Sunday, March 10, 2013

Seeding Time

(Post by Jason) This year our February weather was particularly unsettled. A warm sunny day has almost always been followed by a wet day. After three months of above normal rainfall one day of sunshine does nothing to dry out the pastures and much to frustrate all the farmers like me who are itching to get some pastures renovated. This is particularly true in my case because my seeding method, while very effective if done early enough, quickly runs out of steam when warm weather and the less periodic but more intense rainfall pattern that accompanies it takes over.

Many farmers either own or rent a no-till drill to overseed their pastures. Being able to consistently place grass seed evenly at a depth consistently just below the soil surface has advantages. It increases the window in which a spring overseeding is likely to catch and thus produce a good stand. But there are methods which will achieve the same end with considerably less hassle and expense than going to the trouble of acquiring a no-till drill. The difference is that you have to get at it early while the weather is still cool and you have to pay particular attention to soil conditions.

My total investment in grass seeding equipment consists of a very used three bushel fertilizer spreader and a very used 10 foot chain harrow. The spreader holds about a hundred and fifty pounds of grass seed which is enough to do between ten and fifteen acres when the spreader is applying 10-15 lbs of seed per acre. The trick with grass seed is applying it evenly into moist soil while ensuring good seed to soil contact which is one reason I use a chain harrow. The other reason is that a light harrowing helps incorporate manure AND break up the manure piles that accumulate around hay feeders and across the pastures each winter. Yet another reason to use the chain harrow is that it helps de-thatch any ungrazed or overgrown parts of the pasture. 

I was finally able to start the season's seeding in earnest on Friday. I am sure the horses as well as all the people driving by enroute to doing something fun were wondering why the dude on the tractor was working so hard when the weather was so nice.  I'm about halfway done and should hopefully be able to finish the other half of the pastures later this week. Rain is moving in tonight so I will need a couple of warm, sunny days to get the soil conditions right again. Happy Spring everyone.


Chance and Tony napping . . .

 . . . Levendi was also napping with them

George and Asterik, dirty but very happy horses

Silver and Winston

MyLight and ponies; Cuffie, Traveller and Norman

Lily and Maisie grooming

Bergie napping, Largo, Oskar and Toledo hanging out

Grand and Elfin

Homer, Tony and Apollo


Anonymous said...

Hope you get the weather you need for seeding - we've had a lot of rain over the last two days, but with the frozen ground it's mostly running off . . .

RuckusButt said...

Yay, planting post!! I'm curious - do you keep horses out of the newly seeded pastures at all or just seed right in the existing with no rotation? I'm guessing with the size of your pastures the hoof damange wouldn't amount to much loss of newly seeded pasture?

Dirty horses mean spring! Bring it on!!

Laura said...

Interesting post - none of the farmers I know bother to re-seed and then wonder why their pastures aren't great!!

your technique sounds good - I like the idea of breaking up the manure piles as well.

Do you find that effective enough in controlling the manure build up? I guess you have lots of space so things are more spread out. I'm looking forward to spring so I can have someone come in and clean up my small winter paddock. One horse generates a lot of fertilizer!!

EvenSong said...

'Round these parts, no one would look askance at a farmer working o a nice day (or a lousy one either, for that matter)! What's that saying: Make hay while the sun shines--guess it could go for making pastures, too.
I'm glad to hear that someone whose I respect uses just about the same method I do. I actually turned under two of my small pastures in the fall after ten years (rented rototiller) and will be spreading seed this week or next. My harrow has 6-8 inch "spikes" and doesn't leave the soil too even, so I worry about the seed getting good coverage/contact with the dirt. I plan to make a pass or two with an old corral panel to level it out.
Here's to a good spring!