Farm facts and furrows

Frost seeding pastures

Broadcasting legume seeds on frozen ground in March and early April is a low cost method to rejuvenate thinning pastures and increase quality and yield. Success is better where pasture has bare spots or was grazed closely the previous year. The freezing and thawing action of the soil provides critical seed to soil contact. Seeding is often by hand with a broadcaster or a spreader on an ATV or snowmobile. Legumes work best. Red clover is most successful but requires a repeat every two to three years or an opportunity to go to seed regularly. Trefoil is slower to establish but grows well in a variety of conditions, reseeds itself and doesn’t cause bloat. Alfalfa has limited success because of auto-toxicity preventing new seedlings to grow near mature plants. Grass seed has proven to be more difficult to establish. Seed red clover at four to five lbs., white clover at two lbs. and trefoil at four to five lbs, apply phosphorous in late summer after seedlings have established. In addition, consider grazing lightly in the establishment year to reduce competition and avoid overgrazing.

Spring seeding forage crops

The most reliable time to seed forages is early spring, regardless of whether the crop is direct-seeded or seeded with a companion crop. With a spring seeding, moisture is usually adequate, and the plants are well established for winter survival. Seed as early as a seedbed can be prepared to increase the chances of adequate and frequent rainfall during the critical germination period. Seed to soil contact is particularly important. A loose, lumpy seedbed dries out quickly. Packing can help preserve moisture.

Winter annual weeds can be a common problem, and herbicide application may be required. See OMAFRA Publication 75, Guide to Weed Control. Be cautious to avoid stunting growth due to herbicide effect. Recommended Guidelines for Companion Planting: Oat, barley or mixed grains are commonly used as companion crops. As a general rule, select the strongest-strawed, shortest and earliest grain variety in any species for the least competition. Reduce the spring grain seeding rate to 54-63 lbs/acre. Reduce the nitrogen fertilizer or manure rate to minimize the risk of a dense grain crop and lodging. Under most conditions, do not apply more than 15-20 lbs/acre of nitrogen on spring grains.