Information on Grasses

by Speare Seeds


Strictly a pasture grass, Orchard ranked high in yielding capacity, nutritional value, ability to withstand grazing, and  resistance to disease and drought. Although highly  palatable when young, the plant quickly loses this quality when approaching  maturity, so must be kept clipped or grazed for continuous succulent pasture.

The key to successful use of Orchardgrass lies in good management practices. It is the first grass to start growth in the spring and the first to mature, coming into head  about the end of May. If clipped or grazed closely at this time it will continue to produce leafy shoots throughout summer and until fall freeze-up, and close grazing is necessary to prevent it becoming coarse.

More easily established than most coarse-seeded grasses, this grass comes to full production the first year after seeding, making it valuable in short rotations as well as in  long term mixtures. Nitrogenous fertilizers are recommended on sandy soils. Orchardgrass is bold, aggressive and one of the best pasture grasses we have. It is well  worth the extra effort required to manage it successfully.

Meadow Fescue

An excellent pasture grass adapted to fertile soils well supplied with moisture, but of good drainage. Meadow Fescue “catches” easily and is highly compatible with  Orchard, Brome and Clovers in pasture mixtures as it is easy to manage, requires little clipping to keep it palatable, maintains a high level of production through the hot weather and is quite long lasting. Noted for its abundance of dark green,shiny leaves, Meadow Fescue excels all other grasses for pasture on low,  moist, fertile land and is noticeable as the dominant species in the low areas of fields seeded to good long term mixtures.

Meadow Fescue starts growth later in the spring than Orchardgrass and, like Orchard, cannot be considered a top hay plant unless cut extra early. However, it produces new  growth quickly after cutting or grazing and should be included in all mixtures for either short or long term pasture.


Undoubtedly the best dual-purpose grass we have, being equally useful for hay and pasture. Brome is very high yielding, palatable, longlived, resistant to drought and  heavy grazing, and winter hardy, making it the basic ingredient in all mixtures for hay and pasture.

Leafy, tall growing Bromegrass starts growth early in the spring and continues right through the season, providing excellent pasture in the aftermath.When pastured, it spreads and forms a thick turf, growing in between the more bunchy plants like Alfalfa. Contrary to some opinions, little difficulty is experienced in getting rid of it by  ploughing.

For hay it matures about the same time as Timothy, but the leaves remain soft and green for a longer period of time. Brome prefers sandy loam to light clay loam soils,  and in general, succeeds anywhere Timothy can be grown. High levels of fertility are not essential, but on lighter soils an annual application of a high nitrogen fertilizer is recommended unless it is growing with a legume.

If Brome has a fault it is in its slow establishment; in that it takes an extra year from seeding to reach full production. This can be overcome by using one of the improved  varieties that have recently been developed featuring greater seeding vigor and more rapid growth.

Tall Fescue

This remarkable grass can be grown more successfully on poor soils than any other forage crop. It is easy to establish, produces a very strong seedling and is capable  of competing with any aggressive growth including most weeds.

Tall Fescue is a very hardy perennial, tall growing and high yielding. It prefers moist soils, but will “catch” on very poor, dry soils and produce well even through hot, dry  periods due to its large, vigorous root system. Although it closely resembles Meadow Fescue when young, Tall Fescue becomes much coarser and taller as it reaches  maturity and is not nearly as palatable, especially when used as hay. Certainly an important grass for poor, run-out soils where better forage plants are not adapted.


Timothy is so common that it seldom gets any publicity. But let its ordinarily plentiful supply of seed become scarce and watch the reaction. This perennial grass is very widely adapted and is actually unequalled as feed for horses and livestock when cut at the proper time. It prefers warm, moist weather and is superior to any other grass for hay in cold, moist, heavy clay land. However, it will not tolerate high summer temperatures, sour soils, poor drainage, infertile sandy soils, or shallow soils.

It is slow in establishing and does not compete too well in complex mixtures, forming a coarse, open sod that will not stand close grazing or excessive trampling.When  cut for hay there is very little regrowth.

However, Timothy ranks high in yielding capacity, nutritional value and palatability. It is winter hardy, widely adapted and the seed is generally cheap, so this grass is  undoubtedly our principal hay grass. Improved varieties such as AURORA should be considered as they offer characteristics that offset some of the disadvantages of  common Timothy.

Reed Canarygrass

Many farms, which have a creek running through them or some low-lying, unproductive land could provide wonderful insurance against a dry year by seeding these areas  down to this grass. Adapted to muck soils with a high water table, Reed Canary will succeed in drier locations as well, but will withstand flooding for several  weeks in the spring without injury, and is little affected by extremes of temperature, is very winter hardy and drought resistant as well. Very easy to establish and   aggressive, this grass may be identified readily by its tall, coarse stems and abundance of long, broad leaves. It develops a vigorous system of underground stems making a coarse sod which is easily killed by good ploughing. Growth starts very early in the spring and sustains throughout July and August, but falls off considerably in the fall. Reed Canary matures late in June which is the time to cut it for hay, after which it will come back rapidly for summer pasture.

Red Top

A widely adapted but low yielding grass that will grow on high ground, but is naturally adapted to poorly drained, acid soils of low fertility. It will even grow on the bottom of  shallow ponds and streams, which later become dry. Red Top is rather slow establishing but persistent, starting growth late in spring and maturing later than most   grasses. It provides a fair amount of growth for pasture in summer, but little growth in the fall nor does it rank high in nutritional value or palatability. Seed is very fine and  one or two pounds per acre is sufficient in a mixture.

Perennial Ryegrass

Great strides have been ade with winter  hardiness of Perennial Ryegrass and previous conceptions that Perennial Ryegrass was not winter tolerant are quickly being turned around with the advent of varietal winterhardy blends such as BG-34.

Equal to Orchardgrass in its ability to revive after clipping or grazing, Ryegrass is one of the easiest grasses to establish. It makes exceptional growth the year of seeding  and may normally be ready for pasturing in six to eight weeks from seeding time. Although it languishes during July and August, growth continues at a rapid rate until late fall.

Annual Ryegrass

Annual Ryegrass can be used either as plowdown or with the correct choice of variety, as a high quality Forage that can be cut early, provide up to 4 cuts and be grazed  through to late fall or as a managed pasture that can be utilized from May to October. Annual Ryegrass is also well known for its role in “waste water” management.  Ryegrass has exceptional capacity to utilize high amounts of Nitrogen,  Potassium, and Phosphorous from wastewater, thus making it a very attractive tool in light of new environmental legislation. Ryegrass does require high moisture levels for optimum results.

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky Bluegrass is a highly creeping rooted  species with the ability to  spread and regenerate by  means of stolons. It is  sometimes beneficial to include  Kentucky Bluegrass in Horse and Sheep Pasture Mixtures. The inclusion of a  small percentage (ie.10-20%) of this  species will help to form a dense sod  in the bottom of the pasture sward to improve the durability of a pasture  under heavy traffic and short grazing conditions.

Creeping Red Fescue

Another lawn grass species that has a limited  value in pasture mixtures  for light, sandy soils and  in mixtures for Sheep  pasture. Often called “Wire Grass”,  it is very  easy to establish but a low yielder prone to drought conditions  and not highly palatable.