Annual Meadow Grass

What is annual meadow grass and why does it occur?

Annual meadow grass is frequently found in lawns and is the most common grass found in golf greens and bowling greens in the UK.  Although not sown as part of the seed mixture, annual meadow grass is frequently found in cultivated turf.  It is a very common natural grass in the arable fields commonly used for growing turf and thus can occur as a contaminant.

Annual meadow grass is usually identified by its lighter colour than standard turf species and by its ability to produce flowering seed heads throughout the year, particularly in late spring.  The feature of annual meadow grass which makes it a successful grass plant is the ability to seed at cutting heights as low as 5 – 6 mm.

Lindum Turf, through its strict growing procedures and quality control systems, makes every effort to minimise the annual meadow grass content in its turf.

Annual meadow grass can eventually appear in a turfed lawn which on delivery was free of this grass.  Though if the lawn is under stress, meadow grass can develop.

The most common causes of stress to lawn turf which encourage annual meadow grass are:

  • insufficient nutrition
  • mowing too short
  • reducing the cutting height too quickly when left to grow long
  • disease
  • excessive wear

In all these cases, the density of the turf will diminish, allowing annual meadow grass to take advantage of the open spaces to flourish.

Controlling Annual Meadow Grass

If present in small amounts, the best way to remove annual meadow grass is to cut it out with a sharp knife, because it has no underground stems, removing the roots will kill the plant.  A little seed and soil can be used to fill these patches.

Where the number of plants make this impractical, certain procedures can be undertaken:

  • Annual meadow grass dislikes acid conditions so avoid spreading lime or fertilisers containing lime.
  • Maintain a vigorous and healthy grass sward by regular feeding and disease control if necessary.
  • Good mowing practice – the aim is to raise any annual meadow grass stems that are lying flat so that they can be removed by the mower.  This weakens the plant and makes it less obvious in the lawn.
  • When mowing, do not mow in the same direction each time and ideally collect the clippings.  Dispersing the seed heads back onto the lawn makes the situation worse.
  • Mow when the seed heads can be clearly seen and maintain the grass at a height of about 25mm.
  • Brushing or raking before mowing helps raise the stems.  With good regular mowing when seed heads are visible, the annual meadow grass population will gradually reduce.

On mature lawns, scarification in spring or autumn (avoiding very dry weather) will remove many of the annual meadow grass plants which are shallow rooting.  This should be followed by over seeding ensuring that the lawn remains moist to encourage rapid germination.