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

What can be frost seeded besides clover?

Posted March 15, 2007

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.

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Dear Jeff,

We are renovating a pasture and would like to frost seed. Last year we successfully frost seeded clover. Are there any other legumes, or any grasses, that can be frost seeded?

Thank you
Bill Anderson


Dear Bill,

Thanks for the question on frost seeding. The idea of frost seeding is to get your seed out onto the soil as early as possible following snow melt. Once the seed is on the ground, the freezing and thawing action that takes place near the soil surface this time of the year, (when the sun thaws the surface during the day and at night it refreezes), actually pulls the seed into the cracks and crevices that appear.

Given that theory, any seed that can tolerate cold temperatures could be frost seeded. We frost seed alfalfa, orchard grass, brassicas, oats, field peas, etc. We tend to frost seed these crops into existing crops like fall-planted wheat or what you suggest, pasture renovation. There may be many other crops that will work in a particular area or region. Figure out what you need in your mix, knowing that any cold-tolerant crop will work, that is, any crop you would normally want to plant first thing in spring.

Good luck,