I'm looking for ideas on what to seed my pasture areas with and when to plant it. I'm in zone 8/9 in the middle of woods on a mountain dominated by pine, cedar, redwood and some evergreen that looks like a holly leaf but I've somewhat identified as a type of oak. There's also some fir, manzanita and madrone for more evergreen and some deciduous oak. Way towards the far reaches of the property are a few buckeye trees. The soil is on the acidic side, dry from July to October, covered by a thick canopy that allows on average 2-4 hours of sun in most spots and has about a 6-12-inch layer of mostly pine leaf litter to plant in.
For animals we've got two goats and will be rotating a portion of the chicken flock through regularly. I'd like to add sheep and a cow or two in the future but have yet to talk hubby into that... And we need more fencing completed first. The areas I'm wanting to seed are not fenced yet so can be protected from the livestock. Some areas do have good honeysuckle growth but I'd like to get more variety growing in all areas.
I'll be working on cleaning up, thinning, planting and fencing between 3 and 4 acres over the next couple years.
Hi Mary, I believe it might be a good idea to lime your pasture before you broadcast seed. Your soil definitely sounds on the acidic side, with the types of trees you mentioned growing around the area and all the pine litter on the surface. A $25 soil test will inform you of the soils current pH, which will guide you on how much lime to add. But there are different kinds of lime. The soil test will also tell you if perhaps you're low on magnesium. If you are, you can spread dolomite lime which has magnesium in it. If magnesium levels are adequate, use calcitic lime to raise the pH. The soil test will also tell you a myriad of other information regarding elements in your soil. But for pasture, the grasses and clovers and perhaps other things like timothy or vetch will grow better if the soil pH is in the neighborhood of 6.2-6.5 compared to a pH of something like 5.0. (my native soils pH is 5.2). It would be disheartening to spend money on seed to have it grow poorly as a result of acidic soil. Lime is cheap here in in Tennessee, like $30 a ton. Even bagged lime isn't too bad, but costs a lot more than bulk. I bought a few 50lb bags of calcitic lime from the co-op last year and I payed under $4 a bag. I just mentioned other forages like timothy and vetch merely because that is what I'm familiar with. I have no idea how well they will grow with limited sunlight and perhaps there are other forages better suited for the shade.
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
Thank you. The soil testing is on my list of to dos, it just hasn't gotten done yet! Guess I've got to break down and get it done. For the time being, we've periodically tossed some of the whole grain we already buy for feed into the sunnier spots and we've been taking the spent hay from the goat's shed and spreading it on areas we want grass. It frequently has lots of seeds in the mix since I pull all the tiny stuff from the bottom of the hay crib and spread it around as well. Since the last time I did this, there's a nice covering of mulch in their paddock area but we're just waiting on some rain. The pastures will not be irrigated so whatever grows has to be tough. Several grains seem to do fairly well but that's in the sunnier areas where there's already a larger open space between the trees.
Rolling out hay like you said also works. I have found if you can throw some manure out in the bare spots with the hay it helps even more.
Have you looked into meadow fescue. Some of the newer verifies out of Wisconsin grow well in shade and can deal well with heavy grazing pressure. They can also deal with less than perfict soils. One is called hidden valley. Last I checked it's not on the market yet. A pickup with corn prices caused the seed growers to till it under.
Meadow fescue also has none of the endophite problems of tall fescue.
There is also reed canary grass but it is considered invasive in some states.