Frost seeding provides an easy, no-drill method to boost your pasture nutrition and extend your grazing season. With frost seeding, you can add various herbs and legumes to your existing pasture. Seeding is done in the early spring when the night time temperatures fall below freezing and day time temperatures are above freezing. In Vermont, this coincides with sugaring season. The freeze and thaw of the ground, helps to push the seed into the soil.
Here are a few things to remember when frost seeding:
- Closely graze or mow the pastures you will frost seed in the late fall. This allows for better soil to seed contact. A field covered in thatch does not seed as well. If you have a flock of chickens, turn them out on the pasture after close grazing, to help further prepare your field for seeding.
- Choose and purchase your seeds before the early spring so you are ready for seeding. I worked closely with a forage specialist in deciding what to supplement my fields with. I considered which herbs and legumes grow easily in cold weather as well as their nutritional value. I have chosen to seed Tonic Plantain, Chicory, and Ladino Clover. Tonic plantain is high in protein and grows well in various soil types. Chicory, a perennial high in nutritive and mineral content, provides early spring and summer forage. Also, various studies have shown some success with Chicory being used to help control internal parasites. Ladino Clover, a cool weather forage, has high nutritive value and extends your grazing season as it is most productive in cool weather when other species die back.
- Broadcast your seeds in the very early spring, before the ground has fully thawed. If seeding over a layer of snow, you need to consider run off. You do not want your seeds washed away by a quick thaw and heavy run-off.
- Be careful not to over graze your pastures the first summer after seeding. The newly planted seeds need to get well established before they are heavily grazed. Keeping the grass 6 to 8 inches long allows sun to reach the newly planted forage.
Healthy pastures…happy, healthy sheep!
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