What Is Orchard Grass and How Do I Get Rid of It?

Orchard grass—it blends in easily, comes back each year, and can take over your yard if left to its own devices. It is one of the most consistently-forgotten lawn menaces, but, at the same time, is one that you’re quite likely to encounter. With that in mind, we want to help you better understand this weed and teach you a few of our favorite ways to keep your lawn healthy.

What is Orchard Grass?

Orchard grass is a common perennial lawn weed who’s seeds commonly get mixed in with various commercial turfgrasses. Also known at cock’s foot and cat grass, it’s a weed that you’ve almost certainly seen before, whether or not you realized what it was.

What Does Orchard Grass Look Like?

Characteristically, Orchard grass has a greenish-blue hue, similar to that of Kentucky bluegrass, and grows in tight bunches. As it matures, the stalks can reach nearly 4 feet tall and will develop tight clusters of flowering buds, similar to wheat. While orchard grass can grow to extraordinary heights, it should be noted that plants often top out closer to 15 inches, with taller specimens only occurring rarely and under ideal conditions.

Where Does Orchard Grass Grow?

Orchard Grass is a frustratingly flexible and tolerant plant and can grow in a wide variety of conditions. Thriving in both full sun and partial shade, it is able to withstand long periods of low-moisture and temperatures as cold as -30 degrees, making it a formidable foe for even an experienced gardener. Orchard grass is most commonly found in areas of newly planted turfgrass or sod, along woodland borders, fence rows, and of course, orchards. Here in the Mid Atlantic, you’re most likely to encounter orchard grass in early spring, typically during March and April.

How Does Orchard Grass Spread?

While orchard grass is a troublesome weed, it is also a common source of food for grazing farm animals and when dried, is known to make for excellent hay. Owing to this, it is commonly cultivated for agricultural purposes. During the course of cultivation and harvesting however, it is not uncommon for its seeds to spread and become mixed in with other grass seed varieties, in the soil of potted plants, or in sod cuttings. Left alone, orchard grass is also capable of reseeding itself during it’s spring growth cycle.

Orchard Grass Compared to Other Common Weeds

To the untrained eye, orchard grass may seem like any other invasive species. And while a few of the other common mid-atlantic varieties may look similar on the surface, they’re actually quite different. Let’s take a look at a few:

Orchard Grass vs Roughstalk Bluegrass

Another invasive cool season perennial grass, roughstalk bluegrass is similar to orchard grass in a number of ways. Compared to orchard grass however, roughstalk bluegrass is not nearly as drought-tolerant. This makes it easier for unwanted areas of Bluegrass to be killed naturally during the hot summer months. Additionally, roughstalk bluegrass reproduces via underground runners known as stolons.

Orchard Grass vs Crabgrass

Unlike orchard grass, crabgrass is an annual, meaning that it will naturally die off each winter, rather than overwintering and returning in the spring. Crabgrass is also more of an opportunist, usually targeting bare or undernourished spots on your lawn and tends to thrive in environments where cool season grasses struggle.

How to Get Rid of Orchard Grass in Your Lawn

Stubborn and tough though orchard grass may be, you actually have quite a few options at your disposal when it comes to getting rid of it. A few of our favorites include:

  • Manual Removal: Orchard grass’ roots can go deep so simply pulling up the stalks won’t get the job done. Instead, we recommend using a heavy shovel to dig around the plant, removing both the stalks and roughly a foot of soil underneath.
  • Chemical Herbicides: Powerful chemical herbicides have been shown to be highly effective at killing stubborn orchard grass. However, they also aren’t picky about what they do and don’t damage, so careful application is essential.
  • Natural Weed Killers: If you want to avoid chemical options, simple white distilled vinegar is an effective natural weed killer. Just put it in a spray bottle, carefully apply it to the grass’ stalks and around its base, and wait 24-48 hours.

Professional Lawn Care: For established orchard grass populations, professional lawn care like we at BOG offer is essential. Give us a call today and we’ll help however we can!

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