Restoring a pasture to its former glory can be an overwhelming prospect but is well worth the effort. After all, the fruits of your labor can last for generations to come.
If you have hay land that needs some rest, pastureland, or any other type of meadow, restoring it to its natural glory takes some planning. To be done right, the following four-step process should be used as a guide:
Step #1: Assess
The first thing that you need to do when restoring your pasture is to take a full account of the flora and fauna that exists, as well as the density of that flora and fauna. This includes more than just grasses. When deciding what to add to the pasture, remember that it is always a good idea to add in some legumes and native broadleaf species. Doing so will allow you to take full advantage of the soil. You should take soil samples and have those samples analyzed so that you know what type of fertilizer will work best for your pasture. If you plan to change the species composition of the pasture, you will have to get rid of what is there, graze it down, mow it down, and open up areas of bare soil.
Step #2: Prep
In most places, fall is the best time to introduce seeds for the species you wish to grow. However, if you don’t expect snow, spring is also a good time. If you tilled your acreage you can seed it with a conventional grass drill or broadcast spreader. If it was burned with chemicals, a no-till interseeder is your best option. If you are modifying your matrix, the only necessary preparation will be a light disking. This will loosen up the surface of the soil when you are using a broadcaster to plant. Skip the tillage altogether if you use an interseeder drill.
Step #3: Plant
Planting only requires quality seed run through a broadcast seeder. Make sure you cover the area well and if you are using particularly small seed, mix it with sand to achieve the correct planting density. If there is snow cover following planting, good germination will occur. If there are some good freeze-thaw cycles, you may not require snow cover. After broadcast spreading you can drag a roller or soil packer over the area after seeding. The key is to make sure the seed has contact with the soil but is not too high above or buried too deep below the soil.
Step #4: Maintain
After all has been said and down, maintenance is the most important part of restoring a pasture. This involves keeping weeds under control by mowing when weeds grow to about a foot high or begin to flower. Mow weeds down no more than six inches to avoid damaging grasses. You also can use prescribed burning (but don’t go it alone if you don’t have a lot of experience in this area). Burning releases nutrients, stimulates seed production and germination of some species, and controls scrub brush and ground litter. Early spring, with some exceptions, is usually the best time to burn.
A lush pasture is a thing of beauty. Make sure you restore yours correctly by using the aforementioned steps.