Hi I'm Tricia an organic garderner I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply, for a clean and sustainable environment, for an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
A well-managed pasture is beautiful, useful and environmentally friendly a pasture can have troubles however that require intervention. Some common problems that pastures suffer from are weeds poor water retention poor growth and bare spots. These problems are all inter-related and if you don't have good pasture management renovation wont help in the long run. Check out our video on pasture management for more information.
The first step in determining if you're pasture has problems is to make sure that you have enough pasture to graze the animals. This is highly variable so it's best to consult your local ag-extension office. Next look at how the irrigation or rainwater behaves in the pasture does the water run down the hills without seeping in and watering the grass fixing this problem will go a long way in reducing the number of broadleaf weeds and bare spots that you have in your pasture. On the top of the hills make small divots to catch the irrigation and rainwater so that it's retained instead of running down the hill. The best way to fight weeds is to make a great environment for your legumes and grasses but if you find a weed it's recommended that you get rid of it right away. Routine mowing is another strategy to help halt the march of weeds this is very effective for controlling annual weeds and is part of the strategy for controlling perennial weeds. Perennial weeds may need to be removed mechanically or you can spray an organic herbicide when their small. Some perennial weeds such as Canada thistle, spurge and multi flora rose can be effectively controlled by goat or sheep grazing.
If you've addressed your irrigation and weed problems and you're still experiencing poor forage growth it may be time to fertilize. Periodic soil tests are recommended so that you can correct deficiencies before they become a problem. Harrowing is a practice that spreads animal manure around the pasture which is often the only fertilizer necessary. Adding a legume like clover to your pasture is also beneficial because the legume will fix nitrogen into the soil and feed the grasses. One of the easiest ways to overseed a pasture is called frost seeding and this can be done with grasses and legumes, to frost seed in late winter or spring broadcast the seed the freezing and thawing of the ground will work the seed into the soil so it will sprout in the spring. When you're choosing what seed to plant consider growth patterns of warm and cool season grasses and legumes for example if your pasture goes gangbusters in the spring and fall and languishes in the heat of summer consider seeding sections with warm season grasses. Here at Peaceful Valley we have carefully crafted dry land as well as irrigated pasture mixes designed for livestock or horses as well as lower rainfall and bloat resistant mixes. Plan for overseeding the year before; control broadleaf weeds, test the soil, apply lime phosphorus or potassium as needed and graze closely in the fall.
In the spring pay close attention to the new growth and graze it or mow the grass to keep it from out-competing the establishing pasture. A little research a little time and attention to your pasture could save thousands in feed bills so manage your pastures and grow organic for life!