Kentucky Bluegrass vs Tall Fescue – Differences + Pictures

Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue are cool season grasses that thrives in cool temperatures. They are popular turfs in transition zone and northern of the United States. Kentucky bluegrass and Turf-type Tall fescue have many differences, let’s compare them to help you choose the right one for your lawn.

Both Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue grass thrives in cool climate zones. These lawn turfs go dormant during summer as a result of hot and dry conditions. However, they can have good year-round green color under right conditions of soil moisture.

These tow cool season grasses are different in many ways including how they spread, their maintenance requirements and how they tolerate various conditions. In summary, below is a table showing the key differences between Kentucky bluegrass and Tall fescue grass.

Kentucky Bluegrass (KBG)Tall Fescue Grass (TTTF)         
KBG spreads quickly by underground rhizomes to form a uniformly dense lawn and quickly fill in any bare spotsTall fescue grass is a bunch forming turf that produce tillers. For that reason, it does not spread to fill bare spots or form a dense lawn
This grass requires more fertilizing. On average you will supply 3 to 6 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn annuallyLess fertilizing is required for TTTF. Only 2 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 sq. may be required per year
Kentucky bluegrass requires frequent watering. It consumes at least 2.5 inches of water per week during the hot summerTall fescue grass needs about 1 inch of water or less every week during a hot summer to remain healthy.
KBG requires frequent mowing. This is as a result of frequent watering and fertilization which make it to grow fasterLess mowing is required for tall fescue grass. It does not require mowing less than 3 inches high
Summer heat and drought will easily turn Kentucky blue grass brown. This is due to its shallow root system that is unable to obtain moisture from deep the soil.Tall fescue grass is highly tolerant to drought and heat. Its deep root system easily obtain moisture and nutrient from deep soils for survival during dry summer
Maintenance expenses for Kentucky Blue grass are generally higher as a result of frequent mowing, fertilizing and wateringIt is less expensive to care for and maintain Tall fescue grass lawns since the turf needs less fertilizer, mowing and watering
KBG is susceptible to diseases and weeds especially when grown in hot climatesTurf-type tall fescue is tolerant to diseases and weeds

Kentucky Bluegrass vs Tall Fescue Grass – Comparisons

Identification

Kentucky bluegrass: KBG is deep green in color with a velvety textured blades. At maturity, this grass is about 20-24 inches and easily identified with its “V” shaped leaves with a prominent midrib running up the middle of the leaf blade. This grass produces spread by means of underground rhizomes.

Tall Fescue Grass: This grass has wide blades that are dark green in color. Although shiny looking on the top surfaces, the blades are very coarse to the touch. Tall fescue forms bunches in lawn and spread by producing tillers which limits its ability to for a dense lawn. Mature turf-type tall feature can attain 4 to 12 inches in height.

Planting

Kentucky Bluegrass: Seeding is an ideal way of growing Kentucky bluegrass. It spread quite quickly with underground rhizomes to form a thick sod. The seed is available in variety of cultivators and can also be mixed with other grass varieties for a diverse blend. Fall is the best time to plant KBG, when the temperatures are between 50-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tall Fescue Grass: Seeding is an ideal way of planting Tall fescue grass. It produces tillers – vertical shoots that grow from the base of the plant which limits its spreading abilities. Late summer or early fall is the best time to plant Tall fescue grass when soil temperature nears 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. You can grow it alone or mix with other varieties of grass.

Watering

For both grasses, consistent watering is needed for the seed to germinate. This should be done in the morning and evening but without flooding the soil. Once established, Kentucky bluegrass will need more water as compared to Tall fescue.

At least 2 inches of water per week will be needed during summer for the grass grow healthy and green. Tall fescue grass on the other hand does not require regular watering to remain green. This makes it to thrive in heat and drought conditions with minimal watering.

Sunlight conditions

Kentucky bluegrass prefers full direct sun, but some varieties can do well in partially shaded areas. On average KBG needs at least 8 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. Tall fescue grass on the other hand can grow in full sun to part shade areas. You can comfortably grow the grass under trees or between buildings where there is no full sunlight.

Fertilizing needs

Established Kentucky blue grass requires frequent fertilizing to make it dense and greener. On average it needs 3 to 6 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn annually. Tall fescue grass on the other hand does not need as much amount of fertilizer. It needs about 2 lbs. of nitrogen fertilizer per 1000 sq. ft. annually.

Lawn Maintenance

Kentucky bluegrass grows faster thus require frequent mowing and dethatching. Tall fescue grass on the other hand requires less mowing which is always done not below 3 inches. With more requirement for fertilizer, watering and mowing, KBG is expensive to maintain as compared to TTTF.

Traffic tolerance

Kentucky bluegrass is less resilient to heavy foot traffic, but is capable of repairing any damage it sustains from heavy traffic including bare spots. Tall fescue grass on the other hand tolerates heavy use and foot traffic but will not repair itself when a damage happens.

Which one should you choose?

Your choice for either Kentucky bluegrass or Tall fescue, will mainly depend on where you live and your preparedness to take care of your lawn. Kentucky bluegrass is particularly hardy in colder areas and a great option if you live in the northern United States. But you will have to plan for more watering, fertilizing and mowing.

Tall fescue on the other hand can resist heat and drought and this makes it suitable if you live in the transition zone – an area between the northern and southern states. With this turf, you will also have an advantage of less mowing, fertilizing and watering.

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