Kentucky Bluegrass v Tall Fescue | Whats Best For Your Lawn?
Choosing the type of grass for your lawn can be fairly easy or it can be fairly difficult.
Personally, I would first think about what my lawn is actually going to get used for. Would I like to make a play yard for the kids, or would I rather have a sign on it that says, “keep off the grass”?
In this article, we will be looking into two of the most popular cool-season grasses in the country, Kentucky Bluegrass v Tall Fescue.
Both types have their strengths and weakness, like all grass types you will have to pick the type that is best suited as you probably won’t find a perfect grass type. They are both turfgrasses with some differences and similarities which you will have to use your own judgment in deciding which type you want on your lawn.
Check out my full ultimate guide to Kentucky Bluegrass for lawns.
Which Type Of Grass Is Best To Use?
The answer is, it depends. If you are looking for beauty and resistance to trampling and damage, I recommend Kentucky Bluegrass. On the other hand, if you want economy, not much maintenance, and hardiness, you will have to go for Tall Fescue.
Although they both have qualities that are adapted to the kind of environment that they are known to flourish on, they are also both suited to temperatures between 65-75 degrees.
It is important to note that Tall Fescue has the highest heat and drought resistance factor. That alone could put it in first place since it also tolerates foot and wheel traffic well. Here are some of the comparisons between Kentucky Bluegrass and Tall Fescue.
- Water Requirements – Tall Fescue needs only 1-inch of water every week and 1.5 inches on sandy soil as compared to Kentucky Bluegrass which needs at least twice more than Tall Fescue.
- Traffic Resistance – Tall Fescue may grow into bunchy sods but it is as traffic resistant as Kentucky Bluegrass as well. Bluegrass can grow dense sods but sometimes get damaged too. However, it can heal itself by growing back via its Rhizomic roots.
- Fertilizer – Tall Fescue only requires 1 pound of nitrogen fertilizer for every 1000 sq. ft while Kentucky Bluegrass needs at least 3 pounds of the same fertilizer for the same area.
- Heat and Drought Tolerance – Tall Fescue is a hardy grass that can survive summertime heat and diseases while Kentucky Bluegrass is more vulnerable to hot summers and drought.
- Shade Tolerance – Tall Fescues can tolerate shade well and may only need 4 hours of direct sunlight to survive while Kentucky Bluegrass might need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight to live, or else, it could turn brown.
- Germination and Growth – Kentucky Bluegrass is categorically slower in germinating seeds compared to Tall Fescue. It grows sod that over time can become dense and tough. It spreads via rhizomes that cover bare spots that may be caused by foot traffic. On the other hand, Tall Fescue grows faster in bunches.
When KBG flowers, it produces a panicle-like seed head. It then needs to be mowed higher than warm-season grasses, and it should be around 2 to 2 1/2 inches high.
Is Kentucky Bluegrass A Warm Or Cool-Season Grass?
Kentucky Bluegrass is a perennial cool-season lawn grass. It means that it grows back year after year and grows well during fall and spring. It is better suited in northern climates that have really warm summers and cold winter cycles.
For the reason that it spreads through Rhizomes, it can easily develop thatch. This makes it a little bit more vulnerable to diseases. You may need to dethatch a Kentucky Bluegrass lawn at least once a year.
Check out my article on some fun solar lawn decorations.
What Is The Best Soil Type For Kentucky Bluegrass?
Kentucky Bluegrass grows well in fertile, well-drained, medium-textured soils that originated from limestone. Remarkably, it can survive even on poorly drained and heavy-textured soils.
In alkaline soils, Kentucky Bluegrass blades may lose their lush green color due to low pH iron deficiency, KBG will require more fertilizer than Tall Fescue as well as any other type of grass. The best pH for KBG lawns is between 5.8 to 7.0.
I would recommend regular soil testing every 3 years to help in maintaining balance and good color.
How Does Kentucky Bluegrass Handle Shade Or Drought?
This grass becomes dormant during dry and very hot weather. Albeit, it also survives severe droughts. Moreover, Kentucky Bluegrass needs sunlight even as it does well in the light shade provided that it has enough supply of water and nutrients.
Remarkably, KBG it is still a good choice in areas with hot summers and cold winters.
However, compared to Tall Fescue, KBG has shallower roots which result in lower tolerances for heat and drought. Even with normal moisture and irrigation practices, this grass could still die if planted in very warm areas.
In spite of that, anyone can still grow KBG in warmer areas provided that they would have to invest in increased irrigation to ensure that the grass survives. Lastly, Kentucky Bluegrass in of itself responds well to mowing and can tolerate shade, but it is much more sensitive compared to Tall Fescue.
Benefits Of Kentucky Bluegrass
KBG, when grown in ideal conditions can produce a dense and lush lawn that lives up to its reputation. It has a medium-fine texture that looks beautiful and feels comfortable on bare feet and other outdoor activities. Its benefits include:
Easy To Grow And Spread
KBG always had this advantage over other types of grass, Its rhizome growth allows this grass to spread horizontally just below the ground surface. Within each of these rhizomes are nodes that are a few centimeters long. From these nodes, grass blades can sprout directly.
High Cold Tolerance
KBG is known for having one of the highest cold tolerance for all cool-season grasses. It can survive long cold weather that would otherwise kill others. With drought as an exception, KBG can also outlast periods of hot, humid weather that may occur during the summer months.
It Can Resist Diseases
With proper care, this grass can also be classified as hardy. Grown in its ideal environment coupled with proper irrigation, makes KBG resistant from rust and leaf spot. In the rare event that disease may breakout, you can add a little bit of nitrogen fertilizer which will stop the spread and remove the problem. In the case of a leaf spot, you can use a fungicide as needed.
Overall, proper care and maintenance make disease problems to this grass less likely.
Durable and Resilient When Fully Grown
When used as grass for residential lawns, it can survive trampling, constant foot traffic from kids, and even tire tracks. This is because of its Rhizomic structure. It basically grows itself back via its roots underground.
In the case of torn leaves and even uprooting, it can still heal itself and grow back.
Check out my full ultimate guide to Tall Fescue.
Is Tall Fescue A Warm Or Cool-Season Grass?
Tall Fescue is a cool-season grass that grows well during spring and fall. It is compatible with northern lawns where they are mostly located in areas cutting across the country’s midsection from the Atlantic to the Midwest.
Despite its being a cool-season grass it has greater heat tolerance compared to Kentucky Bluegrass. Amazingly, Tall Fescue also offers greater cold tolerance than most warm-season grasses.
This hardy grass can be versatile in extreme conditions as it is actually the-go-to grass for the so-called “transition zones” of the United States. This is where summers are too hot for cool-season grasses and winters are too much for warm-season grasses.
What Is The Best Soil Type For Tall Fescue?
Tall Fescue is well adapted in almost all types of soil. But it can also grow in clay soils that have plenty of organic matter. It thrives on pH levels between 5.5 and 7.5.
Although on those pH levels your soil might need additional elements such as sulfur and lime to restore a good balance. Mix the fertilizers into the top 6-8 inches before seeding.
Check out my full article on the best grass for clay soil.
How does Tall Fescue Tolerate Drought and Shade?
This hardy grass can tolerate both drought and hot summers. As it is resilient to heat. Notably, it also works well in the shade. Newer cultivars even offer better features like darker green color, narrower blades, and overall survivability under harsh conditions.
Benefits of Tall Fescue
Overall Toughness and Resilience
Tall Fescue’s adaptability and hardiness make it a preferred grass type for both commercial and residential purposes.
Easy to Maintain
Tall Fescue is a bunch-forming grass that grows in clumps. It spreads through “tillers” that allow it to grow vertically from the base of the grass rather than horizontally. Also, it doesn’t require constant mowing for it is not a quick grower.
As a vertical-growing grass, Tall Fescue is easy to contain and keep from being invasive.
Because of that, it also limits it from more efficient self-repair. Moreover, this type of grass does not need dethatching which is a normal occurrence for Kentucky Bluegrass.
Dethatching translates to additional labor and maintenance which is fairly common in KBG.
Less Need for Water
Certain varieties of tall fescue can grow roots of up 2 to 3 feet deep (sometimes even deeper). This gives this grass more access to moisture deep below the surface, allowing it to survive dry spells and droughts.
Check out my article on whether watering grass in the sun will burn it?
What’s The Difference Between Fescue And Kentucky Bluegrass?
One of the main differences between bluegrass and fescue is that they have a different type of root structure.
Bluegrass roots are what is known as rhizomes and they spread pretty quickly and this makes bluegrass types a good choice if you live in an area that may suffer from soil erosion as the roots will help hold the soil together.
Fescue roots grow in bunches which will make a perfectly great lawn but will not help if your lawn may be prone to soil erosion.
When it comes to how much work you want to want to put into maintaining your lawn then there is a difference between these two types of grass.
- Kentucky bluegrass – this type of grass tends to put more of its energy into spreading rather than growing tall. This means if you don’t want to put much effort into mowing your lawn bluegrass is a great choice for you! Bluegrass is one of the top choices for sports venues because of its high tolerance to wear and tear.
- Tall Fescue – tall fescue does make a beautiful lawn if you ask me, but it does grow tall quite rapidly during the growing season which means you will have to put quite a lot of effort into mowing it to keep it in top condition. Tall fescue does have a high tolerance for wear and tear so if people make good use of your lawn you should have no fears using tall fescue.
Can You Mix Tall Fescue And Kentucky Bluegrass?
If you want to mix two different types of grass then bluegrass and tall fescue could be a pretty successful choice of seeds to combine.
If you have different soil conditions or light conditions on different areas of your lawn then mixing grass types could result in better coverage of lush green grass across your lawn.
Bluegrass tends to grow better in areas that may be prone to shade compared to tall fescue so if you have trees or something that causes shade on your lawn then you should definitely look into mixing grass types on your lawn.
Tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are a good combination to mix as they both have different types of root systems where bluegrass spreads more and tall fescue tends to grow tall more than sideways.
Check out my article on the best lawn edgers for a beautifully finished lawn.
Will Kentucky Bluegrass Take Over Fescue?
It all depends on your local conditions, if the conditions are perfect for bluegrass then it will more than likely spread and take over.
If you are mixing Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue you may want to consider only adding around 10% Kentucky bluegrass seed and that should keep your lawn looking green in most conditions as bluegrass has better tolerance to cold weather conditions or shaded conditions.
If where you live has perfect conditions for tall fescue then that variety will more than likely take over your lawn.
So there is a certain amount of balancing required when you mix grass seeds together and how successful you are with this task really does come down to your soil and local weather conditions.
Overall, you can mix both types for a good blend of that dual grass type garden, and enjoy the benefits of both.
I hope you have found some useful information in this Kentucky Bluegrass v Tall Fescue article and please have a browse around my blog to find more quality articles and information!