I planted 5 acres of hay (for goats) last spring on an unused
pasture. I first used Roundup, waited two weeks, then ‘plowed
it under’ and then seeded. It all started to grow fine
until the weeds came. It became unusable due to the thistle
and other problem weeds grown throughout. Any suggestions
on how to proceed this spring?
Thanks for all of your help,
I’m sorry to hear of your problems. Spring is a tough
time to get hay crops established for the very reasons you
have experienced. Most of the crops we use for forages are
much slower to germinate and establish themselves than the
weeds that compete with them. I normally establish my hay
very early in spring (Febuary or March) by frost seeding into
wheat or with a nurse crop of oats. Even then there may be
some competition with weeds, but the shade of the small grain
and the harvest activity seem to benefit the young hay.
Many growers prefer to get their hay crop started in the
fall (late August or September) to avoid the weed pressure.
This is especially true if you use herbicides, which we here
at The Rodale Institute do not use since we are certified
organic. By planting at this time of year, you take advantage
of reduced weed pressure along with the cooler weather (which
can frost out the young weeds but not hurt the hay). Of course,
much of this depends on the area of the country where you
live and the type of hay you are producing. It's difficult
to tell with the little information I have, but you may want
to take a close look in spring to see how well the establishment
really is compared to the weeds. Keep in mind that hay crops
are designed to be mowed, and weeds generally don't tolerate
that activity as well. Based on the cost of good-quality hay
seed, it may be worth your time to take another look. If it
truly is unsalvageable, you may need to start over and simply
try again. If you can spray Roundup on what's there, you may
be able to no-till drill the new hay into the stand of dead
plant material. If you need to plow, then I would suggest
a nurse crop, such as oats, be planted with the hay.
Hope this helps. Best of luck,
Thank you. I’ll give the spring seeding a try. I did
notice that when I cut in the fall, the weeds did die (per
your point), but the thistle still made the hay unusable.
Perhaps an earlier mowing as well.
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