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Bermuda pasture...what to do

 
Posts: 72
Location: Central Texas
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So if you’ve read any of my recent post or not here’s a bit of extra info. I bought 17 acres covered in cedar trees( and I mean covered lol). I cleared 3-4acres for pasture, 2 for a pond, and have probably 1-1.5 in an established native grasses, and approx 1ac cross fenced that would be generous to call native grasses haha. That field will be lightly disced and planted in a poly mix yet to be determined and the native grass field left to do its thing.

Now comes my issue. The big pasture we picked up a tons of rocks and I hauled in top soil. Around here farm and ranchers plant Bermuda and fertilize it. What did I do? You guessed it. Bermuda. The rains came in floods so I have patches of established grass.

For the fall/ winter I planted a deer mix which is around 15-20 dif grasses legumes etc. Good call heh.

Now I’m left with the decision of what to do now. Bermuda is great pasture....as long as you fertilize :/.

Any suggestions on what to plant in the non established areas? It needs to be perennial. I’m assuming it will be temporary as Bermuda will likely take over at some point cause that’s just what it does.

Then if that happens what are my options for making it thrive without chem.

Any help greatly appreciated. Oh and I’m north central Texas   Just above the hill country.
If any additional info is needed just ask and I’ll gladly relay any pertinent information
.
Please help :)
 
author & steward
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Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Joe, how's it doing now? It's been a couple months since you posted this, so I'm curious as to where your pasture stands now.

If it was me, I think I'd try to establish the best polyculture I could manage in those non-established areas. Personally, I'm not real keen on bermuda because of it's monoculture tendency, but you're right, it's very popular. One question is, what's available to you? I think bahiagrass and kleingrass are supposed to do well in Texas. For the legumes, what about alfalf and sericea lespedeza? Native grasses are always good.

Does your bermuda overwinter where you are? Or do you plant cool season perennials too?
 
Joe Hallmark
Posts: 72
Location: Central Texas
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Well unfortunately I have nothing good to report. I went with a mix of 5 different grasses. Typically in my area soil temp would be proper for germinating several weeks ago but is just now starting to average around 70defrees.

When it rains...it pours so while I’m starting to see a sprout here and there, 5” in 2 days washed the majority of the seed again.

So the current plan is to see what comes up and scuff the other areas and get one of those giant sprinklers from tractor supply and irrigate it to get it established as best I can.

On a side note fields that were previously established in natives and mostly weed free last year are absolutely covered in thistles :(
 
Joe Hallmark
Posts: 72
Location: Central Texas
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Oh and as far as winter goes currently I just feed hay. My ground is far too rocky to be planting constantly.
 
Joe Hallmark
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Location: Central Texas
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Trying to post this. Let’s see if it works
7B981A7C-BB9A-4218-8AB5-515067F4C9BD.png
Hard land mix
Hard land mix
 
master pollinator
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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I didn't find the post, but there is a permie who saw thistles as a sign of a particular soil deficiency. Once the deficiency is corrected his thistle stopped sprouting. I do not remember the ummm... mineral, other substance? I think it was Travis Johnson if you want to search his old posts.
 
Joe Hallmark
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Location: Central Texas
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Figured it was time for an update. We have experienced rain like I haven’t seen in my area. 90% of topsoil is washed away along with seed (2x). With the last flooding rain I even lost a lot of the subsoil and it is straight rock.

Even in the areas with less slope not a lot of the new grass is coming up very much with is very discouraging considering I doubled or tripled the recommended seed rate hoping to get a thick stand quickly.

On to the thistles. I pulled them up with about 15hrs worth of work. In the non pasture areas I cut them down to remove seed heads and left the root to hopefully help the soil.

I have not been able to get soil samples as of yet but it’s on the agenda when I return from work.

I’m at a loss of what to do in the areas where the subsoil is gone as there’s no dirt to even try to rehab. I make compost but nowhere near the amount to make a dent in a field.

Any suggestions or encouragement most definitely welcome.
 
Leigh Tate
author & steward
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Location: Southeastern U.S. - Zone 7b
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Joe, thanks for the update. I've experienced this as well and know how discouraging it can be! What my husband and I have been doing, is an idea from cattle grazier Greg Judy. He unrolls round bales of good quality hay and straw on pastures and fields that badly need soil improvement. The first benefit is that it covers the soil immediately and prevents further erosion. The second benefit is that hay and straw quickly decompose into beautifully rich soil. We've seen amazing improvement where we've done this. A bonus benefit is that sometimes the hay contains viable forage seed, so you get pasture growing without additional planting.
 
Joe Hallmark
Posts: 72
Location: Central Texas
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I actually did that in one spot where the erosion wasn’t quite as bad. But that gets expensive pretty quickly. I’ve been looking for some old hay to help minimize the cost but no luck so far
 
Joe Hallmark
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Location: Central Texas
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Well I have a semi related update that is in the works. More my plan of attack and a a bit of luck hit me for once. My cattle are ready to be bred now and I’ve been stressing over how to get this done. Was leaning towards AI. Called the local vet today who I’ve known my whole life but not particularly friends or anything. His kids were my age. He offered to take my cows and let them in with his top notch bull for slightly more than AI.

This gives me 2months of no pressure on my grass! Which I’m very happy about as I brought the cows to early as I think I’ve mentioned before.  

So part of the washed out topsoil is in my lower field and part went down the creek. While this solution isn’t exactly the greatest it’s what’s in the budget.

I’ll be getting more of the composted manure from the sale barn that I had to use for my hugel and using what topsoil is left to level everything back up. Then another round of the 5seed mix posted above. I’m gonna bite the bullet and mulch this with hay I bought last year. Expensive mulch as it’s still perfectly good hay but I’ve got 60days to give it my best. I bought extra hoses and a big sprinkler to get it going. The big rains should be over till at least September. So if everything works out  I’ll have some good roots in the ground  before that happens.

I also plan on watering a bit in front field to get that grass spreading while I have nobody eating. This will no doubt be an expensive undertaking as I don’t have a well. But one that I think is worth it due to all the issues I’ve had with this project.
 
pollinator
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If you have rocks and/or brush, you could build small on contour structures to catch topsoil and seed.  After grass establishes, you can remove them if needed, or in the case of brush, just let it rot.
 
pollinator
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Specific to the thistle problem, I'd like to throw out pigs as a possibility. I was just watching this video on youtube  
 where she talks about how she started with a lot of thistle and dandelion in her paddocks and over time the pigs ate it all and now she does not get much if any. Whether this is purely because the pigs ate it whenever it comes up or whether they were changing the soil to something thistles don't like I don't know. I believe it was somewhere around the 3 and a half minute mark.
 
Joe Hallmark
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i have more rocks than any man deserves to haha. i dont know if i put this in my previous posts or not so ill add it now. this area was part that i did not clear in the initial clearing i did when i bought the property. i left it as a cover as below that i planted a food plot for deer and dove. fast forward a bit i decided i wanted another pond and based on where bedrock was during the other pond install i thought i was golden. Wrong! we hit it at 4 feet so i cleared it all for nothing.

Long term is to build swales across that area and plant an orchard. but that plan is a bit out in the future when funds are coming in more steady as work picks back up. short term though that might not be a bad idea as i actually have alot of rock piled in that area i had gathered up to make rock piles in the pond for fish. and i have alot of the stumps left from the trees that came down during that project. with the brushy stuff i made my first batch of biochar and then used smaller stuff to mulch a part of the garden thats not in production yet.

thanks for the ideas. im always open to hear opinions or suggestions of others!
 
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First do a prescribed burn when the winds are low and humidity high or have a pro do it.

Then let the bermuda take over but dont let it get tall. Use portable fencing to split the property in half or quarters.

Then get a pair of cows and they will cut the bermuda to a perfect height as long as you rotate them, and that will also prevent the cheat grass.

You could also follow with chickens to break up the manure into fertilizer as they feed on the fly larva, greatly reducing your fly problem and also fertilizing your bermuda with chicken poop.

Anywhere you see a cedar popping up, clip it off flush to the ground while its young.

Now you have a self sustaining system with the animals doing most of the work and of course you can breed and harvest the animals.

You may have to supplement with hay in the winter and pray for rain!

 
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Joe,

Like you, I am in Texas and I love bermuda grass for a pasture.

We never fertilized our pasture when we had our homestead.  Let the cows do that for you with pee and poop.

I like William's advice except about the controlled burn.  Where I live it is just too windy and I would have to ask the volunteer fire department to take away from their personal time to come and supervise.

Here is a good example of a pasture that is not fertilized:

https://permies.com/t/151499/Observations-comparison-degenerative-regenerative-pasture

I am concerned about the loss of your topsoil.

Brush dams and check dams are the ones that I am most familiar with.

To me, these are also the easiest to do.

Here is some thread about these kinds of dams that might be of interest to you and others:

https://permies.com/t/110120/Major-earthworks-starting-central-texas

https://permies.com/t/51421/Creek-repair-brush-dams

https://permies.com/t/45355/Geoff-Lawton-Check-Dams-Video
 
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Joe Hallmark wrote:Figured it was time for an update. We have experienced rain like I haven’t seen in my area. 90% of topsoil is washed away along with seed (2x). With the last flooding rain I even lost a lot of the subsoil and it is straight rock.

Even in the areas with less slope not a lot of the new grass is coming up very much with is very discouraging considering I doubled or tripled the recommended seed rate hoping to get a thick stand quickly.

On to the thistles. I pulled them up with about 15hrs worth of work. In the non pasture areas I cut them down to remove seed heads and left the root to hopefully help the soil.

I have not been able to get soil samples as of yet but it’s on the agenda when I return from work.

I’m at a loss of what to do in the areas where the subsoil is gone as there’s no dirt to even try to rehab. I make compost but nowhere near the amount to make a dent in a field.

Any suggestions or encouragement most definitely welcome.



Use dexters or similar on thistle. My dexters grubbed them out of my hay fields last year. It's much easier on your back and time.
 
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