Timothy Grass Care: Information About Timothy Grass Growing

Several heads of Timothy grass that have gone to seed
(Image credit: dadalia)

Timothy hay (Phleum pratense) is a common animal fodder which is found in all states. What is Timothy grass? It is a cool season perennial grass with rapid growth. The plant gets its name from Timothy Hanson, who promoted the grass in the 1700s as a pasture grass. The grass is native to Europe, temperate Asia and North Africa. The plant is adapted to numerous climates and performs well in even cold, northern regions. Timothy grass care is minimal in most regions.

What is Timothy Grass?

The benefits of Timothy grass are numerous. It has broad appeal as hay for and horses, but when combined with alfalfa, it makes nutritious forage for sheep and other grazing animals. It is also made into food for guinea pigs, rabbits and other domesticated pets.

The plant is easily recognized when it blooms by its long narrow seed head. When does Timothy grass bloom? The inflorescence is produced in late spring to early summer or within 50 days of sowing. The plant can be harvested for hay several times during the growing season if planted in early spring.

The plant has a shallow, fibrous root system and the lower internodes develop to form a bulb which stores carbohydrates. The leaf blades are hairless, smooth and pale green. Young blades begin rolled and mature to a flattened leaf with pointed tip and rough edges. Each leaf may be 11 to 17 inches (27.5-43 cm.) long.

Seed heads approach 15 inches (38 cm.) in length and have spiky florets that become tiny seeds. Large perennial stands of Timothy grass growing in fertile lowland fields is a common sight in many states.

Tip on Timothy Grass Growing

Timothy grass is generally sown in spring or summer. It takes 50 days to establish for harvesting in most climates. The best time to plant late crops is six weeks or more prior to the first fall frost, which gives the stand enough time to establish before cold weather.

Sow the seeds in amended soil that has been tilled. Although Timothy grass grows in most soil types, the pH of the soil is important. Ideally, it should be between 6.5 and 7.0. If necessary, perform a soil test and amend soil with lime six months before planting the crop. Seeds should be planted ¼ to ½ inch (0.5-1.25 cm.) deep and lightly covered with soil. Keep the soil moderately moist.

Timothy Grass Care

This grass doesn't do well in areas with excessive heat or in drought conditions. Consistent moisture is a must to develop a good stand. Often, Timothy grass is planted with legumes as nutritious forage for animals. The benefits of Timothy grass in this instance as tillage are increased nitrogen, percolation, drainage, and added nutrients.

When planted with legumes, additional nitrogen fertilizer is not necessary, but stands planted alone benefit from several spaced applications of food. Apply the first time at sowing, again during spring, and after harvesting.

Harvest hay before more than half the plants have formed flowers. Do not harvest down to the basal leaves, which will fuel the next generation of growth. After the first harvest, the plant is ready to be collected again in 30 to 40 days.

Bonnie L. Grant

Bonnie Grant is a professional landscaper with a Certification in Urban Gardening. She has been gardening and writing for 15 years. A former professional chef, she has a passion for edible landscaping.