It’s Cold! Time to Seed?

Ron Sweet posted a question on the Vermont Pasturelands Network that we think other folks probably have. It got a good answer from On Pasture author Dan Hudson Hello! I bought a couple of bags of red clover seed, and I was curious about the best time and way we should seed some of our weaker paddocks.  My thought was to just pour it in a bucket and look for spots that could use some better growth and sprinkle seeds there by hand.  Is it better to wait until after grazing season is over or do it now while the cows still have a few days out there (and can add more fertilizer, etc.)? Is by hand okay or is it better to use some type of manual seeder? Ron Hi Ron! Great question!  Seeding at the wrong time, in the wrong manner, or before you have corrected existing soil fertility problems often makes farmers regret spending money on seed. If you spread the seed today and the red clover seeds germinated but did not reach the 3-5 trifoliate stage (which they probably would not), they will almost certainly be winter-killed – or severely injured. If you wait until the soils and daytime temperatures are low enough that germination is unlikely, the risk of winter injury/mortality will be lower.  Personally, I would be inclined to spread the seed after the ground is frozen or frost-seed it in the late winter.  No-tilling it in the early spring is another option, although the grass growth provides a lot of competition during that time of year, even if it is a

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One thought on “It’s Cold! Time to Seed?

  1. I have an experimental farm, using usually about six acres. The cows are moved according to grass growth patterns. After each grazing–up to five per year (see note below)–I walk through each pasture with my Earthway seeder and top-seed spots that are thin or in need of legumes. Mostly it is red clover with some trefoil and I’ll be trying Anik yellow alfalfa this year.

    I omit the last top-seeding because of the reasons given in the article. Instead I frost seed in the spring, especially on paths and lanes with red clover and yellow (low-coumarin) sweet clover. The sweet clover punches through the packed soil.

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