Tall fescue grass was introduced to the United States by Europeans in the 1800s. This grass type is able to adapt well to a variety of soil conditions and climates, but it thrives best in well-drained, clay soils. Most tall fescue grass is somewhat shade-tolerant, if growing in the southern region, and will stay green all year round with adequate irrigation. Tall fescues should never be mowed to a height shorter than 1 1/2 inches in the summer months.
Kentucky-31, also known as simply K-31, is one of the two oldest tall fescue varieties in existence. The Kentucky-31 variety originates from a tall fescue that was discovered in 1931 on a farm in Kentucky, where it was believed to have been growing for 50 years. The texture of Kentucky-31 is coarse and it is not considered durable enough for high traffic areas, such as parks or sports fields.
Alta is the other of the two oldest tall fescues available and it originates from a variety of tall fescue found in Oregon in 1923. Alta is commonly used as a pasture grass in the United States' transitional zone. The transitional zone is an area of the country that begins in the center of the United States and extends out to both the Atlantic Coast and the eastern part of New Mexico. Alta does not mix well with annual grass types, such as Bermuda grass, so it is recommended to remove these grass types before planting Alta.
Apache is considered a turf-type of tall fescue and is a newer variety in the tall fescue family. It is one of the most shade-tolerant of the tall fescues and thrives best in light to moderate shade. Apache prefers dry soil conditions and very little fertilizer, as it is a slow-growing grass variety. It is recommended to fertilize Apache with no more than 2 lbs of a nitrogen-rich fertilizer per every 1,000 square feet of area. The use of herbicides on Apache grass growing in shaded areas is not recommended.