Sheep Fescue

  • Competitive understory grass that controls erosion
  • Ideal for stabilization of disturbed soils
  • Low maintenance
  • Good drought tolerance, areas with 12-24 in annual precipitation are ideal

Quantity is per pound. Example: 1 = 1 lb, 2 = 2 lbs, 3 = 3lbs, etc. This is pure seed, not a live plant.

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Sheep Fescue distribution area

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Sheep fescue is a competitive grass that’s primary use is ground cover. It is an important specie for stabilizing disturbed soils because of its low growth form and its low maintenance. It has excellent cold tolerance, good drought tolerance, and moderate shade tolerance.

Sheep Fescue Plant and Seed Description

Scientific Name: Festuca ovina

Sheep fescue is a densely tufted, cool season, dwarf bunchgrass. Within North America, sheep fescue can be found in open forests and mountain and foothill slopes from Alaska to North Dakota and south to Arizona and New Mexico. It has also been introduced to many additional locations in eastern North America.Often confused with Idaho fescue in the northwestern U.S. and with Arizona fescue in southwestern U.S.

Sheep Fescue Uses

In rangeland and pastureland plantings, sheep fescue is a competitive understory grass that controls erosion. Although it is sometimes grazed by sheep, it is seldom utilized by cattle or horses and is not considered to be an important forage species. Due to its short dense tufts, it is not a good species for hay production.

The primary use of sheep fescue is ground cover. It is ideal for stabilization of disturbed soils because of its dense root system. Its low growth form and low maintenance requirements make it ideal for ground cover purposes. It is commonly used to protect roadsides, airport landing strips, industrial and residential areas, ditch and canal banks, skid trails, clear cuts, ski hills, camp sites and other recreation areas from erosion. It provides excellent cover and erosion control in areas between trees rows of shelterbelts, windbreaks and tree farms. Sheep fescue withstands moderate equipment traffic and requires minimal maintenance. This makes it useful in vineyards, orchards, and farm equipment yards.

Its good drought tolerance combined with strong bunch type root systems and adaptations to a variety of soils make this species ideal for reclamation in areas receiving 12 to 24 inches annual precipitation. This grass can be used in areas where irrigation water is limited to provide ground cover.

Sheep fescue is an excellent weed control species because it has an extensive and dense bunch type root system. Once a good stand is established, it excludes the invasion of most weeds.

Sheep Fescue Habitat

Sheep fescue occupies diverse habitats. Collections show altitudinal variation in habitat extending from 1000 to 13,000 ft (300 to 4,000 m). Although it may be found at any elevation between these extremes, it is most prevalent from about 3,000 to 8,000 ft (915 to 2440 m). It grows on all exposures in a wide variety of soil conditions. It is best adapted to silt loam or sandy loam soils and is occasionally found on loamy sand soils. It also tolerates shallow, dry, gravelly soils. Common habitats are exposed bench lands, hillsides and ridges, parks, meadows, forestlands, and open ponderosa and lodgepole pine stands. It is also tolerant of weakly saline to alkaline and acidic soil conditions.

It has excellent cold tolerance, good drought tolerance, and moderate shade tolerance. It is more drought tolerant than Idaho fescue and hard fescue. Sheep fescue is best adapted to 12 inch plus precipitation zones. It is fairly tolerant of fire in autumn, but requires 2 to 3 years to fully recover after burning. It is not tolerant of high water tables or flooding. It is often found in association with big bluegrass, mountain brome, bluebunch wheatgrass, slender wheatgrass, geranium, western yarrow, mountain big sagebrush, antelope bitterbrush and ponderosa pine.

Sheep Fescue Establishment

Planting: Sheep fescue seed should be planted with a drill to a depth of 1/4 inch or less. The single species seeding rate is 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. If used as a component of a mix, adjust to percent of mix desired. When broadcast planting seed and for harsh critical planting areas, the seeding rate should be increased to 8 pounds PLS per 1,000 square feet. Mulching and irrigation during the establishment year are beneficial for stand establishment.

Sheep fescue “greens up” in March to early April and matures in late June to mid-July. It is a cool season plant; therefore it produces most of its growth in the spring and again in the fall, if moisture is available. Growth during the summer is minimal and dependant on precipitation or irrigation.

Sheep fescue is a low maintenance plant requiring little additional treatment or care. Its primary pests include grasshoppers. It is resistant to common turf diseases.

Sheep Fescue Cultivars

‘Covar’ sheep fescue was released in 1977 by Washington Agricultural Research Center, Washington State University, Agricultural Experiment Stations of Oregon and Idaho in cooperation with the USDA, NRCS, Pullman Plant Materials Center. It originated from Konya, Turkey (Alderson and Sharp, 1994). The name is to identify it as an excellent cover. It is an aggressive competitor that forms an attractive drought tolerant erosion and weed control cover. It is more drought tolerant than other fescues including Idaho, red, western and hard fescue. Probably the most popular and most common used variety.

***click the “Additional Information” tab for more seed facts.

Additional Information
Common Name:

Sheep Fescue

Scientific Name:

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Seed Count

600,000 seeds/lb.

Sowing Rate

2-4 PLS lbs. per Acre

Best SowingTime

Spring or Fall

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Min. Precipitation

8-10 inches

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