Collecting Native Grass Seed

Idaho fescue seeds

Idaho fescue seeds

Native grasses are ripening quickly this year as hot temperatures dry them out. Many species are now ready for collection.

For those wanting to add grasses to their gardens or wanting to establish bunch grasses instead of lawn, now is a good time to head out with a small paper bag or two in hand.

rough fescue grass with seedheads

rough fescue

Gathering grass seed is pretty painless. Grab the stem and swipe upward gently pulling off seed and letting it fall into the paper bag. Any seeds that don’t come off easily are not ripe. Ripe seed will have a small (2mm) dark spot inside the seed. If you gently pull apart the seed you should see the blackish seed nestled between the two pieces of the outer seed. If you wait too long in the season seeds will have dropped out and all you will collect is chaff.

prairie junegrass

prairie junegrass

Collect enough seed for your project but be sure to leave enough seed for plants to reproduce and to feed birds and small animals. Make sure to get permission before gathering seed on someone else’s property.

indian ricegrass seedheads

Indian ricegrass

Cool season grasses currently maturing include:

  • prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha)
  • Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis)
  • rough fescue (Festuca campestris)
  • Richardson’s needle grass (Achnatherum (Stipa) richardsonii)
  • Needle and Thread (Stipa comata)
  • Western needle grass (Achnatherum occidentals)
  • Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides)
Richardson's needle grass drooping seedheads

Richardson’s needle grass

Store seeds in the paper bag and store in a cool, dark place until fall. Plant grass seed either in fall (lightly covering with compost or a thin mulch like pine needles) or in the spring after it warms up. Be sure to give germinating grass plenty of water to get roots established. Several weeks of regular watering is usually necessary depending on weather. Once grasses have begun to establish monitor moisture and provide supplemental water when things get dry.

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