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Idaho Fescue: Whimpy grass stronger than it looks

By on August 28, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Jaana Hatton

Idaho fescue may not look like much: it’s wispy, almost frail looking in its grassy existence.

But, it is one you want to take note of. It’s beneficial in many ways, both for food and landscaping.

This native grass is an excellent forage plant, both for livestock and wildlife. It tolerates a good amount of hoof-traffic and nibbling before it’s a done deal. Idaho fescue is good eating late into the season when all other grasses have withered in the most unappetizing way.

Idaho fescue generates an expansive root system, thus making it perfect for soil erosion control. The grass thrives in silt loam soil, even in slightly saline or alkaline environments. You can find it anywhere between 3,000-7,000 feet of elevation. It will endure cold and drought, north or south exposure.

Goodness, what more can you ask of a slender stem?

It grows in clumps of narrow leaves in bluish green or green. Idaho fescue can be anywhere from one foot to three feet tall. It’s an early spring plant and seeds by midsummer.

Idaho fescue makes a good landscaping feature. Once it’s established, it will more or less take care of itself, like any grown-up.

It’s recommended for hardiness zones 3-6 (Chelan and Douglas counties are rated hardiness zone 4-7 by the Master Gardeners). Because this grass is the bunching type, it’s easy to limit it to the intended spot.

Idaho Fescue’s extensive roots makes it drought tolerant.

This is a grass that is fairly tolerant of fire. However, once it burns, it will need two to three years to recover.

But, recover it will. Long live Idaho fescue!

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