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 appe 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.

Seed heads in your Lawn Commonly Mistaken for Weeds

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.

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.

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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.

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

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.

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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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Conclusion

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.