The old saying is to plant grasses in a month with an R. March is one of those. September is another. These are two of my favorite months to try to get something established.
In the fall, I usually try to pick a field that needs to be overhauled and reseed it completely. This is easier said than done as you need good weather to do this - dry enough to work the ground with a good chance of rain immediately after seeding.
Last year, I was late doing this. I had a 5 acre parcel that I seeded last April that "crusted over." My timing was perfect - worked the ground just right and seeded it literally hours before a rain. But then the rain that came was a torrential downpour, and it rained for days. The finely tilled soil took a pounding and as the sun came out, a hard crust formed on the surface. This prevented the tender plants from escaping - instead, a "nurse crop" of weeds arrived and stayed. $1,000 in seed down the drain.
Then I had hoped to redo the worthless pasture in September. I missed my opportunity and didn't get to it until first of November. By this point, I knew I didn't have enough time to establish a mature enough crop to withstand the winter. I decided on a faster growing annual crop - annual rye grass - that I could cut for hay or graze in early summer, then follow it up with a fast growing warm season annual like sorghum. This would get me to the fall again and I could try to establish a good permanent pasture in the fall.
In this scenario, I'd either drill in the seed or broadcast and rake to finish. The drill provides more precise seeding rates and works great for single varietal or pelleted seeds that are uniform in size; the broadcast and rake is cheaper (labor and equipment) and faster, but it requires more seed.
WHAT IS FROST SEEDING?
Another concept for how to plant seeds is to let mother nature do it for you. That's what frost seeding is. The concept is that during the freeze-thaw cycles of the spring, the soil will freeze and heave into a honeycomb shape. When it thaws during the day, it will relax down again and pull any seeds on the surface to below the surface.
To execute, we simply walk around the field and broadcast seeds on the ground. The germination rate is lower than with a drill, but it's very fast and relatively effective at filling in a pasture. The trick is picking the right seeds. Clover, a legume, has a very small seed that works great for frost seeding. Most grass seeds are too large and don't work that great.
I'M ABOUT EXPERIMENTATION
Last year, you may remember reading about my experiments with frost seeding a hay/pasture field with a mixture of oats, annual rye, and triticale to add tonnage to 1st cutting hay. I experimented on a 17 acre field and the seed was expensive.
What I found was that the oats didn't take well - maybe 10% germination - or it was crowded out in the pasture. The annual rye took well, but after 1st cutting it tended to go to seed (no feed value then) well before the other grasses and legumes in the pasture were mature. It essentially became a weed.
I decided that experiment was a lot of work and a lot of money for minimal results. I could have simply reduced my grazing season by a few weeks and fed hay for the same price and less work.
THIS YEAR, BACK TO CLOVER
I've had success in the past with red and yellow clover. They take great to frost seed, grow quick, and the cattle love them. Clover seed is also cheap and takes only 5 lbs per acre to fill in; compared to 20 or 30 lbs for some grasses and annuals.
So cross your fingers and hope we get some freezing nights and sunny days these coming weeks so we can finish our spring seedings.