I have about two acres that I either need to clear or find a suitable grass to grow on the forest floor. I'd prefer the latter if possible.
Why do I want to grow grass? I need to give my boer goat herd more pasture to graze on.
Does anyone have experience growing grass on the forest floor that may be nutritious for goats? We're in zone 8a by the way.
Boers are like other goats. They like a mix, but I've found they seem to taste the best when they have access to more grass than brambles and the like. What sort of perennial leguminous brush did you have in mind?
I see there is a shade tolerant clover. That could work. Have you tried it?
First you have to ask yourself how much light reaches the forest floor. You'll need to measure it in full sun, and in the cloud cover, to guesstimate light levels of the relevant seasons, like spring, summer and fall. Full sun is typically 8-10 thousand ft candles while just the open sky on a shaded side of something is about 4 thousand ft candles. Do you have a light meter? Can you properly prune those trees to get more light? Can you thin those trees to get more light? The amount of light will depend upon the species you can grow. When dealing with plants that are shade tolerant, they tend to grow much slower, and not deal well with much grazing. If you're asking this question. I'm guessing its not much light, or the answer would already be growing, from seeds blowing in the wind. To establish shade tolerant perennial plants could take years. Then you would most likely only get one grazing per year, without harming your work. Those are some things you need to think about. When you come up with answers as to the level of light you're dealing with, and your USDA hardiness zone. The numerous answers and easiest solution will be easy to give.
In my part of the world ranchers can grow pretty good grass under trees by using trees as winter shelter for cattle.
We have at least 6 months of continous snow cover. During this time many ranchers set out bales in an open field and give cattle acess to a bluff of trees to shelter from the wind. Cattle will sample buds, trample bushes and deposit large amounts of manure during this time. The result is that when hot weather comes in midsummer, some of the best grass is under trees.
I would suggest that as long as you can get the area fenced. Put your goats into the area in high density for short periods of time, and give a long recovery period. Goats will thin the trees over time. The small bits of open ground will allow seeds that have blown in to germinate. This would be a low, cost long term increase in productivity. This will probably take a lot longer than it does here with the winter feeding system.
I don't know that you will find a grass to grow on the forest floor. If there isn't grass growing now, there's probably a good reason. It's simply a different ecosystem than the type in which grass grows. That said, you could selectively thin the trees before seeding, to create a savannah-like area, though I wouldn't expect that to be a quick fix.
You also might want to step back (maybe you've already done this) and ask why you have a forest/woodlot to begin with, which is to ask if the trees should even be thinned in the first place. Perhaps grass is simply the wrong kind of plant for that particular piece of ground, in which case the question maybe ought not be "How can I alter this area to feed my goats?" but "What kind of animals can I feed here?"
I have tried clover in dappled shade, but the chickens got it...
A lot of the Elaeagnus can survive in shade. Hog peanut is another. I would want to try pigeon pea in your climate, hoping to fill in the sunnier spots. Buffalo berry would be nice.
One of the vetch family might fill in the ground cover rather than grass.
An answer for mediterranean and tropical climates only...
Vetiver, though a sun-loving plant, is very useful for holding nutrients for trees, as their roots form a vertical barrier. So it can be usefull in slopes and under the trees, if they have enough space so that the sun can reach the plants. If they die later from the tree shade, they will leave roots down to a nice depth.
The grass is edible for animals only up to 3 weeks, so it needs a regular cutting, but only after the plant has established well. Or else you do not get the deep roots.
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