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native grass establishment  RSS feed

 
Posts: 29
Location: SW Arkansas Zone 7b
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Hello everyone!  
We live/farm in SW Arkansas.  Have finally been able to begin clearing a piece of property that we purchased from a timber company a few years ago after they logged the timber.  
Between our dozer operator's schedule and our's the time to plant native grasses is just about past here, and we are not near ready.  The end goal is silvopasture/agroforestry system planted between berms and swales with native grasses, chestnuts, apples, pears, hazels, brambles, and these are just what I know that I want to plant.  Have picked up many, many, many rocks and there are many, many, many more to be picked.  Some dragging/leveling will need to be done.  Berms and swales need to be constructed.  I followed the dozer scattering annual ryegrass to get a root in the ground to help hold the soil in place until the other things can be done.  (Some of the ground is steep) We are a small family farm with just my wife, and I, and our teenage daughter, and our pockets are not deep!
I am probably going to miss my window to plant natives this spring so that puts me, at best, planting them this winter.  I have considered:  1. Continuing what I am doing.  When I get things ready planting a warm season annual such as sorghum sudan grass.  Will be a cover with a good root in the ground and will offer some weed suppression.  (There will be a lot of weed competition from thistle, blackberry, hardwood sapling regrowth, etc.) 2. Continuing what I am doing, and not plant until I can plant natives.  I am not a fan of herbicides, but in some way I will have to limit the competition to the natives until they establish.  I have also been told that the ryegrass can be a future problem if I let it go to seed for next year's growth of the natives.
I would appreciate feedback.  What are my best options for the above scenario?  I want to protect the soi and get native grasses established in the least cost manner possible.
Be glad to answer questions if I have not provided enough information!
Thanks!
 
pollinator
Posts: 587
Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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You might find this useful ... https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/njpmssy405.pdf  It has a lot of information on critical planting times for the various natives as well as what to do to establish them without competition from cool-season grasses and weeds. For cover crops, it specifically says "If a cover crop is needed over the winter, plant oats in late August or early September. The oats
will winterkill, thus not requiring herbicide kill in the spring, unless there are other grasses or weeds germinating at that time." Hope that helps you a little bit.
 
Andy Youngblood
Posts: 29
Location: SW Arkansas Zone 7b
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Thanks Deb!  Look forward to checking the link.  It is "temporarily unavailable" at the moment.
 
Posts: 520
Location: Northern Germany (Zone 8a)
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there was an additional " " in the link, which translated the URL in Firefox into: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/njpmssy405.pdf%C2%A0
just delete everything after .pdf in your browser

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/njpmssy405.pdf
 
gardener
Posts: 5719
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
810
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hau Andy, we have two planting times for the native grasses to establish here in Arkansas, Spring and Fall.
Even in south ark. you should still have at least 3 weeks left for the first planting window.
The fall window for native grasses begins at the end of September and usually runs into mid November.

Always do the earth works first, if you don't, then you will be re-planting once you complete the earth works for water control.
I use annual rye for a winter over-seed of pastures, it dies back come August, so that fall planting of native grasses will come up nicely.

I can give you more about establishing pastures should you need more.

Redhawk
 
Andy Youngblood
Posts: 29
Location: SW Arkansas Zone 7b
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Thanks for the heads up Tobias!

Yeah Redhawk I suppose depending on summer rains I might even have a little longer, but was shooting to have planting done by April 15 just to be safe.  I didn't mention, but the property is 155 acres, and approximately 90 of that is what  I am currently working with.  Still have lots of rocks to pick up, and earthworks have not even begun.  I work on it after my "have to dos" are done.  So much rain lately, which I am grateful for, that it's been difficult getting it dry enough between rains to work.
Wasn't sure when the next planting time would be.  Thanks for that info!  
 
Andy Youngblood
Posts: 29
Location: SW Arkansas Zone 7b
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Redhawk,
Any info you can give on establishing native grass pastures would be appreciated.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Posts: 5719
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
810
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The current pasture I am working on is closed canopy land, nothing much was growing on the soil between the hickory trees and cedar trees.
I first went through the area with surveyor tape and marked the spindly trees, damaged trees and then selected others so the area would have enough open to sun space for grasses to grow well.
I also limbed up the cedars to be able to get to the trunks to cut them down, the cut branches were used to form a "hedge" on the other side of my property line and also for creating berms to slow and move water so it will soak into the soil instead of running straight down the mountain and eroding all the soil away.
Next up is cutting down the cedars since they provide far to much shade in the silvo pasture I am building, these will become either fence posts or deck posts since the cedar is a sacred tree to my people, it must be put to a purpose.

I have already spread 2 50lb. bags of annual rye grass over this area, this was to get a root system going and to have a crop to cut down once I've done the over seeding, that will help with reducing bird pressure on my new native grass seeds.
Once those sprout and have grown for two weeks I'll do another over seeding and this one will have not only the native grasses but some rape, seven top turnip, yellow clover, Dutch white clover, crimson clover and a few other plant items mixed in.
From that point I just have to wait for the growth to get about a month old so I can do a cutting, this cut will force the grasses to put out more roots and it will multiply the top growth for better density and the extra roots prevent the animals from ripping out the whole plant and creating bare spots.
I have a mulching mower I use for this cutting, that way all the cut grasses and other plants settle to the soil surface and feed the pasture as it grows stronger.
The mulching mower chops the plants into small enough pieces for this to happen without laying over or smothering any of my pasture grasses and plants.

After about a year this pasture will appear to be almost all native grasses since they grow the tallest and will end up shading out some of the other plants.

This pasture is also going to have a "border" set in of things like plantain and comfrey, it will be about 3 feet wide and that will be for taking cuttings to the compost heaps, twice a year.

Growing plants in soil automatically starts the soil building process. If you make some mushroom slurries and spread those around the pasture, it will introduce fungi to the soil and that will increase the bacteria counts over time.
Making and spraying compost teas is another great way to introduce extra life to the soil so the improvements come along faster.
Once the pasture is established I try to let the animals do more of the work for me, such as trampling, grazing and poop and pee are the natural way to improve the established pasture.

I put the right number of animals on the space so this all happens over a week, then I move them to another pasture paddock. My goal is to let a pasture rest for at least 8 weeks between grazing periods for good recovery of the plant materials.
This does take a little math and observation to get just right.

Redhawk
 
Andy Youngblood
Posts: 29
Location: SW Arkansas Zone 7b
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We also have had several large cedars that had to be removed.  I intend to take them to a local sawyer to be sawed into lumber.  Some of which I intend to build bee boxes with.

I have a decent stand of annual ryegrass on this property, but was told that I would need to terminate it before it seeded as it would provide to much competition for the native grasses.  Has that not been your experience?

Been looking at different ways to increase soil life.  Thanks for the thoughts on the mushroom slurry and compost tea
.
We practice High Density Grazing with our cattle try to simulate the massive buffalo herds that used to roam much of the American landscape.  Electric fence is used to keep them bunched as we don't have a lot of wolves about.  Cattle are moved from 1 to 3 times per day depending on the time of year and vegetation cover, and our rest periods range from 60 to 90 days.  Learning that rest periods are key, and are starting to see the "old seed bank" express itself with things that weren't there a few years ago, and I didn't plant them.  You're right in saying the animals will do most of the work if we just provide them the opportunity.  Pretty exciting stuff!

What are your thoughts on how to minimize competition on the native grasses from other plants?  Have quite a lot of thistle, blackberry, woolly croton, and hardwood regrowth.  Will be more manageable when I can move cattle in and through, but as I understand I need to defer grazing until they establish.

Andy
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 5719
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
810
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The cedars here in Arkansas are junipers and bees don't like the aromatic oils contained in the wood, (neither do moths and that's why our cedar is used for closet linings and clothes storage chests).

Annual Rye grass dies back in August in Arkansas, the heat gets it every year, any seeds that fell to the soil will come back in the late fall, when the native grasses have stopped.
I have never had a problem between the two, right now the annual rye is still nice and green, in about a month the native grasses and side oats will be growing up above the rye and start shading it out.
Our donkey seems to love the annual rye for fodder almost as much as she likes the native grasses that are just now starting to peek through the soil.

Yes, you can ruin all your hard work building a pasture by putting animals on it too soon. Then you start over.
What happens is the roots don't get developed enough to hold against the pull of the animals mouth.
 
Andy Youngblood
Posts: 29
Location: SW Arkansas Zone 7b
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Has anyone out there broadcast native grass seeds instead of using a seed drill to plant?  If so, what were the results?  And there is not a prepared seedbed per se.  What we will have is a burned back sod.  Thoughts/experiences appreciated!
 
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Andy,

Do you have cattle on your property currently? If you do you might want use them as much as possible it you are not using a drill.  Let them do some of the work.  Spread the seed on a section, stock them super tight and have them trample the seed into the ground. Seed anther section, move the cattle etc.  They will more seed into the ground for germination then if you just broadcast the seed.  It is an option.
 
Andy Youngblood
Posts: 29
Location: SW Arkansas Zone 7b
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That's a great idea John.  We mob graze on another property, but unfortunately there are no livestock on this property, yet!
 
pollinator
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I'm fattening 2 cows right now. I just bought seed. I'm gonna throw it out in a 6ft foot circle and drop a bale of hay in the middle.  Will do this every 2 days. I bet it works good. It should coat an acre
 
Posts: 35
Location: Pine, Colorado
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wayne fajkus wrote:I'm fattening 2 cows right now. I just bought seed. I'm gonna throw it out in a 6ft foot circle and drop a bale of hay in the middle.  Will do this every 2 days. I bet it works good. It should coat an acre



This is a great idea we will be hoping to replicate once our permiter fence is up, we have been overseeding in the meantime, please post updates to let us know how your method works!
 
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