Some key points that are essential when confirming the paddocks into which tall fescue is going to be established include:
Understanding your fertility status early on is critical. Learn more about soil structure and fertility here.
Tall fescue is slower to establish than ryegrass (especially in cold soils) and is therefore prone to competition from weeds. Controlling weeds and the time of planting is therefore crucial to establishing tall fescue. Preparation for establishment needs to be thorough and may take more than one year.
The key is to minimise the reestablishment of weeds and unwanted grasses in the young fescue pasture. Prevent the seeding of these weeds for 1-3 years before planting tall fescue and ensure all weeds are effectively killed before sowing. If you have a clean seedbed, the success of establishment is greatly improved because even if germination and development of the fescue is slower than expected, it will still get through to the first growing spring and then develop quickly.
When using post-emergence herbicides it is essential to apply them early to ensure an effective kill and to prevent smothering of small tall fescue seedlings. This is even more important for spring plantings, due to the more rapid development of weed seedlings and their effect of drying out the soil in summer.
Timing of planting is also crucial. Tall fescue establishes quickly in warm soils, but not in cold soils (Figure 25 next page). Planting in autumn when soils are cool (5 to 10˚C) will result in slow germination (28 days) and then slow growth in winter, which allows weeds (e.g. chickweed) and other grasses (e.g. Poa annua, ryegrass) an opportunity to smother tall fescue over winter. When planted in autumn in 12-15˚C temperatures, tall fescue is competitive with most weeds. Some weeds germinate in late autumn (e.g. Poa annua), so planting fescue early gives those seedlings a head start.