Winter rye, a hardy annual that produces plentiful seed heads and, in some cases, will reseed itself with great vigor. Some cultivated varieties will reseed themselves in future years if given half a chance; others won’t. In most cases, only a small percentage of the seeds will germinate and grow.
The reseeding behavior of winter rye can be a mixed blessing: Sometimes you want to encourage the plants to reseed, and sometimes you don’t. So, will winter rye reseed itself? Let’s find out!
Will Winter Rye Reseed itself?
Sometimes winter rye will reseed itself, but the temperature will often be too warm in the spring when there are seed heads, and there isn’t enough moisture. Winter ryegrass needs cold nights and enough sunshine during the day to germinate. In some cases, seeds will lay dormant until the following fall, when they will germinate and re-grow.
Care during the growing season can affect your winter rye’s reseeding behavior as well. Rye that is given regular water is unlikely to reseed itself, whereas an extremely dry summer will stimulate more seed heads and sometimes cause the plants to mature the seeds completely.
To test whether or not your winter ryegrass is likely to reseed itself, take ten seeds off the plant and lay them on a moist paper towel. Place this in a bag in a warm location that gets enough sunlight and wait about a week. If the seeds haven’t germinated in this time, then the seeds likely aren’t viable and won’t grow.
What to do if you want Winter Rye to reseed itself
If you would like your rye to reseed itself in future years, allow some of the plants’ seed stalks to mature and scatter their seeds. Then mow the grass to remove the remaining seed stalks. This isn’t a foolproof method as some strains of winter ryegrass don’t reseed. Ensure you plant a good quality seed mix in the first place, and you’ll have more success with reseeding.
What to do if you don’t want it to reseed itself
If you would prefer not to have a self-perpetuating crop of winter rye in your garden next year, kill the plants by chopping them down, mowing them, or laying a sheet of black plastic over the area after planting.
To chop rye for green manure, use a scythe or other sharp-bladed tool to cut it close to the ground before it can go to seed. Mow it with a lawnmower set high enough so that you’re cutting off the tops of the plants at ground level.
Winter Rye can reseed itself, some varieties more than others. Much depends on whether or not the plant is allowed to go to seed or whether it is mowed down after flowering. There are several ways of encouraging ryegrass self-seeding but also specific techniques for discouraging its proliferation as well. Winter ryegrass doesn’t die in the summer months in most climates. Although, it really doesn’t like too much heat.