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Grass! Wind! Birds! (establishing grasses/reclamation) Arid climate?

 
Posts: 46
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Does anyone have any strategies for the broadcasting of grass/cover crops in areas with high winds.... and lots of birds

I purchased "binder" from Plants of the Southwest, which once wet, is supposed to help hold the seed (and of course compost, top soil, or straw) to adhere to slope and resist the wind.

Any other ideas? I am planning on erecting some kind of rube goldberg-esque perimeter to keep my chickens away (they free range during the day) and I am going to set up some monofilament w/cds, (and am, although I feel kind of dumb maybe buy one of those plastic owls?) but I would love any additional advice from anyone who has successfully gotten some "stuff" to take on a barren, not so cooperative slope-y, centuries overgrazed area- especially if they are in the southwest or arid climate.

My plan was to prep the area, disperse my seed, cover with light mixture of topsoil/straw. I'm in new mexico, and it is not THAT windy yet, (but it is starting to get so, and in a few weeks forget about it) I just invested in some pricey seeds/cover crops and if anyone else has some magic kind idea to help me not feel like it is all for naught- I'd appreciate it.

I noticed some growth from last year, but even without my birds-I think a lot of it did not bind to the ground, and just blew away- ($$$ huge loss ) I am concerned about covering it too much, as that could hinder germination. Any advice greatly appreciated!

 
pollinator
Posts: 11841
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Do you have any shrubby trees that you can cut branches from?  I've had success putting a light layer of brush over seeded areas.  

Also, be sure you press the seed into the soil somehow, with a roller or by walking on it, don't just toss it onto the surface.

 
gardener
Posts: 6775
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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There are a couple of strategies that work with your conditions. Both will mean doing smallish areas per seeding adventure.

First Method: Take your garden rake to the area to scruff up the top half inch or so of soil then give the area a light sprinkling of water (if possible) next broadcast the seed, then use the back of the rake to cover the seeds lightly. This is when you either must apply water or wait for rain.
This method works best (where you have lots of birds) when done in 100 sq. foot sections (10 x 10) since you can get it all done fairly fast.

Second Method: Here you need a spreader, either whirly or drop type will work. Get Good Quality, Dry compost and crumble it to nearly dust sized particles, mix in grass seed, put this mix in the spreader and apply. Put in second load of just prepared compost and apply. Now water to set seeds in place.

Hint about birds: I have found that if I do the seed spreading at night (I have a good, high lux headlamp) and use either of the above methods, the birds don't seem to locate the seeds as quickly as if I spread seed in the day time.

Hint number two, if this is going to be a pasture area, adding a larger, sacrificial seed will focus bird attention on the larger seeds instead of the grass seed, also the larger seeds will stay more on top of the soil in the first Method.

Redhawk
 
steward
Posts: 5763
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I'd recommend seeding the grasses during cool weather, just before several days of rain are expected. Might as well get them germinated as soon after planting as possible. I prefer fall planting grasses over spring planting cause the plants can get a better root system before hot weather arrives. Very early spring is almost as good as fall.  With other cover crop seeds, try to match planting dates to their preferred germination conditions. Again just before several days of rain are expected may reduce predation.

 
Jen Michel
Posts: 46
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Thanks to all who responded regarding my seeding 'adventure' ( I like that terminology btw!!)


I was outside doing work on my drips and pipe irrigation and pulling weeds and I feel like I'm going to d-i-e, but I wanted to say thank you to everyone to responded. After a meal, and some sleep, I will respond with specific questions to each poster who was kind enough to offer advice. I am going to try all your ideas. I have nearly 3 acres to experiment on, so I'll give everything a go, and I can also share pictures from 1 year of reclamation/revegetation efforts on almost completely barren land. (Tyler, Joseph- remember my post last year that was called "Water to see what grows??/strange advice") (regarding being told by Plants of the Southwest to irrigate, and "see what came up") I have come a long way, especially in the sloped areas. Until I upload the shots I took today, enjoy a shot of my German Shepherd herding chickens w/ her "pacifier" (a toy, yes I trained her to do that and not attack them-operant conditioning works!) (and some grass! that with the magic of chicken poop and some water) has appeared in the brown dirt. -I just need more. a lot more.
Chickenherder-.jpg
[Thumbnail for Chickenherder-.jpg]
 
Posts: 16
Location: Northen New Mexico, 7500', zone 6b
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I'd recommend seeding the grasses during cool weather, just before several days of rain are expected. Might as well get them germinated as soon after planting as possible. I prefer fall planting grasses over spring planting cause the plants can get a better root system before hot weather arrives. Very early spring is almost as good as fall.  With other cover crop seeds, try to match planting dates to their preferred germination conditions. Again just before several days of rain are expected may reduce predation.





I would try in fall, since here we have wonky weather - DRY hot windy spring and cool rainy july/aug.  We have had success even on a slope broadcasting seed, then using a compost roller to put a layer of compost on top and pack it down/ contact the soil, and then watering.   We use a spreader like this one: Compost Spreader

Sandy
 
pollinator
Posts: 2846
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I'm in Wyoming, 60+ mph winds are normal. I broadcast seed. I wait, I watch, when the rain comes, I go throw seed out. If it was a large area we use the grader/scraper to scrape it in, if it's a small area I rake. Works well enough.
 
Posts: 26
Location: northern New Mexico
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Hi Jen. Are you still active here? We're neighbors! I bought an old over-grazed spot of land, and getting ready to start spreading seed. Wonder how your area is doing, and if you've learned any tricks for our type of land & climate. Thanks!
 
Jen Michel
Posts: 46
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Hi! I am still around but not as active in posting as I’d like !

Are you planning on grazing the land yourself with animals or are you planting grass as a cover crop/soil builder (to then do other things with the land-ie crops) later.

What gave me success was trying to find the least human disturbed examples of the most ‘optimal’ high desert environment- then move into making modifications to ‘green the high desert’ a lot is those modifications were taken from study of InIdigenous agriculture-especially for this area The Tewa people as they have successfully cropped and flourished since time immemorial-it is a slow process to get things going-I lost a lot of seed due to the high winds- if you have the ability I would
Immediately start putting in where you can native shrubs and trees (the forest service has an awesome seedling sale in Santa Fe and you can purchase Permaculture plants at very low cost) I bought huge bundles of little bare root plants and put them everywhere. The grass the cooperated the most was established after sheet mulching (and in the high desert climate it takes longer to break down) but if you can slowly put things in that can shelter your grass-or do strip contours of grass bit by bit (as one strip gets established, plant behind or in front of it, it will hold better)

From my experience in the high desert of New Mexico you have to embrace small gains -especially if you’re working with not a lot of water (for example you don’t have access to a ditch/acequia to do flood irrigation) id suggest going in little patches and moving outwards. It’s also important to know where your field/land is- is it low, close to
The river? Or is it higher up? That affects things as well.

https://www.cabq.gov/artsculture/albuquerque-museum/casa-san-ysidro/documents/museum-lesson-pueblo-agriculture.pdf

This is a very “general” article but a very good method, even if you’re trying to establish grazing material is to make little grid gardens to hold as much water as possible- also look at the photograph that shows the grid gardens interspersed between little Adobe walls/berm like structures- Adobe bricks are relatively cheap and they can shade plantings just enough that they survive- (especially if it’s a native adapted seed )

I would definitely suggest purchasing seed from plants of the southwest or native seed search- if only to buy a mix or two seed what is in each mix to source yourself later in later quantities- and also to see what takes where you are.

Also, it goes without saying but any organic matter whatsoever- get that on the soil, on that land -especially if it was overgrazed just feed feed feed -the seed will come easier if you boost the organic matter.

I sold my homestead in New Mexico but I still spend a lot of time there visiting, and I garden a great deal at my mother’s home in northern Arizona which is the same altitude /climate as northern New Mexico, so my dry land farmland skillz are still sharp (despite owning a farm
In the northeast now)

I have lots of resources/organizations/info and friends/farmers down there if you’re curious-especially Santa Fe and Rio Arriba county and Taos. If I can answer any specific questions just let me know! I love it down there! It is some of the most beautiful country in the world!


 
Jen Michel
Posts: 46
Location: Northern New Mexico/Heart of Espanola Valley
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Stef Watkins wrote:Hi Jen. Are you still active here? We're neighbors! I bought an old over-grazed spot of land, and getting ready to start spreading seed. Wonder how your area is doing, and if you've learned any tricks for our type of land & climate. Thanks!



- iPhone autocorrect / typing furiously with mg thumbs in a spare second (it’s planting season and I have a lot of acreage now so I am exhausted) -sorry for the typos !

Tell me more about your land and it’s topography -if you have any slope etc- this can be used to help get things growing, even if all the land looks like 90 percent sand and 10% of the palest soil you’ve ever seen. Do you have any access to water on the property ?

All the best,

Jen
 
Stef Watkins
Posts: 26
Location: northern New Mexico
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Hi Jen. Thanks for great info! Yep got a big order of salt bushes from forestry service a week ago. Definitely going to keep ordering from them.

No plans to graze animals except for occasional take the chickens out for a walk. Just trying to help Mother Nature restore the land.

Land is mostly all sand. Water is limited to house's well and IBC totes & rain barrels.

We planted some native grass seeds & wildflowers couple of days ago. Put near some locust trees, since seemed like that area was at least supporting some life already. Put straw & dead leaves on top. And then covered with tumbleweeds! LOL might as well use them as a wind block.

No shade is huge problem though. Definitely considering making a little shade block structure. Or several! Love adobe. (House is adobe & reason we bought it!)

But yeah would definitely appreciate any info you want to share!

Bummed to hear you're not in the area anymore. Hope your newest adventure is going well!
 
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