It’s grass growing season so I thought I would post on pasture care today. As a cat I’m not a big grazer but I like to much on the occasional blade of grass.
Is the grass always greener on the other side of your fence? Wonder how your neighbors have such beautiful pastures and you have weeds? Jim Smith at Growers Fertilizer in Newberry and Cindy Sanders from the Alachua Country Extension Service gave us some pointers for pristine pastures.
You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Start with a soil test. This will highlight any deficiencies in the biggies: Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Testing will also give you your soil’s pH level and let you know if any of the trace minerals are out of balance. Many of our local farm supply stores sell soil sampling tools which allow for deeper samples or you can use a shovel. Either way, be sure to get twelve to fifteen samples per area you are interested in, mix well and then take your final sample. Once you have your final sample, your fertilizer company can send it off and determine an appropriate mixture for your property.
A few tips: If you have a large property with several pastures, separate your testing samples so individual pastures can have different mixes if necessary.
Have an area that just won’t grow grass? Sample that area separately to see if anything special should be done.
Sand-spurs are often an indication of low soil pH. We usually have a low pH problem in this area. This is easily corrected with the application of dolomite.
Now that you know what your pastures need for Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus, you have your pH and your trace mineral deficiencies you are ready to grow some grass!
Your fertilizer company will be a very valuable resource here. This time of year fertilizer is usually applied. Grass seed can be added to overseed your pastures and boost grass production in the summer months. Trace mineral packages may be needed to even out those minor but important components. The pH is generally addressed in the Fall but consult with your fertilizer company on the best plan for your needs.
What should you do for weeds? Soil testing will, most likely, show some abnormalities in your soil. Once corrected many of our common weeds will have trouble growing in your pasture. However, Chamber Bitter and a few others are annoying, invasive weeds that drastically reduce your grass’s ability to compete. These weeds are best treated with targeted weedkillers. Once again contact your fertilizer company or the County Extension service for advice on time of year to attack and chemical to use. Most of these chemicals are very safe for horses and only require a small amount of time off the pastures. Once under control, weeds can often be addressed every few years rather than being a constant battle.
Because horses are like potato chips and we can never have just one, our pastures often end up overgrazed. Overgrazing causes a loss of soil quality and gives weeds the opportunity to take over. Grass can deal with overgrazing if it is given a rest period. Dividing your pastures so that you can rotate horses off for at least 2-3 weeks will give your grass a chance to catch up. We will discuss the benefits of rotation for parasite control in the next section. During our great summer growing season you will see a huge increase in growth by rotating.
Lastly, let’s talk about managing your pastures to help reduce parasites. Our horses get their internal parasites from themselves and their friends so manure management is very important. The best method is to remove the manure and composting it will provide you with excellent fertilizer. For larger properties manure removal can be very difficult. Dragging your fields is a good alternative but can spread parasites. Following a few rules will help kill parasites in the manure. Keep your fields mowed to reduce thatch where parasite eggs can hide. Only drag when temperatures are over 85 degrees during the day. Hot temperatures kill the parasite eggs. Give the pasture a three week break from grazing to kill those parasites with time and temperature.
With these guidelines and a little help from your fertilizer company the grass can be greener on your side of the fence!
Thanks again to Jim Smith of Growers Fertilizer and Cindy Sanders at the County Extension Service!
Jim can be reached at 352.474.6274 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Cindy can be reached at 352.955.2402 or email@example.com