watering when you are not home.

Consider Erosion Control
If you have sloped areas where erosion is a problem, then consider using erosion control blanketsWheat straw is an economical material that helps prevent erosion and retain moisture but it usually contains wheat seeds, which may create a weed problem in your lawn over the winter. For flat areas, sprinkling on a seeding mulch such as Greenview Seed Accelerator will help keep the seeds moist but frequent watering is still required.

Mow Low
Before aerating and seeding, mow at least a couple notches lower than usual, and either bag or rake/remove the clippings if possible. Mowing low and removing clippings helps sunlight reach the seeds, which may improve seed germination. After the renovation, skip a week of mowing and then mow at the usual recommended height of about 3.5″ for the rest of the growing season.

Ensure Ground is Soft
The day before your lawn is to be aerated push a screwdriver into the turf. If it easily penetrates 2-3 inches then the ground is soft enough for aeration and proper harrowing of the soil for optimum seed germination. If the ground is not already soft, then water it until it is soft. Do not overwater to the point that the soil is saturated or mushy.

Consider Topsoil 

If you have low spots, holes or ruts in your lawn that are either a safety hazard or are bothering you, then before the fall renovation is a good time to fill them in with topsoil, which is fairly inexpensive by the bag at garden centers.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

We often talk with folks about watering lawns and the most frequently asked questions related to watering are 1) “How often should I water my grass?” and 2) “How long should I run my sprinklers?” How often should I water my grass? The answer to this question is simple: Usually not more than twice per week unless you are establishing a new lawn with sod or seed. More frequent watering may be causing more problems with your lawn. Many people we talk with say they water twice a day, every day, every other day, or at least three times per week. If you are one of these people you may be enabling your lawn’s addiction to water and creating weed and disease problems. The frequent watering offenders tend to be those who have automated in-ground irrigation systems. The problem with frequent watering is not that you are using more water than necessary (although you might be). The problem is that by watering frequently, you may be preventing your turf from reaching its full potential for heat and drought tolerance. Furthermore, you are creating a more ideal environment for fungal disease and some of the most invasive and hard-to-control weeds that we see in Raleigh, NC area lawns.
If you water frequently and briefly, then your turfgrass roots will have no reason to grow deeper because all of the water that the plant needs to survive is right at the surface of the soil. Whereas, watering deeply twice per week will encourage deeper and heartier root growth; and the deeper and stronger the roots are, the longer they will stay moist between watering, which will help the grass survive through the summer. Some of the most frequently watered lawns that we see in the Wake Forest, NC area have the worst problems with tough summer weeds including nutsedge, crabgrass, or spurge. Pathogenic fungi also love moisture. They develop on the blades of your grass, and the more frequently you wet your grass down the more likely you will be to eventually see a fungal disease which can kill large sections of your lawn very quickly. In mid-summer when daytime conditions are sunny and very hot a lot of water may be lost to evaporation. In the absence of rain you may wish to water a third time during a week. However, our recommendation for clients with automated irrigation systems is to set your sprinklers for twice per week in the morning, and manually run them a third time only when needed. For how long should I run my sprinklers? The answer to this question is not as simple because different types of sprinklers vary in the amount of water they put out in a given amount of time. There are different types of sprinkler heads that have varying rates of output and varying ranges of motion. Therefore the length of time your sprinklers should run depends on the particular sprinklers you use. Here’s how to determine how long to run your sprinklers. Put out a few soup bowls around your lawn. Then run your sprinklers to see how long it takes to fill them with the amount of water that your type of turfgrass needs. Zoysiagrass and Bermudagrass lawns should thrive on 1″ of water per week through the summer, so they should receive .5″ of water twice per week. Tall Fescue lawns need about 1.5″ of water per week, so they should ideally receive .75″ of water twice per week. If you have an automated in-ground irrigation system, be sure to put bowls in the various zones of the system. If you use hose-end sprinklers, put the bowls in each area as you water. A water-saving strategy would be to irrigate at about 50% of the total amount your lawn needs and hope for rain to supplement your irrigation. If it does not rain, then you can manually run your sprinklers to make up the difference. Turfgrass that is watered well twice per week and properly mowed (read about proper mowing in a previous blog article HERE) will be healthier and look better through the growing season. If you have an immature lawn, you may need to water more frequently at first and work toward twice per week. Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

During the winter homeowners oftentimes do not think much about their lawns, and certainly not about ugly weeds such as crabgrass until they start seeing them around Memorial Day. However, late winter, which is February meteorologically in the Raleigh, NC area, is when you should get started to help prevent weeds later this spring and summer.

The first treatment of the year by Crownover Green is key to preventing annual weeds such as crabgrass and spurge that would otherwise sprout and grow throughout the summer. By mid-March we will apply our weed pre-emergent, which essentially provides a barrier on top of the soil that prevents weeds that sprout from seeds from growing. When a lawn is free of debris and excess dormant top growth, more pre-emergent coats the soil and is therefore more effective at preventing weeds. Here are a couple of basic tasks that will help you prepare your lawn to look its best later this summer.

Remove Large Debris
If your lawn is littered with tree branches or pine cones that are too large for your mower to shred, pick them up. and put them at the curb for yard waste pick-up.

Mow Down the Brown
Before weed pre-emergent is applied, set your mower height lower than usual and mow the dead growth and other debris in your turf. It is best to bag and remove the clippings. Shorter top growth will allow the pre-emergent to reach the soil where it needs to be in order to work. After the first mowing, raise your mower blade a notch or two and let your grass grow this spring.

Rake Lightly
Some organic debris left on the lawn is good as it decomposes and returns nutrients to the soil. However, too much of it may smother your grass as it begins its growing season this spring. If there is still a lot of debris on your lawn after mowing, we recommend raking it off.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

Winter can be hard on a lawn, even in the Wake Forest, NC area where the cool season is typically relatively mild with short periods of freezing temperatures. Along with sometimes frigid temperatures will come browning of your turf. Is brown grass during wintertime healthy grass, or is it a sign of a problem or deficiency?

Most plants experience color changes during winters in our transitional climate zone, and all of the turfgrasses that are common in our area experience some degree of browning.

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass during Winter

Bermudagrass and Zoysiagrass, which are the most common warm-season turfgrasses in our area, turn sandy tan in color during dormancy from late fall through early spring. This is normal. There is nothing that can be done to keep warm season grasses from turning brown in winter, although some people who do not like the dormant color of their lawn choose to “paint” their brown grass green or overseed with a winter ryegrass, which is green. Bermudagrass is usually totally dormant during the winter and it is hard to damage. Extremely cold temperatures or heavy use of a dormant lawn could potentially cause some winterkill (loss of turf) of Bermudagrass, but this is unusual, and Bermudagrass will typically rebound well from winterkill. Zoysiagrass, while appearing to be dormant like Bermudagrass during the winter may not be fully dormant. It may still be vulnerable to winterkill from frigid temperatures, fungal disease, and heavy traffic during moist conditions. Zoysiagrass also rebounds reasonably well from winterkill, but maybe not as robustly as Bermudagrass. Large areas of damage to Bermudagrass or Zoysiagrass due to winterkill may require re-sodding or seeding.

Fescue Grasses during Winter

Fescues, both Tall and Fine Fescues, are cool-season turfgrasses that are semi-dormant during Wake Forest, NC winters. They are more tolerant of frigid temperatures and do not usually experience winterkill in our area. During winter, Fescue grass blades do not grow much, but the root system may continue to grow except during the few coldest weeks of the winter. Fescues tend to retain some green color during the winter, but yellowing or browning is normal. Some homeowners may notice variations in the amount of green from one Fescue lawn to the next within the same neighborhood.

Lawns that are greener than others during winter may be the result of high levels of nitrogen fertilizers being applied to those lawns in late fall. At Crownover Green, we do fertilize in the fall but will not overdose a lawn with nitrogen for the sake of color. When a lawn is overdosed with nutrients late in the season, the grass is unlikely to use all of the nutrients that are applied and the excess nutrients either leach into our groundwater or run off into our waterways. This potential for over-fertilization of lawns contributes to dead zones in our waterways and waterbodies.

Will My Brown Lawn Turn Green Again?

Browning of turf during winter in our area is normal, and every type of turf generally returns to its beautiful green color in its proper time. Because we cannot control nature, we cannot guarantee that your lawn will totally escape winterkill. However, widespread winterkill is rare in our area, and we do guarantee that we will work with you to get your lawn looking beautiful again as quickly as possible if it sustains any damage whatsoever during the winter.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.


There are several reasons why weeds will emerge even though pre-emergent was applied. Here they are in no particular order:
  • Weeds that spread via their root systems (creeping roots, bulbs, tubers, stolons, rhizomes) will not be affected by pre-emergent herbicide. They will keep spreading year after year if they are not properly addressed. Pulling them out by hand may not be effective due to their strong or expansive root systems, which will promptly regenerate new weed plants. Short of digging them up and replacing these sections of your lawn, the most effective way to eradicate them is to spray them with a post-emergent herbicide (preferably organic or reduced risk synthetic); and depending on how robust their root system is, it may take multiple applications throughout a growing season to get rid of them. 
  • Some weeds that spread via seed are biennials (e.g., dandelions), which means that they don’t spread seed until their second year of life which is after a first year in which they become a well-established plant that is not affected by pre-emergent herbicide. If they are in their second year of life, they must be pulled out by hand or sprayed with a post-emergent herbicide. 
  • The timing of when you apply the pre-emergent may not be in sync with when the weeds germinate. If you apply it too late, some seeds in your lawn may have already germinated and grown beyond the point at which the pre-emergent will kill them. If you apply it too early, the residual effects of the pre-emergent may be reduced before certain weed seeds begin to germinate. Well-timed application is critical. You need to know the soil temperature at which certain weeds begin germinating and apply the pre-emergent then for maximum impact. 
  • Weed seeds that are deposited in your lawn by natural processes after the pre-emergent was applied may not be affected by the treatment. Weed seeds are being deposited in your lawn every day throughout the year by wind, birds, and other wildlife. Seeds may also be transported to our lawns inadvertently by our children, pets, and ourselves. 
With so many reasons why weeds might still grow despite applying a pre-emergent herbicide, you may be wondering if it makes sense to apply one at all. At Crownover Green, we believe that it is especially worthwhile to apply a pre-emergent on lawns that are thin or on which the weeds were not well managed the previous year in order to thwart certain aggressive and invasive weeds in a lawn. Your lawn may contain hundreds or thousands of weed seeds that are lying dormant during the winter. As the soil temperature rises, these seeds begin to germinate and grow. If a pre-emergent herbicide has been properly applied, many of these tiny plants will be terminated and you will never notice them.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

Almost every Bermudagrass lawn that we encounter has areas where the grass is thin. What do these lawns have in common? Shade. Bermudagrass needs full sun all day in order to stay thick. If you have a Bermudagrass lawn, then you have probably noticed this phenomenon.

Your Bermudagrass lawn is most likely a hybrid type. Real estate developers in Wake Forest, NC today seem to prefer hybrid Bermudagrasses to other types of grass probably because they are relatively affordable and establish easily from sod. Hybrid Bermudagrasses make a very attractive lawn when cut at the proper height (about 1.5″) and frequency (about once per week), when they receive adequate water (about 1″ per week), and when in full sun (about 8 hours per day). The great thing about Bermudagrass is that it will take a lot of abuse. Cut it improperly or infrequently, let your kids and pets rip and tear on it all summer, neglect to water it. While it may look a little ragged under these circumstances, Bermudagrass will usually survive, and even better, it will repair itself because it spreads aggressively by both underground stolons and above ground rhizomes (runners). Here’s the bad news: It won’t look as nice in areas where it receives shade at some point during the day, and it doesn’t stand a chance where there is less than about six hours of full sun exposure per day.

Lawn areas that are typically thin on a Bermudagrass lawn due to shade are those against the foundation of your house or fence, and under or near trees and shrubs. If your house is within 25-30 feet of your neighbor’s house, the Bermudagrass may be thinner between your houses. Southern exposures of your property are exceptions because they tend to receive more sunlight.

What are some other options for areas that receive less than 8 hours of sun per day? Along foundations, fences, and natural areas, or under the branches of trees in your yard, consider non-lawn features such as shade tolerant shrubs, perennial flowers, or ground covers. For larger areas where you would like to have a lawn, choose a different type of grass. Most Zoysiagrasses and a couple cultivars of Bermudagrass may do okay with 6-7 hours of sunlight. Tall Fescue does well with 5-6 hours of sunlight, but it is a cool-season plant that will not match your Bermudagrass well. Fine Fescues are known to survive with as little as 3-5 hours of full sun.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

One of the most important things you can do to help keep your grass thicker and greener while minimizing weeds and fungal diseases during the stress of summer is to mow it at its proper height. The proper height for Fescue is 3″-3.5″. The only times we recommend cutting it lower is the first time you mow in late winter and just before your fall renovation. A little shorter in the spring and fall when temperatures are consistently below 80 degrees is probably ok, but not too low or you may be compromising root growth during critical periods when your turf needs to build its strength. When daytime temperatures start flirting with the 80 degree mark, it is time to raise up the mower deck.

Keeping Fescue grasses long has several benefits.
  • It shades the soil from the sun, which keeps your grass’s roots moist longer. 
  • The shaded soil also prevents some weed seeds from germinating and sprouting. In our experience, homeowners who mow their lawns lower than 3 inches usually have more weed problems. 
  • Cutting Fescue higher reduces the stress on the turfgrass plant, which makes it less susceptible to fungal disease and drought stress.
  • Keeping the grass higher, allows the turfgrass plant to focus its energy on growing deeper, stronger roots rather than on recovering from close cutting. 

While some people have a preference for a shorter lawn, in our experience Fescue lawns that are mowed higher stay nicer through the growing season than those mowed lower, which tend to suffer more damage from heat, drought, and disease during the summer. If you mow your own lawn, set your mower at 3″-3.5″. If a lawn service is cutting your grass too low, ask them to cut it higher.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.

The controversy over the adverse health effects of Glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in Roundup, is well documented (Google “health effects of Roundup”), especially related to genetically modifying food crops to resist repeated drenching with Roundup. Granted there probably aren’t many people or pets eating the weeds from the cracks of the driveway, so spraying Roundup there may have a less direct or immediate impact on our health. It is also important to mention that there may be more toxic lawn chemicals on the shelf at your garden center than Glyphosate (Google “2,4-D”). Notwithstanding, there are good reasons to be cautious about spraying a toxic chemical in areas where we and our loved ones relax and play; and in general, we think it is a very good idea to reduce the use of chemicals as much as possible to keep them out of our public water supply (which usually contains some level of Glyphosate, by the way). Here are some safer options for addressing weeds and grass in non-lawn areas:
  1. Hand-pulling – Pulling weeds is the safest, most effective way to eliminate them and it provides instantaneous results, which are some of the reasons why hand-pulling weeds is included in the Crownover Green Lawn Treatment Solution. There are a variety of weed pulling tools ranging from less than $10 for a very basic hand tool to about $50 for one that enables you to pull weeds without even bending over. These tools are especially useful on weeds such as dandelions that have a deep taproot. Pulling all of the weeds on your property may not be a viable option, and certain weeds cannot effectively be selectively removed from turfgrass.
  2. Weed Torch – A weed torch, which is powered by small propane canisters, can be purchased for less than $50. Burning weeds is effective, provides instantaneous results, and involves less elbow grease than hand-pulling. However, there is an obvious safety concern. Please be careful.
  3. Boiling Water – Yes, water. Boiled. It’s actually very effective and works quickly, but is only practical if you have just a handful of weeds to kill. If you have a lot of weeds, it could take a while to boil enough water to kill them all. Also, please be careful.
  4. Vinegar – Pour vinegar into a spray bottle, add a couple drops of dish soap, and spray it on your weeds on a hot sunny day. The soap helps the vinegar stick to the foliage of the weed and many weeds will shrivel within an hour our two. Grassy weeds, not so much (although don’t spray it on the grass you want to keep), and waxy broadleaf weeds will need a follow-up application. The advantages of vinegar are that it is cheap, fairly safe, easy to get, and quick to apply to a large number of weeds.
  5. Other Safer Sprays – There are several organic liquid products on the market, and the big box garden centers stock a couple of them. At some local garden centers or online you can find 20% horticultural vinegar, which is four times stronger than common household vinegar, or products that contain citric acid, cinnamon oil, clove oil, or herbicidal soap.
There is not necessarily one best choice for killing weeds. Choose the one that will work best for you based on your budget, patience, and overall preference. And please note that a substance capable of killing an unwanted plant might also kill a desirable one, so be careful when applying it near turf or ornamental plants.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.


Yes, we do pull weeds. From the lawn. With our hands. All sorts of weeds: bittercrest, chickweed, dandelion, crabgrass . . .

Weeds pulled in Wake Forest.
Pulling weeds seems to be an unfamiliar practice these days, and especially for a lawn treatment company. The gold standard in professional lawn treatment is to identify the most effective mixture of chemicals to quickly kill everything in the lawn except the grass. We reject this standard because repeatedly spraying a cocktail of chemicals is, well, unwise.

So, Crownover Green is revolutionizing professional lawn care by actually pulling some weeds by hand. We do it because it is not only the safest way but the best way to eliminate weeds from a lawn. There is no chemical that will make a weed disappear quicker than by a pluck with a thumb and forefinger.

There are some herbicides that are much safer than the typical chemical cocktails and we use them, but judiciously, and with the ultimate goal of developing a thick carpet of grass with so few weeds that they can be managed with hand pulling and minimal spraying.

Pulling weeds . . .
. . . is safe. No harmful chemicals are involved.
. . . is free.
. . . is gratifying. The results are instantaneous.
. . . is really not that hard. Squat, grab, and pull.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website. 

This is the first blog post by Crownover Green, and while we plan for most of our posts to provide tips and information on organic lawn care, this first post is a somewhat philosophical explanation about our approach to lawn care.

Any deliberation about how one chooses to spend his or her time or resources should start by deciding why it is worth doing at all. At Crownover Green, we believe that a decision about the way one might choose to maintain his or her lawn should start with an answer to this simple question: “Why do I have a lawn in the first place?”

Lawns do not occur naturally. In our area of North Carolina, a natural plot of land, untouched by humans, would have many varieties of plants on it, including trees, shrubs, and ground covers. The terrain would possibly be uneven, and there would likely be various species of wildlife inhabiting it. Think, forest. Wake Forest, circa the 1800’s.

Woodlands are wonderful places where we may like to spend time, but only a few among us in the Triangle area choose to make our permanent home in the middle of the woods. The rest of us live in neighborhoods that have been thoughtfully planned on plots of land that have been pragmatically and pleasingly landscaped. We don’t want to rip through briers and thorns, climb over fallen trees, or stumble over rocks as we walk out of our houses every morning. We like feeling relatively secure that our pets will be ok when we let them out the backdoor to do their business. And we like having a nice cushion of turf that is free of poisonous or injurious plants for our kids to play ball on, roll around on, or just relax on.

We cultivate our little pieces of the planet to fit our lifestyles and our sense of beauty. We like nice trees, shrubs, and flowers. And we like lawns. Thick, green lawns. We like them because they look good. But more importantly, we like them because they provide a comfortable and safe place for us to be with our loved ones.

Rodney, the founder of Crownover Green, began studying and experimenting with family-friendly and environmentally responsible lawn care methods when he realized that the big chemical companies that promise beautiful weed-free lawns, are selling chemicals that are linked to reproductive problems, birth defects, and all sorts of chronic illnesses. After initially pondering, ‘Why do I have a lawn in the first place?’ he questioned, ‘If my reason for having a lawn is for my family to have a comfortable and safe place to be, then why would I broadcast a bunch of chemicals on it that I believe could harm us?’

So there you have it–the basis for our company–our mission. We believe that lawns should be beautiful and that they should fulfill their purpose for our loved ones.

Go to Crownover Green’s main website.