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
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.
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
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.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.