How to Grow Timothy Hay

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Things You'll Need

  • Timothy grass seed

  • Phosphorous and potassium fertilizer

  • Tractor with disc harrow

  • Herbicide

Tip

Timothy grass grows well in sandy or clay soils as well as rich loam. It also tolerates moisture conditions from relatively wet to relatively dry.

Timothy is a relatively short-lived bunching grass and if not allowed to go to seed should be reseeded every year or two.

Warning

Fields should not be touched during periods of drought because timothy grass has very shallow and delicate roots that are susceptible at these times.

Timothy grass was introduced into North America by early settlers and has spread far across the continent. It is a very desirable feedstock for cattle, horses, smaller livestock and pets. It is hardy, and when cut for hay has a very low moisture content, making it more resilient to mold and rot when baled or stored. Timothy hay has a pleasing fragrance and good nutritional value. It is commonly mixed with other feedstocks. Growing timothy grass is straightforward and simple.

Prepare and Plant

Step 1

Clear the area. Disc the land to kill weeds and competing grasses the fall before planting. Use an herbicide to prevent new growth--check with the distributor to make sure it will target the weeds and not the timothy grass.

Step 2

Fertilize the soil. Timothy requires potassium and phosphorous. Test the soil and fertilize in the fall, late winter or early spring.

Step 3

Plant the seeds. Timothy grass is a "cool season" grass. It grows most rapidly in spring and early summer and should be planted in late summer to early fall or in late winter to early spring. Check with the seed distributor in your area to determine the best time to plant timothy grass.

Step 4

Irrigate during spring drought. Do not graze or trample drought-stressed timothy grass--it contains the sugars in the corms that are necessary for survival and regrowth when rains return. Drought-stressed timothy hay has a higher nutrient value and should be tested for nitrogen concentration.

Harvest and Cure

Step 1

Cut the hay after first flower. This gives the stubble the most energy to survive through summer drought and revitalizes roots and corms (bulb-like reproductive structures). Leave 4 to 6 inches of stubble. Drought conditions will quicken maturation. Timothy can be cut up to three times per season--nutritional value generally decreases after the first cut.

Step 2

Dry the hay. Put the hay in windrows or place on drying racks.

Step 3

Cure the hay. Storing the hay in a barn will foster the breakdown of complex sugars into digestible calories.

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