I am about to purchase a 76-acre lot and I
am hoping to grow hay. Every step in the haying process
I understand, but what methods do you use to spread so much
seed around? Also, what equipment do I need to complete
the seeding task? If you could give me some tips and hints
that would be great.
P.S.—I live in the Northwest.
It sounds like you’re off and running. Normally, we
plant hay in a rotation with other crops such as grain.
In this situation, we plant the hay seed into a nurse crop
of winter wheat or spring oats. In an organic situation,
this nurse crop helps eliminate weed pressure on the slowly
You can direct seed the hay seed in the spring,
however managing the weeds that germinate and grow faster
than the hay will be challenging. Hay direct seeded without
a nurse crop usually does better if planted in mid-August,
since most of the weeds that germinate then will be annuals
that, at least for us in the Northeast, die with the first
hard frost while the hay grows on.
In order to sow the seed, you could use a
grain drill. This is the same type of planter you would
use to plant small grains like wheat, oats, rye, or barley,
only with a “grass box” attachment that will
handle the very small seeds that make up most hay crops.
Using a grain drill with a set of packer wheels in the rear
will help with establishment.
You can also broadcast the seed with any of
the many broadcast seeders available; however you should
then run over the seeded area with a packer harrow or roller
to get the seed in good contact with the soil. On our farm,
we broadcast the hay seed into winter wheat in late winter
or early spring and let the freezing and thawing action
of the soil pull the seed into the ground.
Hope this helps. If you need more information,
let me know. And be sure to write back and let me know what
you eventually do and how it turns out.
P.S.—I suggest you contact your local
county extension agent or check in a copy of your state’s
agronomy guide to see what they recommend for conventional
growers. The timing and dates for planting will be the same
for organic or conventional. This will at least be a starting
point for you to compare to my recommendations.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly