ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

I have yet to plant 12 acres of hay for my horses due to wet spring/summer. Any suggestions on fall seeding in weed-infested fields?

Posted September 28, 2004

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Send it to Jeff at:

Editor’s note: The following exchange between Jeff and a New Farm reader took place in late July but somehow slipped through the editorial cracks. Since fall is just now upon us and Jeff’s advice pertains to fall planting, we decided to dust it off and let you have a look.

Dear Jeff,

In my efforts to find information regarding the best time to plant hay, I stumbled upon the NewFarm website. Am I ever glad. Your organic-based site is a wonderful source of environmental concerns that are very near and dear to my heart. I am looking forward to taking part in your action alerts.

My specific question is this: I need to reseed about 12 acres of hay for horses. My soil does not grow alfalfa without a great deal of treating. I have been quite happy with a timothy/birdsfoot and fescue mix. We have suffered a very wet spring/summer in the Northeast and have yet to plow due to the wet conditions. The fields have been uncut, are full of weeds and it does not look like we will be able to plow until well into August. Have you any suggestions as to my best approach to get this job done? (The pH of fields is 6.8.) Thanks for your time and wonderful website.

Susan Hopf

Dear Susan,

I'm so glad you stumbled onto New Farm. We're pleased you find our site useful. Now to answer your question. Fall is the perfect time of the year to start hay, especially timothy or other grasses. If you can till the soil and start out with a clean field, you stand a good chance of getting a good stand. You might also consider getting a no-till drill and direct seeding the hay into the field. This would be best if there still is some old hay worth saving or if there is a chance of soil erosion from tillage (if your pasture is on a steep slope). You might contact your local extension office about where you might borrow a no-till drill. Often the NRCS office has access to one or knows of a custom operator who could do the work for you at a reasonable rate.

At either rate you'll need to keep the animals off the pasture early in spring to give the new grasses a chance to grow and root well. Your Extension office will be able to supply you with text on pasture renovation; you'll just need to substitute ‘organic’ practices for the chemical recommendations. Without actually seeing the site, it is hard to make a better recommendation. Please get back to me and let me know how things work out, or email me with more questions.


Dear Jeff,

Thanks for the quick response. One of my fields is really just thin, so will look into no-till drilling for that. The others are inundated with weeds so will have to plow, etc. I thought fall to be the best time but have had more questions than anwers when I asked the old-time farmers around here. The horses do not graze these fields, but I think the no-till idea will be of benefit when the pastures themselves need seeding.

Thanks again and have a great day.

Susan Hopf


Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him directly at