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grassy weed seed heads

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Annual weeds. These weeds live for only one season and are typically easy to control because they lack the complex underground structures needed to spread new plant growth through creeping roots. Still, annuals produce tons of seeds that can infest and dominate your yard under the right conditions.

Postemergence herbicides control existing weeds. Unfortunately, because grassy weeds are in the same family as turf grass, these types of herbicides can also harm your lawn. Preemergence herbicides control seeds only—not existing weeds—making them safer for an established lawn (grass seeds are susceptible). They work on most seed-based annuals and perennials.

Control

An essential part of identifying grassy weeds has to do with their life cycles. For example, you may be able to hand-pull a few annual weeds to enjoy a weed-free backyard cookout, but perennial grassy weeds have a deeper root structure that can give rise to new weeds—even if you no longer see the weeds in your lawn. Learn what the different life cycles of lawn weeds mean for your control plan.

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Winter annuals. These weeds overlap two calendar years but last only 12 months total. They germinate and develop from late summer to early fall, remain semidormant during the winter and then flower in spring. Come late spring or early summer, they mature and die off as the weather warms.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.