* This post has been sponsored by KIOTI Tractor. All views and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal experiences.*
Since moving to the farm, I have quickly learned that pasture management is an art form and can be a tricky and frustrating process. When we purchased our property, it was completely wooded, so once we cleared the land we had a blank canvas of dirt and red clay to work with. Over the past year, we have been able to get our 2 pastures started, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
Overseeding is a vital process to pasture management and is necessary to increase nutritional value and improve pasture production and quality. Generally, overseeding occurs in the early fall in preparation for the cool season, but it can also be done in the spring with warm weather grasses. Overseeding once a year works if your pastures are fully established, but if you are like us, and are still working towards establishing thick, healthy pastures, I recommend that you overseed in both the fall and spring. This will not only ensure that your animals have forage during each season, it will also help speed up the process to get your pasture running on cruise control.
I know this seems like a lot of work and money, and you’re right it is, but it will all be worth it when you look out over your beautiful, green luscious pastures and are able to say “I did that.”
First things, first. What are you planting? This probably sounds like a silly question, but choosing the right seed is going to be vital to your success. The easiest way to answer this question is based on what time of year you are planting. The season will determine what you should be planting. Here are some suggestions:
Take a soil sample. This step will be critical to your success, and it is easier than it probably sounds. Most states have agriculture agencies that will test your soil for little to no cost. We send our soil into the Clemson University Agricultural Service Laboratory, and within 10 days, we have a full soil analysis that includes our soil’s current pH levels.
I will refrain from getting into the weeds on pH levels and the proper amendments, but here is a quick overview:
Soil pH – The acidity or alkalinity of the soil measured in pH units. It is a scale running from 0-14, with a pH of 7 being neutral. As the number decreases from 7, the acidity gets higher. As the number increases from 7, the alkalinity gets higher.
Lime – Lime is typically added to increase the soil’s pH, making the soil less acidic and more alkaline.
Fertilizer – Nitrogen decreases a soil’s pH, increasing the soil acidity.
Read your soil test results and it will give you an understanding of your soil’s current PH level, as well as what amendments need to be added and at what levels.
Once you have your soil at its ideal pH level for what you are planting, it’s time to get to the fun stuff.
For purposes of this post, I will be focusing on overseeding with fescue. If you are planting another variety, do your research to determine its ideal conditions and planting methods.
1. Tractor – KIOTI tractor CK4010SE
Our first purchase after we closed on our property was a tractor, specifically a KIOTI tractor CK4010SE. While you can certainly overseed with a push broadcast spreader, using a tractor will make this process much easier and more efficient, especially if you are dealing with any sort of acreage.
2. PTO broadcast spreader tractor attachment – if you do not own one, you can typically rent one from your local feed and seed or an equipment rental store. Knowing that we would be seeding and adding amendments multiple times per year for several years, we purchased a 400lb spreader. *Can also use a push broadcast spreader.*
3. Aerator tractor attachment - if you do not own one, you can always rent one from a home improvement store or a local equipment rental store. We rented an aerator this year and of course the 6ft spreader was out-of-service, meaning we had to get the 4ft version. While they both work equally well, it took considerably longer with the smaller unit. *can also use a push core aerator*
STEPS TO OVERSEEDING:
Mow your pasture extra short, or if you are lucky, you will have animals to do that part for you. You do not want tall grass preventing your seed from getting to the soil.
Aerate – aeration involves perforating the soil with small holes to alleviate soil compaction. The spikes will break up the soil to allow oxygen, water, and nutrients to easily reach the roots. Aerating is an important step when it comes to planting fescue.
We rented an aerator from a home improvement store, and it easily attached to our KIOTI tractor. To aerate, start by driving around the perimeter of your pasture and slowly work your way in. This will prevent you from having to make switch-back turns and risk tearing up your pasture.
Once your pastures are aerated, it is time to spread seed (as well as lime or fertilizer if needed). We limed our pastures at the beginning of the year, so no amendments were needed this time. We will retest our soil in January and plan our amendments according to the results.
Attach your PTO-driven broadcast spreader to your 3-point attachment on the tractor. Set the spreader to the correct setting, fill the spreader with seed, and then you are ready to go. Take the same approach as you did with aerating, by starting around the perimeter and working your way in. Our KIOTI tractor makes it so easy with its hydrostatic transmission and cruise control. Right before we invested in our KIOTI tractor, we planted our first pasture by hand with a push broadcast spreader, and if we did not use our tractor for anything else, it would have been worth it for the sole purpose of seeding.
Last, but certainly not least, WATER, WATER, WATER. I cannot reiterate this step enough. Even if you break up seeding over a few different weekends to ensure that each section is getting enough water, that is what you need to do. It is also helpful to keep an eye on the weather. If you can, plant when there is rain in the forecast. We made this mistake last spring when we planted Bermuda. We did not get a drop of rain for several weeks, and we did not have the ability to keep both pastures watered properly. The end result, zero grass and wasted time and money. On the plus side, I have already made that mistake for you, so hopefully I can save you that failure.
You can easily knock out the above steps in a weekend, especially with the help of your KIOTI tractor, and you will be set for the upcoming year! Happy planting, friends. Now is the perfect time.