PASTURE SITES are characterized as having moderately well-drained, silt loam and clay-like, fertile soils and moderate to high organic content.
Examples of PASTURE SITES:
- Abandoned farm fields
- Previous lawns
- Vacant land
- Wet or topographically challenging areas unsuitable for farming
- Designated pastures
Pastures generally fall into two categories: Pastures planted to a specific grazing crop or crops, or pastures containing whatever grows within the site. Obviously, the latter requires little preparation and maintenance compared to the first, which will be discussed here. If unsure about soil conditions, a soil test is an economical way to determine your soil’s needs. To prepare a site for a pasture containing a specific perennial crop for grazing, eradicate existing vegetation by spraying with glyphosate (Roundup®), following directions on the label, or tilling the weeds into the soil. Good pre-seeding weed control may require spraying two applications of glyphosate at least two weeks apart. Close mowing two weeks prior to spraying is recommended to stimulate weed growth. Glyphosate needs green growth to carry spray to the weed roots. The second application is needed if the first application is insufficient. If excess dead plant material remains on the surface, tilling may be necessary to get good seed-to-soil contact and sunlight penetration. Depending on what and how the crop is going to be planted, the soil surface may need to be tilled to increase seed-to-soil contact, especially if broadcasting seed. This can be achieved with a disk, harrow, or rototiller. Soil fertility is generally not an issue; however, some amendments may be necessary as indicated by the soil test. Waiting for crop establishment prior to adding fertilizer prevents weeds from responding to the increase in soil fertility.
Habitat: Pastures are generally in full sun for at least one half of the day and have good air circulation.
Fertility: Natural fertility will suffice for wild growth pastures; soil tests will indicate fertilizer requirements for improved pastures.
Seeding Method: Hand seed, broadcast, hydroseed, or drill seed.
Grassy weeds or persistent perennials can re-establish in these sites. Monitoring and controlling weeds is essential in the first and second years. Rotational grazing practices must be applied in order to prevent overgrazing. Keep desired species in a vegetative state by mowing if plants begin to overcrowd grazing capacity. Grazing alone may accomplish this; however, it should be monitored. Most grazing crops lose palatability and nutrient content as they grow bigger and their stems harden.
First Year Maintenance
Observation of the desired species’ growth and weed competition is essential when making maintenance decisions. When undesirable vegetation reaches 12”-18” tall, mow to no less than 6” high with a mower to prevent the weeds from developing seed. Generally, native plants will grow more extensive root systems than tops in the first year; therefore, mowing to 6”-8” will not harm them. This allows sunlight to reach desired species. Mowing too close encourages weedy species.
Second Year Maintenance
Mow once, close to the ground, in early spring. This allows young native plants to emerge and rapid warming of the soil to occur.