a reseeded grass field

Reseeding grassland: how and when to do it

Reseeding grassland is a fundamental aspect of farming, essential for productive pastures and sustaining livestock feed production. In this guide, I delve into the main considerations and best practices for this process, focusing on traditional methods and optimal timing.

The traditional way to reseed grassland in the UK

Preparation and Assessment: Before beginning the reseeding process, I assess the condition of the field to identify areas with poor grass cover, weed infestations, or soil compaction. This initial assessment helps me determine the scope of the reseeding operation and the specific areas that require attention.

Glyphosate Application: Once I’ve identified the fields for reseeding, I apply glyphosate herbicide to the entire surface. Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that effectively kills a wide range of vegetation, including grasses, weeds, and other unwanted plants. I use a crop sprayer to evenly distribute the glyphosate over the grassland.

Allowing for Glyphosate Activity: After applying glyphosate, I allow sufficient time for the herbicide to translocate throughout the plants and effectively kill them at the root level. Depending on weather conditions and the types of vegetation present, I typically allow for a period of two months to ensure thorough herbicidal activity.

Monitoring and Assessment: During the waiting period, I monitor the treated areas to observe the effects of the glyphosate on the vegetation. It’s important to ensure that the herbicide is effectively killing the targeted plants and preparing the ground for reseeding.

Applying manure: Before ploughing, I would try to get slurry or farmyard manure onto the field.

Ploughing: Once the two-month period has elapsed and the vegetation shows signs of complete desiccation and die-off, I proceed with the ploughing operation. Using a tractor-mounted plough, I turn over the soil, incorporating the dead vegetation and organic matter into the soil profile.

Liming: I would get a soil test done to check the field’s nutrients and pH. I would usually need to apply a ton or two of lime to the acre.

Seedbed Preparation: Ploughing serves as a crucial step in seedbed preparation, creating a clean and fertile environment for the new grass seeds. The incorporation of organic matter from the dead vegetation helps improve soil structure, fertility, and water retention, creating optimal conditions for seed germination and establishment.

Selecting Grass Species: Before reseeding, I carefully select the appropriate grass species based on factors such as soil type, climate, intended use, and grazing management practices. Common grass species for reseeding in the UK include perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, meadow fescue, and timothy grass, among others.

Reseeding Operation: Once the seedbed is prepared, I sow the selected grass seeds using a seed drill or broadcast spreader. I follow recommended seeding rates and depths to ensure optimal seed-to-soil contact and germination. In some cases, I may also include legumes such as clover in the seed mix to enhance nitrogen fixation and soil fertility.

Post-Repair Management: After reseeding, I implement appropriate management practices to promote seedling establishment and suppress weed competition. This may include regular irrigation to maintain soil moisture, monitoring for weed emergence, and implementing weed control measures as needed.

Monitoring and Maintenance: Throughout the establishment phase, I closely monitor the reseeded areas for signs of seedling emergence, growth, and weed encroachment. I adjust management practices as necessary to ensure the successful establishment of the new grass stand.

Deciding between spring or autumn reseeding

Choosing between spring and autumn reseeding is a critical decision that can significantly impact the success of the grassland renovation project. Here’s how I determine whether to opt for spring or autumn reseeding:

Consider Weather and Climate: The local weather patterns and climate conditions play a significant role in determining the best time for reseeding. In the UK, spring reseeding is often preferred in regions with mild winters and early springs, while autumn reseeding may be more suitable in areas with cooler temperatures and adequate rainfall.

Soil Moisture and Temperature: Soil moisture and temperature are crucial factors influencing seed germination and establishment. In spring, soil temperatures gradually rise, promoting rapid seed germination and early growth. However, spring reseeding requires adequate soil moisture to support seedling establishment, which may be limited in drier regions or during periods of low rainfall.

Weed Competition: I would assess the level of weed competition present in the field being reseeded when deciding between spring and autumn reseeding. Autumn reseeding has less weed pressure than spring sowing, minimising competition with emerging grass seedlings.

Forage Production Goals: I would work out if I needed more grass for forage production in the same year when choosing between spring and autumn reseeding. Spring reseeding typically results in earlier forage production, allowing for grazing or forage production during the summer months. In contrast, autumn reseeding may delay initial forage production until the next spring but can provide better establishment conditions for grass seedlings fighting weeds.

Livestock Grazing and Management: Consider the availability of livestock grazing when scheduling reseeding operations. Spring reseeding may align better with your grazing rotation, allowing for the new reseed to be grazed by livestock. However, autumn reseeding may require adjustments to grazing patterns to avoid damaging newly established grass in wetter weather.

Risk of Frost and Waterlogging: Assess the risk of late spring frosts or waterlogging in autumn when making reseeding decisions. Late frosts in spring can damage emerging seedlings, while waterlogging during autumn reseeding can hinder seed germination and establishment.