As they say, "If you don't like the weather in Nebraska, just wait 20 minutes...it'll change!" In January, we can have windchills so low they cancel school or we can enjoy a day or two in the 70's. This year, June has been hotter than July. Go figure. With these types of undependable weather cycles, it's hard to know what to plant to make your acreage in Nebraska sustainable throughout all seasons.
Tall fescue is slowly becoming a more popular choice in Nebraska. It turns green in the mid-spring and maintains it's color into late fall. Tall fescue has the highest heat, traffic, and drought tolerance of the cool-season grasses. It is well adapted to wet soils, partially shaded sites and is often used where a low-maintenance lawn is desired, like your acreage in Nebraska. Tall fescue will form a deep root system that is tolerant of our clay soil here in Nebraska. And, although tall fescue has a moderate tolerance of cold temperatures, it seems to be suitable for a majority of Nebraska winters.
The best time to seed turf-type tall fescue in Nebraska is between mid-August and mid/late September. However, successful lawns can be seeded as late as late-September in eastern Nebraska and early October in southern Nebraska. Late summer planting is preferred to spring seeding because seeds germinate and grow rapidly in the warm soil. The warm days and cool nights provide ideal conditions for seedling growth. Tall fescue seed germinates in five to ten days under favorable conditions. Another option is late-April to early-May seedings. Seeds are required to reach full maturity before the hot summer weather sets in making the establishment window narrow. Spring seed germination is slow when soil temperatures are below 50F. The recommended seeding rate is 7-9 pounds per 1,000 sq. feet. A mixture of tall fescue (90-95%) and Kentucky bluegrass (5-10%) will help provide a uniform establishment. Damaged tall fescue areas are slow to recover and may need to be reseeded.
For more information on tall fescue seeding, refer to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach publication “Establishing a Lawn from Seed” (PM 1072)