Preparing Seedbeds for Late Summer Grass And Alfalfa Planting
August 8, 2008
August is an excellent time to plant alfalfa, irrigated pasture, or other grasses if you have moisture and do it right. Seedbed preparation, as well as good seed-to-soil contact and weed control, are essential to late summer plantings. Half-hearted seedbed preparation produces only half decent stands.
Two types of seedbeds work well in August. A fully tilled seedbed is best for many growers. Weeds are eliminated, and the field is smooth. But don't overtill. Conserve soil moisture whenever possible, and put extra effort into getting a firm seedbed. You should be able to dribble a basketball on a seedbed in August. Rolling, harrowing, and waiting for rain or irrigating will help firm seedbeds.
Small grain stubble also makes a good seedbed. Many drills can place alfalfa or grass seeds into stubble soil very nicely, as long as there isn't excessive straw. Make sure you control weeds like foxtail, sunflowers, and volunteer grain before stubble seeding. Use herbicides like Roundup or Gramoxone Extra before planting to kill existing weeds if needed.
Also, when planting in August, be wary of grasshoppers. They love to eat new seedlings. Spray field margins with insecticides if you have more than 20 grasshoppers per square yard.
Remember, these preparations are useless without moisture. I discourage planting into dry soil because you never know if there will be good fall rains.
If you do have moisture, then plant — shallow for rapid emergence and early for seedlings to develop good cold tolerance.
Extension Forage Specialist