How to Grow Timothy-grass | Guide to Growing Timothy-grass

How to Grow Timothy-grass Grass | Guide to Growing Timothy-grass Grass  



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Timothy is a versatile grass that can be fed to cattle and (especially) horses as hay, and also can provides suitable forage, usually in combination with a legume such as alfalfa, to sheep, cattle, goats and other animals. Also safe for other domestic animals including rabbits, guinea pigs and others. It is best suited as a cool-season grass. As always, consult an animal feed expert, veterinarian, or other qualified professional before initiating any feeding regime.



7-14 days

4 years

Fertile, moist soil

Full sun

For hay, thin to 12-18" or less

Horses, sheep, others


Growing Guide

Timothy is ideally sown in late summer or spring. However, do not delay too long in your planting, as sowing in mid to late August or later may not give young starts enough time go become stable for the oncoming winter.


Due to its susceptibility to drought, timothy is more popular in northern climates that do not see proloungued periods of heat and dryness. To ensure that growing starts have enough time to become stable before winter cold sets in, sow seeds six weeks or more prior to the first average frost of the fall. Prepare the bed for sowing a few weeks before sowing by amending soil with needed, and consistently adding moisture.


Although timothy is sometimes cultivated as a forage crop, it is best suited as a hay for horses. Relative to other grasses used for grazing, timothy stores more of it energy and reserves in the bottom portions of the stem. The top of the leaves are thus less palatable and less nutritious than other grasses.


A well-prepared seedbed will help to promote higher quality timothy grass. This should be done 6 months or more prior to the expected planting date to ensure that added amendments have significant time to react with soil. The first step will be to test the pH of the soil with a tester, available at a farm or home & garden store. Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 6.5 to 7.0. Soil can be amended with lime (limestone) if needed to raise pH. Do not sow if pH is not 6.2 or higher. Amendment with organic fertilizers rich in nitrogen is recommended.


For grazing, orchard grass is best sown with legumes to provide a more balance nutritional profile and to assist with nitrogen fixation. Avoid sowing with other grasses.


Seeds should be sown approximately ¼-1/2" deep. Seeds sown deeper may not be able to break through the surface of the soil. Gently pack soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. Like most seeds, they require warmth and plenty of water to germinate. Do not start in arid or excessively dry locations or conditions. If sowing in fall, do not sow later than one month prior to the first average frost of the fall.


Timothy is sensitive to excessive heat and drought. Locations susceptible to these conditions will not support timothy and should be avoided. Timothy has shallow root structures and must receive consistent watering to flourish.


Timothy need plenty of water throughout the growing season. Additionally, it will produce better results with soil of medium fertility or better. If timothy is grown in the presence of a legume, it does not require fertilization with nitrogen. Otherwise, periodic fertilizing with nitrogen is recommended. This is most helpful when sowing, during the spring to promote growth, and right after harvests. Check soil periodically to ensure that pH remains between 6.0-7.0.


Harvesting Guide


Timothy requires at least 50 days or so of growth before it can be harvested as hay. It can be especially sensitive to over-harvesting and over grazing, so care should be taken when assessing for hay collection. Timothy forms relatively few basal leaves to promote faster growth after harvesting, and should not be taken down too far when cutting.


The best time to collect Timothy is just prior to bloom. If harvested as hay, timothy typically requires at least 50 days of growth before the stage suitable for development. Subsequent collections usually require 30-40 days between harvests. The general recommendation is to harvest hay before more than half of the flowers have opened up to bloom. Waiting longer, with more blossoms opening up, can result in a greater yield of lower quality.


Similarly, care should be taken when grazing timothy. Timing is especially important as it can be harmed by grazing before the plant is at least 3-4 inches tall. Additionally, waiting too long before grazing, once the plant begins jointing, can result in unpalatable taste and less nutrition. Timothy is best-suited as part of a rotation of grazing, and typically requires around three weeks or more of growth between grazings.


Grasses form their flowers in spikes called inflorescences. Seed collection is easy. Do not remove the flowering spikes, seeds will develop in the inflorescences. After a period of time you can notice a changing of color in the seed spike, usually it will lighten in color. Mature seeds can be brown to light tan depending on species.


It is important to note for collection that seeds will not come readily off the spike if they are immature. For collection grasp your hand around the base of the mature inflorescence and in a clasping motion pull upwards and strip the seeds from the spike. Ripe seeds come off very easily.


Allow the seeds to dry in a large open bowl for several days, small seeds will need a few days to dry, larger seeds may require more time, especially in damp weather. It is important to assure that the seeds are thoroughly dry before storing them.


Their will be a good amount of chaff with the seeds, it is not always easy to remove. Some seeds, such as pennisetum, have narrow catching/hooking spear-like protrusions attached. Their purpose is part of the dispersal means of the plant. As an animal passes close by and brushes against the inflorescence the seeds are snagged onto the coat and can stay attached for some distance, the seed eventually breaks from its hooks and falls to the ground where it might germinate. Seeds are usually traded with the chaff, for sowing rub both seeds and chaff into the surface of moist soil and press in well.


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