Should You Ever Let Your Lawn Go to Seed?

Overgrown Lawn
We’ve probably all seen it, and some of us might even be guilty of it from time to time. It can be the result of neglect, apathy, or just personal preference. I’m talking about those overgrown lawns that look like someone decided to turn their yard into a hay field. Throw in a cow and a couple horses and you’d have a fully functioning pasture. Neighbors complain about them, cities enact ordinances over them, and fire departments warn against them. Even with all the pressure to not let your lawn grow out of control, some folks continue to stick to their reasoning. One of the more interesting explanations I’ve heard from homeowners who allow this to happen is the natural overseeding theory. By leaving their grass uncut, some people believe they can thicken up their lawn by letting the grass go to seed. Once the seed matures and falls to the ground, the theory is it will germinate, grow more grass, and produce a thicker lawn. While this sounds like a really smart idea at first, in reality it has little effect and could actually damage your existing lawn.

Regular Mowing Controls Weeds

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t let your lawn go to seed besides keeping your neighbors happy. Weed control is an important factor to consider. The major reason a healthy, lush lawn is able to remain weed free doesn’t have anything to do with herbicides and weed-killers. Most weeds can’t handle regular mowing, and this one act alone is usually the only thing needed to keep most weeds at bay. By letting your grass grow tall, you’re inviting weeds to grow out of control as well. Not only would you be letting the grass go to seed, but the weeds will do the same. And unfortunately, weed seed has a quicker, more successful germination rate than your grass seed will.

Hybrid Grass Issues

Allowing your lawn to go to seed is also detrimental because many of our modern lawn grasses are hybrids and have been specially bred from wild varieties and either won’t produce seed to begin with or the seed won’t germinate. Like many of our vegetables and fruit trees, even if they do produce viable seed the seedlings won’t be “breed true”. This means that the offspring won’t have the special characteristics and will revert back into their wild forms. For example, say you grew a hybrid tomato plant. After harvesting the tomatoes from that plant you discover they were the best tasting tomatoes you’ve ever had, so you take the seeds and plant them the next season. This time however, they didn’t taste nearly as delicious as the parent plant. This is because any seed from a hybrid plant will not be “true-to-type”, or in other words will not resemble the plant it came from. The same is true for those of us with hybrid grasses in our lawns. If you were to let your lawn go to seed, and even if that seed germinated and grew, it would not resemble the parent grass and you’d end up with a patchwork-like lawn.

Allowing Grass to Seed Thins Lawn and Wastes Nutrients

Another reason not to let your grass go to seed is because it could actually thin it out instead of thickening it. While this might sound confusing, let me explain. Most lawn grasses, such as Kentucky Bluegrass and Bermudagrass, grow and spread through the use of specialized roots and stems known as rhizomes and stolens. This spreading attribute is what helps your lawn repair itself after damage and fill in bare spots. Most grasses grow much faster by this method than by spreading from seed. Once a grass plant grows tall enough and begins producing seed, most of the energy of that plant goes from rooting and spreading into seed production. In other words, producing seed is more important to the plant than spreading rhizomes and stolens. As more and more energy is required for seeding, the grass plant begins to absorb nutrients from the soil at an accelerated rate. The more nutrients removed from the soil, the less healthy your lawn will end up and you’ll soon find yourself spending more money on fertilizer.

Cut Back on Mowing By Using Alternative Grass Species

While the idea of free grass seed produced naturally from uncut lawn seems intriguing, in reality this is not a good idea and should be avoided. Not only could it damage the overall health of your lawn and cause weed infestation, but to keep the peace around the neighborhood it’s highly recommended you give your lawn a regular mowing. If regular mowing isn’t your thing, consider a lawn grown from Buffalograss. Buffalograss is very slow-growing and gets only 6-8 inches tall. And if you really, really hate mowing, perhaps our Low Maintenance Seed Blend is for you. This blend contains three types of alternative grass species that you can actually get away with not mowing at all!