Planning Pastures -Seeding Methods

For those in areas where irrigated pasture is not the norm, the end of summer usually coincides with the realization that your fields are looking a little tired, battered and bare.   Your thoughts might turn to reseeding and while that is a good thing…you may save yourself a lot of money, time and effort if you do a little planning before you do anything else.

One of the first things you might want to consider is the seeding method that best fits your farm and goals for your pastures.

Seeding methods include:

Drill seeding – You can use a Brillion grass seeder that has a larger front notched roller  which firms the seedbed and puts shallow indentations into the soil surface. The seed is delivered from the seed boxes at metered intervals to free fall onto the deflectors which spread the seed across the full width of the seeder for a broadcast style of seeding.  This is followed by a smaller rear roller, with notches splitting the middle of the front indentations, squeezing the soil around the seed for the ultimate in seed to soil contact and consistent seed placement. check out this website for a full explanation.


No-Till drill.  The drill has notched coulters (the front blade that cuts through the residue/trash) that let the disc openers penetrate into the ground the appropriate depth.  These are followed by press wheels that seal the ground over the seed.  You’ll need extra depth to get through the ground cover to the soil where the seed can be planted to the appropriate depth for optimal growth.

For more information about No-Till drilling check out these websites:

These methods ensure the best soil-to-seed contact when planted at the recommended depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Note that the seed placement depth varies by soil type, season and available moisture. Consult with your local agronomist or extension agent on preferred seeding depths in your region. Many soil conservation districts have no-till equipment available to rent

Broadcast seeding

If you don’t have access to this kind of equipment, you can broadcast your seed by broadcast spreader or by hand.  But keep in mind broadcast seeding is not recommended because it does not ensure soil contact nor accurate seed placement. If broadcast seeding is the only option, follow with a drag or a cultipacker to push the seed into the top 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the soil.

Frost seeding

Frost seeding in the spring to take advantage of available moisture and reduced weed competition is another option. The main principle of this method is to plant when the ground freezes at night and thaws during the day. Frost seeding offers the ability to establish desirable species into an undisturbed sod at a low per acre cost.  This is an efficient way to improve pasture yields or change the forage composition within the pasture.

Frost seeding has several benefits over traditional forms of planting:

  1. Shortened “non-grazing” period.
  2. Reduced need for labor and energy and minimum equipment investment.
  3. Ability to establish forage in an undisturbed sod bed and maintain stand productivity for both grasses and legumes.

As with any planting method, soil contact is essential for success. You can let your horses graze the field closely down to 2 inches in the fall or winter, to open-up stands and expose soil. In the spring, it’s important to reduce plant competition so the new seedlings can develop adequate root systems. By grazing down to 2 inches in the fall, spring regrowth from established plants is slowed down, allowing the seedlings to take hold.

Preferred species for this method are festulolium, ryegrass, orchardgrass, ladino clover and red clover. Sod-type grasses; bluegrass, brome, bermudagrass are the most difficult to frost seed, especially where a thick layer of grasses covers the soil surface. If your pasture contains these grasses a limited amount of animal hoof action may help “plant” the seed.

You can get more detail from this article and of course by asking your local extension agent or soil conservationist.

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Shelly Ingram

I am a third generation horsewoman; My father operated a 50 horse boarding and training facility in northern California, where he specialized in re-training spoiled horses. I was his demonstration rider and general assistant in all aspects of running the ranch. I went on to work for several major show and race horse trainers, eventually opening my own barn where I focused on Junior and Amateur riders. I have trained numerous champion horses and riders on all levels and in variety of disciplines. I have also worked as a journalist and have more than a decade of experience in land use planning.

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