Lots of factors go into deciding which type and variety of grass is right for your yard, and when it comes to purchasing seeds, the same considerations about the growing environment will guide you in knowing when coated seeds are appropriate and when uncoated seeds might be the better choice.
Here, we’ll look at Kentucky 31, a variety of tall fescue grass, and how to know whether coated or uncoated seeds would be right for your situation.
Fescue is a cool-season grass that thrives in well-draining soil. They tend to have a higher drought tolerance than other cool-season grasses due to their deep roots, which reach further into the ground than other grasses for ground water when the surface level is dry. Fescues are therefore good for lawns that don’t have irrigation systems, and for large properties that can’t get full-coverage watering frequently.
Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue
Kentucky 31, or KY-31, Tall Fescue is a particular variety of fescue grass that was bred for heartiness, with thick, dense blades and deep roots for drought resistance. The blades of Kentucky 31 are also more pest and disease resistant than softer grasses.
When this fescue gets into lawns where it wasn’t intentionally planted and is considered a weed, it’s often mistaken for crabgrass or dallisgrass due to its coarse blades.
This type of tall fescue was originally bred as a forage grass for pastures. Not long after it was developed in 1931 was a turf variety created as an improvement on the Kentucky 31 for home and leisure grass coverage.
Kentucky 31 Tall Fescue Or Turf Type Tall Fescue?
Both types of tall fescue, turf type and Kentucky 31, share the same advantages common in this cool-season grass family, but they differ in certain ways (other than their color: KY-31 is a little lighter in color).
- Coverage – Both of these tall fescues are clumping or bunch-forming grasses, meaning that the blades grow in small individual bunches that each has their own root system. This is in contrast to spreading grasses that extend across the yard by their roots. Turf type tall fescue produces a more uniform coverage, like a spreading grass, because its bunches grow in more tightly than Kentucky 31’s.
- Blade texture – As a forage grass originally, Kentucky 31 has dense, coarse blades that were meant to provide nutrition to grazing animals. When it’s used for yard cover, these hearty blades provide superior resistance to pests and disease, but they aren’t as soft as turf type tall fescue, which has finer and more uniform blades.
- Growth speed – Kentucky 31 tends to grow a little faster than the turf type tall fescue. In a lawn setting, this means KY-31 needs to be mowed a little more frequently than the turf type.
Coated Grass Seed
When you go to buy fescue seed for your yard, you’ll find that some have mixes of grass types, grass varieties, and an option for coated seeds or bare seeds. Seed coatings are added to help grass germinate and can be especially advantageous in drier areas. This is because the coatings are meant to keep the seeds from losing moisture and increasing the success rate of germination.
When seeds dry out during the germination process, they will die since they don’t have a reserve of moisture like mature plants do in their roots and leaves. This is why it’s so important to water your grass seeds multiple times a day. When you buy coated seeds, the coating can be penetrated by water, but it doesn’t let moisture out. The coatings then break down after the seeds have sprouted and discarded their shell.
The coating does add weight to the seed, though, and the total weight of your seed will result in fewer seeds per bag but is also meant to achieve a higher overall germination rate.
The coatings may contain fungicide or fertilizers to support the seed’s germination; all of the details relating to the weight, application rate, and purity percentages (or the breakdown of content by percentage of the bag’s total weight) are listed on the label for you to know exactly what you’re getting.
What Is Better Coated Or Uncoated Grass Seed?
Like your choice of grass type and variety, the environment and your need will guide your choice of coated or uncoated seed.
- Property size – The square footage or acreage of your yard is an important factor in deciding whether coated or uncoated seed is the right choice. For a large field, coated seeds may be a more useful choice. The coatings come in shades of red, blue, or other colors to show where they’ve been applied, which can be especially useful when putting seed down by tractor, although it can be just as useful for a broadcast spreader on particularly large yards.
- Ability to water – Large yards and fields can be difficult to irrigate and water evenly and frequently, so they may need to rely heavily on rain. Here again, a coated seed may be at an advantage from being able to hold on to moisture longer. Bare seeds that don’t get enough water once the germination process begins likely won’t successfully sprout unless the ground stays moist enough naturally.
- Climate – Like large fields that can’t be watered effectively, a dry climate is another situation where a coated seed may have an advantage due to its ability to retain moisture longer. In areas where transitional seasons aren’t as wet as northern climates, or where temperatures remain on the warmer side, coated seeds may have a better chance of sprouting.
There are times when uncoated seeds may be the better choice. If your yard is of a manageable size that you’re able to see the seeds where they’ve landed, there isn’t a need for a color coating. Overseeding a lawn might also be a time when you don’t need to see the seeds, especially if they’ll be getting lost amongst the existing grass cover.
When you’re able to water the lawn as much as necessary for the seeds to sprout, the coating might be adding extra weight to the bag and reducing total seed content for moisture insurance that isn’t necessary for your situation. Similarly, if you’re putting down fertilizer and taking anti-fungal measures, there may be no need for a coated seed.