Harvesting grass seed from your lawn ensures that you have the same grass growth therefore more uniformity instead of buying mixed grass seed. If you harvest seed the wrong way at the wrong time, you'll end up with bad seed that won't germinate if you use it to reseed or cover bare areas in your lawn. Carefully harvested and stored seeds will grow evenly when planted to give your lawn the aesthetic you want.
Avoid mowing for 20 to 30 days to allow the grass to flower, seed, and mature. Seeds are ready to harvest when they turn brown, golden, or tan. Peel or remove the seeds and store them in a dry container. Fertilize the lawn to thin it out after seeding.
Can I harvest my own grass seed?
You can easily grow and harvest your grass seed without hiring expensive harvesters or buying new seed every growing season. Use your hands to scoop up the grass seed if you have a small lawn area. You just need time and effort to dedicate to the task of harvesting.
When is the grass seed ready to harvest?
Grass seeds are ready for harvest 20-30 days after flower production. The seeds take different times to mature depending on the flowering period. Grass seed matures sooner in hot, dry climates, while it takes longer to mature in cool, wet climates.
Grass seeds drop from the plant 10 to 15 days after maturity. Cool-season grasses flower and set seed in late spring and early summer (between mid-July and August). Meanwhile, warm-season grasses flower in late summer (late August to late October).
Kentucky bluegrass matures to seed in late July or early August, and this is the best time to harvest its seeds. When mature, the seed is closed to remove small, light seeds, although it is not easily broken.
Creeping red fescue and mature fescue seeds ripen in early August. The seeds do not close easily from the seed head. Delaying harvest for a few days can cause the seeds to crack easily. Tall fescue seeds are brown with a slight green tinge at the base when ripe.
Perennial ryegrass closes easily when mature and produces one or two florets from the head if pulled between the fingers.
Note: Because weather conditions vary, which affects grass seed maturation, it is vital to first check the seeds for readiness before harvest. Grass seeds ripen from top to bottom, turning brown, gold, or tan. If you hit the seeds hard against your palms, if they are ripe, the seeds will close up and fall into your hand.
How to Harvest Grass Seeds
Proper turf preparation, well-controlled mature seeds, correct harvesting, and proper storage methods produce the most viable seeds when grown on turf.
The following explains how to carry out these processes:
1.Prepare the grass seeds.
You want to get enough viable grass seed to sow or cover the gaps in your lawn the next growing season. You must prepare the grass seeds before you harvest them. The crop cuts the grass stalks that contain grass seeds. Do not mow for 20 to 30 days to allow the grass to flower, set seed, and the seeds to mature. This should be mid to late summer. The seeds must be dried after maturity to facilitate harvesting.
Continue watering the lawn while you wait for the seeds to mature.
2.Check the grass seeds to confirm they are ready
After the waiting period, check the seeds to confirm that they are ready to harvest. Variations in weather conditions affect when seeds mature, which varies across all types of seed-producing grasses. Checking the seeds ensures that you harvest them at the correct time, not too early when they are still green and moist, or too late when the seed head has closed and spilled the seeds onto the ground.
Ready-to-harvest seeds turn brown, gold, or tan. Some, like the perennial ryegrass, turn brown but light green at the base. Check the color of the seed head before harvest.
In addition to color, grass seed closes and removes the seeds if squeezed in the palm of the hand. Pull up a stalk of grass and squeeze the seed head into the palm of your hand with your thumb and forefinger. Grass seeds are ready for harvest if the seed head closes, releasing dry seeds that fall into the palm of your hand. However, if the seeds are green and moist, give them more time to fully mature before harvesting.
3.Harvesting mature grass seeds
Let's say you find your grass seeds tan, brown, or gold and dry enough; it's time to harvest them. There are two methods of harvesting grass seed, and each method will depend on how much time and effort you will have to harvest the grass seed.
The first method is destemming, which consists of removing the grass seeds together with the heads, leaves and stem, drying them in the shade or placing them in a bag while they continue to dry, closing and removing the seeds. Chasing requires more time and effort.
The second method is shelling, which involves removing the seeds directly from the seed head while the seed head is attached to the stem. Pickling does not require you to cut the stems, which requires less time and effort.
Harvest grass seed chasing
You will need some scissors and a bag. Cut the seed stalk about 2 to 3 inches below the base of the seeds with a pair of scissors. Place the cut stem in the bag.
Seed harvest by peeling.
You will need a bag to put the seeds in. Take the stem of the grass and hold it firmly in one hand. Slide your thumb and forefinger up to the top of the sole while squeezing with your other hand. The seed head will close to deposit the seeds on top of your fingers. Pick up the seeds carefully and immerse them in the bag.
4. Grass Seed Storages
Store the collected seeds by shelling them in a dry container. Moisture in the container encourages mold growth, which reduces the viability of the seeds. Store container in a cool, sunny place. Avoid dark areas as they also encourage mold growth. Store the container safely away from pests, such as rodents, which can chew through the container and eat the seeds.
If you harvested the seeds with a juicer, shake the bag to settle the seeds to the bottom. Some seed heads will not open to release the seeds; give them more time. Shake the bag frequently. After eight weeks, most of the seed heads will have broken open and the seeds have been released. Shake the bag one last time to release any remaining seeds. Open the bag, collect and transfer the seeds to a new dry container.
Store the container in a cool, dry place, away from rodents. At this point, the seeds are ready to be sown or to cover gaps for the next growing season.
After harvesting the grass seed, be sure to fertilize the lawn because the grass thins out when it focuses on shoot formation and seed production.
Types of grasses that produce seeds
Not all grasses produce viable seed harvested for replanting or covering bare areas on lawns. Most warm-season grass varieties form turf, and only a few produce viable seed. Perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, and Kentucky bluegrass are the most common cool-season grasses that produce seeds.
Kentucky bluegrass grows fastest in spring and fall and establishes itself in lawns through seed. It germinates more slowly than other cool-season grasses. Kentucky bluegrass produces panicles, pyramid-shaped inflorescences with 30-100 spikelets that produce seeds when mature.
The centipede is replanted naturally. It has a racemose inflorescence 3 to 5 inches long, with spikelets in two rows. When the spikelets mature, they produce viable seeds that are wind-borne to other parts of the lawn and replanted.
Common bermudagrass produces crossed seeds and has an inflorescence composed of 3 to 7 spikelets in a single whorl.
Buffalo grass has pistillate flowers with ten 4 mm tall spikelets that mature to release seeds.
Other common grasses that produce seeds are zoysia grass and bay laurel.
Sources and References
- University of Minnesota:Finding the Right Grass Seed.
- Michigan State University:When the grass produces seeds.
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