It’s hard to believe it when August is in full swing, but fall is just around the corner. Even though the weather feels like it might never cool off, the day will come when you’ll be looking at your pasture and daydreaming about summer grass again. So what do you need to do to make sure next year’s pasture is lush and green? The work starts soon, and we have five tips to keep your pasture looking bountiful.
1. Figure out what’s in your soil. You’ve been reading this advice for years, but have you actually had your soil analyzed? Now’s the time, seize the day, get a scoop of dirt and head to the local extension office to figure out what minerals you have, and what minerals you need. Custom-tailoring your pasture’s fertilizer to meet its specific needs could change the way your grass grows — for the better! Ideally, you’ll get your soil tested every three years to check nutrients and pH levels. You can manage every three years!
2. Look for high-need areas. Do you have bare spots in your pasture that have been refusing to grow in for years? These areas could be good candidates for over-seeding. If you can keep horses off this ground for several months while seeds take root and begin to flourish, you’ll be winning a battle against bare ground that could make your pastures more pleasant for years to come. Consider ways to fence off sections that need a little TLC even if you can’t close off the entire pasture.
3. Identify the right seed for your area. Extension offices and knowledgeable feed store reps are usually good sources of seed information. The ideal time to seed your pasture could be as early as mid-August, so it’s time to do your research! Once you know what kind of grass will thrive in your pasture, go with the best quality seed you can find. High-quality seed will give you a pasture your horses will love for years to come, while cheap seed will just end up giving you more bare spots to rescue next year.
4. Spread nitrogen on the pastures before you seed. Grass can’t create nitrogen (unlike legumes like alfalfa), so it’s up to you to help the grass out. Give your pastures a break while the nitrogen soaks in, giving roots time to absorb and grow deeper, and don’t turn the horses back onto it until a good rain has fully carried the fertilizer into the ground.
5. Sample your manure. Manure can be a good fertilizer, but you run the risk of spreading parasites if you’re not absolutely sure what’s in there. So now’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to get that parasite check taken care of, and cut back on your manure pile at the same time. If you are not composting maybe it is time to consider it! There are simple solutions out there. Our friends at O2Compost (www.o2compost.com) are a great resource for this.
All these components can help you put together a solid plan for pasture care this fall. Love your pasture and your pasture will love you back—and your horses will definitely love you for it.