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 germinating hay.
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.
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