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weed grass seed heads

One of the most common lawn care questions we receive each year is about a strange wheat like weed growing in lawns. Good news, it’s not a weed, but rather a seed head! A seed head is a normal part of the grass life cycle that occurs each spring in our area. All grasses produce seed heads at some point throughout the growing season, it’s the plants way to reproduce and ensure survival.

Problem Info Seed heads appear in the lawn in the spring. They are tough and hard to mow, and the lawn may appear white after mowing because of the shredded stems. Lawn grass naturally goes to seed. Seed heads are most likely to be perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, or tall fescue. In cool-season grass lawns, seed head production is prompted by days in excess of 12 hours long, which occurs around the middle of May. Warm-season grasses may also produce seed heads, but do so in the summer, and their seed heads are not difficult to mow.

Analysis Lawn grass naturally goes to seed. In cool-season grass lawns, seed head production is prompted by days in excess of 12 hours long, which occurs around the middle of May. Seed head production is heaviest when daytime temperatures are between 65° and 75°F, the weather is dry and the soil low in nitrogen. Some grass varieties produce more seed heads than others. Seed heads are most likely to be perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, or tall fescue. Rough bluegrass and annual bluegrass, two common lawn weeds, produce seed heads in the spring. Warm-season grasses may also produce seed heads, but do so in the summer, and their seed heads are not difficult to mow. Unless they are allowed to ripen for about 4 months, seeds will not sprout, either in the lawn or in a mulch or compost made from clippings. Seed head production weakens grass by diverting energy to making seed.

Seed head production requires energy from the grass plant, potentially causing a temporary lightening in color. The turf looks stemmy due to seed stalks, and short-term thinning of the turf stand. All these temporary issues eventually correct themselves as the plants grow and enter the next step in the grass life cycle. The best way to ensure a speedy recovery is by enhancing growth through regular watering and fertilization.

Solution Advice If grass is taller than usual, mow it at regular intervals, slowly lowering the mowing height until it is about 3 inches high. Do not mow lower in an attempt to halt seed head production, but you may mow more frequently to maintain the appearance of the lawn. Use a sharp mower to avoid shredding the stems. Reduce seed head production next year by fertilizing and watering regularly from early May through June. Nitrogen fertilizer and ample water encourage vegetative growth instead of seed head production.

Seed heads are a necessary step in the life cycle of grass and ensures the specie’s survival, therefore stressed areas of the lawn may generate a greater density of seed heads. Dry soil is a tell-tale sign of seed heads. Check the soil moisture in the turf and compare areas with and without seed heads. The drier sections yield more seed heads. Cool shaded areas where the water evaporation rate is much less may have less seed heads. Watering the lawn properly with an adequate amount of water each week is important to the turf’s appearance and health.

Seed heads can be different in shape and size depending on the grass species. The timing of seed head production in the grass life cycle varies from plant to plant. Some grass species produce seed heads very early in spring, such as Annual Bluegrass and Rough Stalk Bluegrass; while others may produce seed heads later in the season such as annual rye grass. Seed heads are attached to a stalk that stems from the center of the grass plant and resemble miniature wheat plants. How many seed heads are visible on the lawn at any given time depends on the grass varieties and time interval between mowing. Seed head production normally lasts for a period of 2-4 weeks. As mentioned previously, many homeowners commonly mistake seed heads for weeds but no need to worry, they’re just a part of the grass life cycle. If you want more information on weeds, click here for our blog about weeds and ways to control them.

One of the most common lawn care questions we receive each year is about a strange wheat like weed growing in lawns. Good news, it’s not a weed, but rather a seed head! A seed head is a normal part of the grass life cycle that occurs each spring in our area. All grasses produce seed heads at some point throughout the growing season, it’s the plants way to reproduce and ensure survival.

Ways to manage seed heads in turf:

Seed head production requires energy from the grass plant, potentially causing a temporary lightening in color. The turf looks stemmy due to seed stalks, and short-term thinning of the turf stand. All these temporary issues eventually correct themselves as the plants grow and enter the next step in the grass life cycle. The best way to ensure a speedy recovery is by enhancing growth through regular watering and fertilization.

This picture shows what Annual Bluegrass seed heads look like.

There is no way of controlling or preventing seed heads from occurring chemically in a lawn because it is part of the natural grass life cycle; however, there are ways to improve the appearance of the lawn while seed heads are growing.

If you see plants that look like wheat in your lawn, no need to worry this is a normal part of the grass life cycle. The timing and amount of seed heads produced depends on grass varieties and environmental conditions. Proper watering and fertilization help improve the appearance of the turf while it’s producing seed heads and promote quicker recovery. If you are in our service area and have any questions about seed heads or your lawn in general, feel free to give us a call at 908-281-7888.

The simplest way to get rid of any seed heads quickly is to mow them off. While this may make your lawn look better in the short term, it won’t actually ‘fix’ the problem so don’t be surprised if they quickly grow back and you have to mow again every 5-10 days until you resolve the underlying issue.

Normally, when a turf variety goes to seed, it’s because it’s under stress from something, usually a lack of water or nutrients. Most common lawn types in Australia produce a sterile seed head, meaning they can’t be spread by seed into other areas of your garden and grow from the seeds, only through vegetative sprigs or runners.

While going to seed isn’t necessarily a bad thing for your lawn, it doesn’t look great or feel as soft underfoot and can be a sign of an underlying problem, so it’s best to get on top of it as soon as possible.

Watering

The best way to avoid seed heads is to maintain a consistent lawn care program throughout the year. If your lawn is healthy it should stop seeding on its own within 2-3 weeks and it will be business as usual.

Flowering and seeding are a natural part of a plant life cycle and a smart survival mechanism of your lawn in response to sudden changes in temperature, wind and rain that can be experienced during this time of year.

During late spring to early summer it’s not uncommon for seed heads to pop up in your turf.

When these lawn seed heads start popping up in your grass it’s perfectly normal to freak out and think you have weeds. But they’re not actually a weed – they’re simply a seed head that has grown from the green stem of a lawn leaf.