Orchardgrass is a cool-season grass that grows in clumps, producing open sod. It starts growth early in the spring, develops rapidly and flowers during late May or early June.
Orchardgrass is shade tolerant, but also will withstand high light intensity. It will persist on shallow, reasonably infertile soil and be moderately productive.
At the vegetative growth stage, it approaches the feeding value of alfalfa, whereas, at full bloom it has approximately half value. Farmers customarily cut first-cut orchardgrass at full bloom or later. In part, this results from use of early heading cultivars. In addition, heading occurs when field curing of hay is difficult due to inclement weather, and farmers often delay cutting to more favorable hay making weather. By this time it is often in poor condition when stored. Since this is the usual procedure, its potential feeding value has been underestimated. When high quality is important, orchardgrass should be cut for hay or silage at head emergence.
Growth characteristics make it suited to early spring pasture and better suited to rotational grazing than continuous grazing. Ladino clover is well suited for use in combination with orchardgrass for pasture.