Planting Teff Grass Guide What You Need To Know

Teff Grass A Green Manure Cover Crop

A field of teff grass

Teff grass has been used in horticulture for thousands of years. It is easy to grow and can get used as a cover crop and a source of green manure to improve our garden's soil.

Teff grass is a warm-season annual grass that is native to Africa. In the past, it was a grain crop, but recently there is interest in using it as a forage crop.

Because it's so simple to grow and requires minimal tending, it has also gained popularity with many gardeners.

The best pH is 6.0 to­ 6.5, but a pH in the range of 5 to­ 7.0 gets tolerated well by this plant.

Teff grass does not tolerate the cold and needs warm weather, so it's best to plant it in late spring or early summer, so a frost does not kill it.

The crop can grow from 50°F to 80.5°F (10°C to 27°C) and prefers 12 hours of daily sunlight. Teff grass will have higher germination rates and growth when the soil is at least 68°F.

It has advantages over other grass types like buckwheat and sudangrass since it can survive under dryer soil conditions. It is vulnerable to dry conditions for about its first 3 weeks of planting. Then, it can tolerate drier conditions after this point.

Is Teff Grass an Annual or Perennial

Teff grass is a warm annual season plant that will need to be planted and grown from seed each year. When cold weather comes, the teff grass will quickly die off.

A cover crop like winter wheat or rye is our best choice to protect our soils over winter.

Teff Grass Growth Stages

  • 1) Germination
  • 2) Seedling growth
  • 3) Vegetative Phase
  • 4) Transition Phase
  • 5) Flowering Boot Phase
  • 6) Flowering Anthesis Phase

Teff Grass Soil type

Teff is very versatile and can grow on a wide range of different soil types. It tolerates soils with a low pH very well and accepts both dry conditions and is called the second rice for how well it survives through water-logged grounds.

It flourishes on cracking clay soils in Ethiopia, commonly waterlogged to sandy loam soils in Tasmania.

While it grows well in both places, it performs its best on heavy clay soils.[3]

Teff Grass Drilling Depth

We want to find an excellent average between soil moisture and temperature when seeding our plants.

If the seeds are not deep enough, we risk the threat of there not being enough moisture for the seeds to sprout. Especially if you live somewhere with hot, dry weather and little rain.

We want to plant about .12(one-eighth) to at most .25(quarter) inch deep into the soil. Make sure for the first 3 weeks, the soil stays nice and moist, or we reduce the number of seeds that will successfully germinate.

Teff can use traditional planting methods but also works well with broadcasting on firm, well-prepared seed beds.

Teff Grass Germination Time

Multiple factors will alter how long it takes for our teff grass to germinate. The depth we plant, available moisture, and temperature can change the germination speed.

Under ideal conditions, we should see our sprouts coming up within 3 to 5 days. To see sprouts within this time, we need the soil to be around 68 degrees F.

Teff grass primarily establishes its root system in the first couple of weeks, making it more vulnerable to insects and droughts in the beginning.

Teff Grass Planting Dates

Warm temperature is vital for when we plant our teff grass. The temperature of the soil needs to reach a consistent temperature of at least 50°F but ideally 68°F to reduce the chance of cold killing them.

For most places, this will be mid to late spring or in the summer.

How Tall Does Teff Grass Grow?

This is going to depend on how long you allow it to grow. I like to cut it down on my plot when it reaches around one foot.

But if you leave it and the time and weather permitting, you can see it reach close to 3 feet tall.[3]

When Should I Cut My Teff Grass?

First, if you want to ensure your teff grass regrows, we need to leave 4 to 5 inches of stubble height to improve its chances of regrowth.

Cutting the grass when it is 15 inches helps maximize our collection of green material before seed head production.

When the teff grass does begin seedhead production, there will be no more regrowth from us cutting it down.[2]

Is Teff Grass a Good Cover Crop

Teff grass works very well as a cover crop, and its fast germination, growth rates, and fibrous root system quickly help to prevent weeds from moving in. It can also work well in polyculture with legumes.

The fast-establishing root system helps to prevent soil erosion while adding additional organic material to the soil, helping to increase microorganisms and earthworms in the ground.

Is Teff Grass a Good Green Manure

Its fast growth and high tonnage make it an excellent choice for use as a green manure crop.

A teff field can quickly produce 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tons of forage in 45 to 55 days. This high amount of organic material it provides in such a short time, along with its fast germination and fibrous root system, provides us with lots of organic material.

Then we can till the plants in our ground, which will feed our soil and improve its tilth, aeration, and fertility.

Pests and Potential Problems

The small size of teffs seeds makes them more vulnerable to insect attack in the seedling stage.

Insects include red-legged earth mites, lucerne fleas, slugs, snails, beetles, weevils, and caterpillars.

Once it is past its first couple weeks of growth, teff has good resistance to insects and disease.

Killing Teff Grass Cover Crop

The two most common methods to teff grass are mowing or using a burn-down herbicide for no-till plantings.

No-till is an effective method to prevent erosion and weeds from moving in.

Teff Grass Cover Crop and Green Manure Benefits

  • Protection for your garden soil
  • Tilling it into your ground as green manure helps improve your soil's fertility.
  • Withstand drought better than many other crops
  • Teff grass can grow in low-fertility soils where other cereal grains may fail.
  • Good ability for its fibrous roots to scavenge residual soil Nitrogen
  • Works for dual cropping with a second plant like corn, soybeans, or alfalfa in many climates.
  • Creates a large amount of dry matter in a short time compared to other plants.
  • Like other cover crops, it mixes well with other plants.
  • Grows well in most soil types.
  • A fibrous root system allows for more organic matter in clay soils, improving the soil's aeration.


Teff grass has been growing in popularity with gardeners as a cover crop and green manure because of its fast growth, minimal tending to, and a high tolerance for different soil conditions.

It produces a large amount of green material that we can use for composting or directly till it into the ground as a green manure source.

Tilling it into the soil will give the ground better aeration, tilth, and fertility. The nutrients in the plants will get released back into the soil by microorganisms and earthworms decomposing and breaking them down.