Weaned Pigs on Pasture
Susan Lea asked:
How do you “frost seed”? That is a huge amount of acreage to seed by hand. We have some pasture that needs to be re-seeded and had thought of renting a no-till drill, but we don’t know anything about how to do it. So I’m curious about frost seeding.
The key to the way that we seed is mostly a matter of timing and of climate. Years ago I had heard someone mention frost seeding. Here is a search pattern on the topic. I tried it out and found it works quite well. We also do mob seeding and storm seeding. We do these methods on fresh cut new fields such as last year’s conversion from forest to pasture, over existing pasture and over bare spots where we do managed rotational grazing.
Sow on Frost Seeded Kale and Rape in North Field
For frost seeding we seed in the spring just after the snows have gone but we’re still getting hard frosts. The frost causes the ground to open and close and makes the seeds drop down into the soil. This takes our northern climate to work.
We experimented last year with late fall frost seeding. We don’t notice any significant difference between what we seeded then vs the spring seeding. The advantage of the fall seeding is that by the time the snows melted we already had the seed in the ground when we might otherwise be occupied with spring projects.
The kale and rape did great even in the shadows of the regen, small trees that had sprouted from stumps and between stumps. In fact, they did so well that I wish I had planted broccoli and brussel sprouts like that! The pigs browse the leaves in the summer and then in the late fall they go for the roots. They do the same for the beets, turnips and mangles. This allows the cole and root crops to keep growing while being grazed and then provide a late fall bounty.
For mob seeding we seed just before we’re about to move the livestock out of an area. They trample the seeds into the soil. The grass and clover seeds are too small for sheep, pigs and cattle to pickup so they don’t eat it. This works with small seeds and big animals. e.g., no corn and no chickens.
For rain seeding a.k.a. storm seeding we watch the weather and seed just before a rain storm. The falling rain drops drive the seed down into the soil and fling soil up into the air to cover the seeds. This also wets the seeds to get them to sprout. Combining mob seeding and rain seeding is ideal.
Grasses and Clover initially hand seeded 12 years ago.
Timing is important or various little critters will eat the seed. Chickens are an obvious concern as are the field mice and such. By timing things correctly most of the seed gets into the soil quickly and thus away from the animals who would eat it.
This is similar to a natural seeding method, like the seeds coming off of the plants. It is a heck of a lot easier and safer than drilling and driving a tractor on our steep slopes. I try hard to avoid tractor work on inclines even though I have our tractor wheels spread to a full 8′ of width. On flat lands this would be less of a concern and one could more easily do mechanical seeding, tilling, drilling and all those fun things.
In a hot or dry climate our techniques might not work as well due to the lack of frosts, less rain fall and the seedlings needing more cover. Try a patch and see if it works for you.
More on frost seeding on these posts.
For more photos of our pastures see this post.
Outdoors: 61°F/34°F Cloudy, Occasional Light Rain
Tiny Cottage: 68°F/66°F
Daily Spark: Always make new mistakes. -Ester Dysen