Seedbeds for Late Summer Grass and Alfalfa Planting

Seedbeds for Late Summer Grass and Alfalfa Planting

July 25, 2014

Seedbed preparation is key to successful planting of alfalfa, grass, or some small-seeded cover crops. August is great timing, if you have enough moisture to do it right.

Seedbed preparation is crucial for late summer plantings.  Good seed-to-soil contact and weed control are essential. Half-hearted seedbed preparation produces only half decent stands.

Two types of seedbeds work well in August: fully tilled seedbeds and those into plant stubble, such as after wheat.

For many growers fully tilled seedbeds are best. Weeds are eliminated and fields are smooth. Growers need to avoid overtill though to conserve soil moisture whenever possible while achieving a firm seedbed. You should be able to bounce a basketball on a firm seedbed. Rolling, harrowing, and waiting for rain or irrigating all help make seedbeds firm.

Stubble from cereal crops like wheat also makes a good seedbed.  So can hailed out beans. Hailed out corn is a bit tougher, but many no-till drills can place seeds into stubble soil very nicely, as long as there isn't excessive residue.  Make sure you control weeds like foxtail, sunflowers, and
volunteer grain before stubble seeding. Use herbicides like glyphosate or Gramoxone before planting to kill existing weeds if needed.

Whenever planting in August be wary of grasshoppers as they love to eat new seedlings. Spray field margins with insecticides if more than 20 hoppers per square yard are present.  (See related article this week, Monitor Grasshopper Levels in Field Borders.)

Remember, these preparations are useless without moisture. If you have moisture, then plant: shallow for rapid emergence and early for seedlings to develop good cold tolerance.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist

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A field of corn.