Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), like perennial ryegrass, is a bunch-type grass with a slightly coarser leaf texture than Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. A description of tall fescue can be found here. However, many turf-type varieties with much finer leaves are now available. Tall fescue is gaining popularity on home lawns and is used on sports fields because its tough leaves give it good traffic tolerance.
Tall fescue is more cold tolerant than perennial ryegrass, but not as cold tolerant as Kentucky bluegrass. Be aware, though, that tall fescue may become thin in short season, higher elevation areas. It is very heat and drought resistant due to its deep, extensive root system. Tall fescue also has good shade tolerance compared with Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass. It has few insect and disease problems if managed properly. Due its bunch-type growth habit, it forms thatch slowly and does not invade flower beds, but may require overseeding on damaged or areas worn by heavy use.
Tall fescue has a wide range of cultural needs depending on use. The best quality turf is achieved at mowing heights of 2 to 3½ inches. Fertility requirements are less than Kentucky bluegrass ranging from 2 to 4 lbs nitrogen (N) per 1000 ft² per season. The deep root system of tall fescue will allow it to draw water from deeper depths in the soil and may allow you to stretch the irrigation frequency by about a day during the summer compared with Kentucky bluegrass. However, if the root system is restricted due to poor soil conditions, tall fescue will need just as much water as Kentucky bluegrass, if not more.
Availability of tall fescue sod is more limited than Kentucky bluegrass, but seed is readily available and germination is fast. Seed at rates of 6 to 8 lbs per 1000 ft². Many new turf-type tall fescue varieties are now available and as always, choose seed with ‘named’ varieties. Avoid the variety “K-31″ or “Kentucky 31″ as this is the old forage-type variety with wide blades and will result in a poor quality lawn.