Common to this time of year, seed heads in the lawn are unavoidable and are part of the natural life cycle of grass. What can be done about their unsightly appearance? There are ways to manage seed heads in the turf. Bermuda seed heads look very similar to some common weeds…make sure you know the difference! Warm temperatures and abundant precipitation have resulted in rapid turf growth and seedheads are now appearing in lawns.
This picture shows what Annual Bluegrass seed heads look like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ways to manage seed heads in turf:
- The best way to combat seed heads is to mow the lawn often and make sure the mower blades are sharp. We recommend mowing once a week at a height of 3-3 ½ inches and not bagging the clippings.
- We do not recommend lowering the mowing height of the mower to help control seed heads. Lowering the mowing height puts additional stress on the lawn and may also cause damage to vital structures of the plant, such as the crown.
- Proper fertilization is key. Properly fertilized lawns grow out of the seed stage of the grass life cycle faster. The grass becomes easier to mow and have a much neater lawn.
- Make sure the lawn is receiving the proper amount of water each week. The lawn should receive 1-1 ½ inches of water per week. The best time to water is between the hours of 12 am – 6 am. This keeps the turf growing at a good rate to help grow out the seed heads on the turf. We have great tips for a successful watering schedule on our website.
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.
Don’t mistake this for a weed.
A LOT of Bermuda lawns are producing seed heads right now. In fact, it is hard to find a Bermuda lawn that is NOT producing seed heads right now.
Don’t panic. its not a weed! These seed heads look very similar to those produced by common weeds like bluestem, bahia or crabgrass, and many people make the mistake of trying to treat them.
While you don’t need to do any type of treatment, you do need to listen because your lawn is trying to tell you something. When Bermuda produces seed heads, it is a sign of stress. Improper watering, soil compaction, shade, soil temperatures, improper mowing etc. these are all things that could be putting stress on your Bermuda and causing it to seed.
As widespread as Bermuda seeding is right now, it is likely a result of overwatering (too much rain!) and temperature fluctuations. In other words, there is nothing you can do about it. Just keep mowing it every week and it will eventually correct itself. If it doesn’t correct itself as we start to dry out, then it might be time to take a closer look to see if there is a deeper issue.
Lawns are growing quickly and seedheads are appearing
Warm temperatures and abundant precipitation have resulted in rapid turf growth and seedheads are now appearing in lawns.
Seedheads in a Kentucky bluegrass turf. Photo by Kevin Frank, MSU.
Following cold temperatures throughout most of May, recent warm temperatures and rainfall have lawns exploding in growth. If you’ve fallen behind on mowing, Michigan State University Extension recommends raising your mowing height to avoid leaving massive piles of clippings on the lawn, or consider this a time when you can be justified in picking up clippings to avoid smothering the turf. Another smart reason to raise your mower height is to promote deep roots, avoid grub damage and crowd out weeds.
In addition to surging top-growth, seedheads are also appearing. The common lawn grasses – Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue – all produce seedheads as do grassy weeds such as annual bluegrass (Poa annua). Seedhead production requires energy from the plant, so it is likely the turf will not only look stemmy due to the seed stalks, but the turfgrass may even lose density.
Consider a fertilizer application following the seedhead flush to help the turf recover, especially if you haven’t fertilized yet this spring or fertilized back in April. Keep the mower blade sharp to ensure a clean cut and don’t lower the mowing height to try and remove seedheads. Annual bluegrass produces seedheads below the 0.125-inch mowing height on golf course putting greens, so lowering the mowing height is not going to eliminate seedheads from your lawn.