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  #1  
Old 03/07/04, 07:07 AM
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: missoula, montana
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when is the best time to plant alfalfa?

I'm thinking of getting 100 pounds of alfalfa seed this year and planting it to most of my pasture with a broadcast seeder.

When is the best time to plant?

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  #2  
Old 03/07/04, 07:13 AM
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I want to know the answer to this very question too. We want to overseed a mixture of clover, alfalfa and timothy in our sparse orchardgrass pasture. We'd like to know when is best too.

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  #3  
Old 03/07/04, 08:31 AM
 
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Location: ohio
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paul , donna ,

right now ,(if in the north ) while we still will get a bit of freezing temps at night , thats called frost seeding , the action of freeze and thaw will drive the seed into the soil .. you can even broadcast it on top of a thin snow layer(keep in mind then to plant enough for the birds to .. )
and depending where you are a bit more snow is expected good ol poor mans ferilizer... will help
this is fine if you are planning on overseeding and exsisting meadow , or patching in areas that are bare ..helps if you meadow grasses are shorter grazed off or mowed ....

Paula

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  #4  
Old 03/07/04, 11:41 AM
 
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Location: MN
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An exact time will depend upon your climate. I'm from MN so I know northern ideals. Generally alfalfa & clover should be seeded when it's cooler and much gentle rains are in the forcast. Very slow to sprout & grow, it should only be planted 1/2" deep.

Frost seeding works well as described tho I haven't done it.

If you are interseeding into existing hay then fall seeding won't work - too much ompetition from the growing grass.

So, from now through the first week of May, depending on your rain/ cold is a good time. Your grass needed to be clipped or grazed very short.

I renovated my pasture years ago by spreading fertilizer, running my field cultivator about 1" deep to take out very narrow shallow strips of grass & stir the fertilizer. Then I seeded the alfalfa & dragged (harrowed it. Work pretty good, but had the driest spring in 2 decades that year, so didn't get what I could have. It would have beed great on a normal spring.

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  #5  
Old 03/07/04, 03:50 PM
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Central MN
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I've had good luck frost seeding red clover. Would broadcast about 3lbs per acre right after the snow melted. I've heard that alfalfa will not compete as well. Frost seeding grass seed does not work very well because the lighter grass seed isn't able to make it through the sod and get good soil contact.

I've done similar things as Rambler, used a press drill once when the pasture was still quite soft. Also used the old style disk where you could adjust the disk angles so it just cut narrow furrows, then broadcast and rolled it with a field packer. Frost seeding worked just as well most years and was less work.

Another option is to use a no-till drill. Here in MN many Soil and Water Offices have them for rent. This would be a good choice if you want to seed grasses.

Like Rambler said the success will depend on if you get sufficient moisture. Also, if you are cutting for hay try to get the first cut off early or at least on time. Otherwese the new legume seedlings will be crowded out.

This is a pretty good write up with more info: http://www.umass.edu/cdl/publications/c_frost_seed.htm

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  #6  
Old 03/07/04, 04:13 PM
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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I remember when the farmers here in central Illinois used a 3 or 4 crop rotation they would sow Clover or Alfalfa in the Winter wheat, or Spring oats, in March. They tried to catch the last snow or, at least, a few nights of freezing temps. Wheat needs to be planted thin if you intend to interseed legumes as it will crowd out the weaker plants.
Now they inter-seed in August using a no-till drill. Do this right after cutting and baling off what you have growing.
Our county Ag. Dept. has a no-till drill for use by anyone in the county. All you have to do is sign up for when you want it. No cost, which is unusual for the government.
If you are interseeding existing pasture, Fall will probably be best as the established grasses/legumes will shoot up too fast and shade your new sprouting seed in the Spring.
One other thing. After seeding new legumes, either Spring or Fall, you should not graze, or cut hay, till the new is well established. If you seed in the Fall you should not run cattle on it till the next Spring after green up.
Bear in mind the legumes will be a real treat for cattle so watch for Bloat. Horses too, need to be put on legumes real careful or they will have problems.

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  #7  
Old 03/07/04, 08:54 PM
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If you still have some snow up there in north of Spokane, and a good sunny day you can broadcast the seed with excellent luck and almost no bird loss, the darker the seed color the better it goes into the snow and away from the birds, however you must watch your pattern as you walk, if the wind is blowing just a little you will maybe have a bare strip like an old timer i know did one year.... he worked up his ground in the fall and planted his medium red clover in the snow in the spring, however he had the most acurate 2 foot wide paths in his field where the wind made him miscalculate his broadcastings.... prolly he is turning over in his resting spot now as i tell the world what only his neighbors laughed about a years ago.

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  #8  
Old 03/07/04, 08:59 PM
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Oregon
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Your County Co operative Extension Service will know just the right time for your area. It helps to post where you live...did I miss that? I know I need new glasses! LOL

Give them a hollar and good luck with your planting. LQ
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  #9  
Old 04/17/04, 08:08 AM
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: missoula, montana
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Went to the local seed store and talked to them about varieties, cost, etc. They said that alfalfa would not grow well on our pasture without lots of fertilizers and stuff (which they also sell). Too dry. Too high. Should stick with grass.

Soil ananlisys shows a pH of about 6.7. Lots of P and K, but almost zero N. As for micronutrients, boron seemed to be the big issue, but I laid some down since the soil test.

There are alfalfa plants growing all over the place like weeds, just in small numbers.

The seed store guys know the guy that owned the property before me. They say that that guy tried to grow alfalfa, but it never took.

My research on growing grass in the area is that guys spend thousands per year on fertilizers to get hay worth about the same as the fertilizer. It seems cheaper and easier to just go buy hay. And then there are guys at lower elevations that grow alfalfa and don't put anything on their fields.

I'm tempted to just go get a sack of alfalfa seed and broadcast it on some of my pastures. Just see if it takes or not.

Any advice?

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  #10  
Old 04/17/04, 09:07 AM
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Zone 7
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Paul, what are you neighbors that are the "better farmers" growing to meet their needs? I find that it is best to grow what is native to the area or what has already proven to be establishable. He in NC for example the extension dept pushes us to grow endophyte free fescue. It is just not winter hardy enough to persist. The farmers with the best stands of grass grow ky31 fescue and offset the endophyte problem by interseeding with legumes, mostly clovers. I even have some sericea lespedeza that the cattle consume readily when in the early stages of growth. Sericea is considered as a noxious weed but it works if managed correctly. Alfafa is too hard to establish and has insect problems here. It is grown under expensive management for horse hay but IMO is not worth the effort. I would listen to the feed store guys and not waste my money on the expensive seed. If they thought you had a chance they would have sold you the seed.

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  #11  
Old 04/17/04, 09:26 AM
 
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Unless your soil ph is high which most often it isn't in eastern states, the alfalfa won't make it. Unless you are planning on using the field for hay the alfalfa won't be as good as you'd like. Without a grass drill to put the seed in the ground a little bit, the odds of a good stand is very slim this time of year.

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  #12  
Old 04/17/04, 02:32 PM
 
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Paul, you may want to read Malabar Farm by Louis Bromfield. He did extensive testing on plots of land growing various grains and grasses. What he found out about alfalfa was interesting to me - that it's basically a scrub grass and does not like a lot of fuss - that's why you see it by the wayside growing so well. Anyway, I'm no farmer, so get the book and read what he had to say. It may help you with when and how to plant.
Mary

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  #13  
Old 04/17/04, 08:10 PM
poppy
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Old farmers here in Illinois say to plant alfalfa in any month with an "r" in it. They seem to grow a lot of hay.

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  #14  
Old 04/17/04, 10:58 PM
 
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Old farmers in Indiana plant most of their alfalfa in late August into ground worked into a fine powder on top. It is planted with a grass drill or grain drill with a grass seed atachment. The dust allows the moisture to come up but it won't come through the dust and evaporate. The alfalfa comes up very quickly even though the ground looks bone dry.
Anyone willing to spend the money required to sow alfalfa will have had the soil ph tested, and applied however much ag lime the test showed was needed to get the ph up where it needs to be. If there are any places that are not really well drained in the field don't waste alfalfa seed on them. All alfalfa seed are not the same. Alfalfa dwindles out after a few years. Some varieties are much longer lived than others and the seed price reflects the difference.
Some plant in the spring just as early as a tractor can get over the ground. They use a thin stand of oats planted right with it for a cover crop. The oats is them made for hay as soon as it starts getting heads.

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  #15  
Old 04/18/04, 01:21 AM
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Best time about two years before you want to harvest it.

On first time plowed (broke) land we will plant barley only this first year, about May 8, 2004 to June 2004 (sometime in there). Then we will pick and/or rake more roots. Then finally, next spring (about May 8, 2005) we will plant hay (Alfalfa, Timothy and Brome mixture), in 2005 fall we will only get another crop (no hay - too small). Then in 2006 fall we will harvest our first hay.

We will seed drill with 24 (verify length?) foot seed drill for all seeding.

We will only first time seed about 55 broke acres this year, 65 next year.

Alex

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Last edited by Alex; 04/18/04 at 01:30 AM.
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  #16  
Old 04/18/04, 02:57 PM
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: MN
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Wheaton
Went to the local seed store and talked to them about varieties, cost, etc. They said that alfalfa would not grow well on our pasture without lots of fertilizers and stuff (which they also sell). Too dry. Too high. Should stick with grass.

Soil ananlisys shows a pH of about 6.7. Lots of P and K, but almost zero N. As for micronutrients, boron seemed to be the big issue, but I laid some down since the soil test.

There are alfalfa plants growing all over the place like weeds, just in small numbers.

The seed store guys know the guy that owned the property before me. They say that that guy tried to grow alfalfa, but it never took.

My research on growing grass in the area is that guys spend thousands per year on fertilizers to get hay worth about the same as the fertilizer. It seems cheaper and easier to just go buy hay. And then there are guys at lower elevations that grow alfalfa and don't put anything on their fields.

I'm tempted to just go get a sack of alfalfa seed and broadcast it on some of my pastures. Just see if it takes or not.

Any advice?
I can't remember, but I think you live up here in the north somewhere.

A good alfalfa stand depends on damp weather to get a good stand. Alfalfa can't handle really heavy shade (from long-stemmed established grass) and the seeds should be 1/4 to 1/2" deep. Alfalfa needs a higher ph level, 7 or so. You will _not_ get good results planting alfalfa if there has been any old alfalfa plants growing there in 3-6 months. The adult plants have a toxic substance in their roots that kills off new alfalfa sprouts.

Sounds like your _best_ bet would be to kill off everything growing there, lime & lightly fertilize, and when fall rains come replant with a good pasture mix that contains the type of alfalfa you want - high yield, wet tolerance, leafhopper tolerance, grazing tolerance, or even a (slow growing) type that spreads itself with runners. Alfalfa supplies it's own nitrogen, so it sounds like a great addition to what you have growing there - will give you the N you need for the grasses.

Trying to interseed as you want to do is a gamble. The old grasses can kill it, without a good seedbed & just scattering seed you will need to plant about 300# instead of 100#, and the exsisting alfalfa plants will hurt you. Your ph is kinda low, & it takes a while for most lime to activate..... Without rain, you can do everything perfect and still get poor results.

Would a clover work out for you, they might grow better in your exsisting conditions & establish itself a bit better?

--->Paul
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  #17  
Old 04/19/04, 02:12 AM
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: deep south texas
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how well are you going to prepare the seed bed ? are you going to inculate the seed? is there going to be a nurse crop planted with it? what is you planting zone? if you area is dry try a drought tolerant variety, oats make a great nurse crop. what is the fertility and ph of your feilds? remember when planting a nurse crop with alfalfa it takes less seed per acre. in the area i am in we plant in october of the yr and cut first cutting in april after that a cutting every 28 days is possible for 10 months out of the yr. of course we have irrigation to use and the crop gets a foilar fertilizer about ever 4 weeks.

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