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Seeding Small Pastures

With five acres total and maybe about two acres of grazing area, we have been working hard to best utilize our land by seeding small pastures. Back in April we seeded an area for our goats. Here’s how we did it (by hand) and the results a few months later.

The previous owners of our farmstead had the garden in a small area largely shaded by pine trees. We need a separate area to house our bucks (male goats for breeding) so we are in the process of turning that old garden into a nice paddock for them. The first step was to get a good grass mix planted in early spring.

Clearing Out the Old Garden with Pig Power

The first thing we needed to do was clear out the old plants from last year’s garden. Thankfully, we have a resident pig who, at the time, had a boyfriend visiting for a few weeks. We extended their paddock into the garden and let them go to work.

They did an excellent job turning the soil and eating almost all the roots and old plant material. What they didn’t eat, they turned in to the soil to make a nice green compost for us.

Preparing the Seed Bed

Iris and her boyfriend Roy did a great job of digging up the soil. Unfortunately, they weren’t kind enough to smooth it out after so we were left with some large hills and big holes.

Jane and I went out with a rake one afternoon and spent a half hour or so shoving and spreading dirt to even everything out.

raking the seed bed rough and tumble farmhouse

After redistributing the soil, I did my best to break up big clumps of dirt and make the soil as fine as possible. Seeds do best in a soft, inviting soil. Rocky, lumpy, uneven soil will work, but a fluffy seed bed is your best option.

Selecting the Seed for the Paddock

Spring was fully upon us and we didn’t want to wait any longer for planting so we bought what was available at our local fleet supply store. We went with ForagMax – All Purpose pasture seed. We got it in a twenty five pound bag that was suitable for covering one acre.

I’m the sort of person who needs comparisons to understand size, height, distance, etc. “One acre” isn’t something that I can picture. However, a mentor of mine once explained that an acre is equivalent to a football field with the end zones cut off. Aha! Now that’s something I can wrap my head around.

We went with the all purpose seed because it was affordable and they didn’t have anything specific for goats. Goats aren’t really grazers. They are more so “browsers”. They are happier munching through a thicket than eating out on a prairie.

This grazing mix had 35-Percent Forage Fescue, 15-percent tetraploid annual rye, 24-percent Intermediate rye, 10-percent Alfalfa, 3-percent kenland Red Clover, 3-percent climax Timothy, and 10-percent fawn tall Fescue.

Seeding Small Pastures

This would have been easier with a seed spreader, but we didn’t have one. Something for spreading lawn seed might work but we just spread by hand.

scattering pasture seed rough and tumble farmhouse

I worked my way across the seed bed and threw out fisfuls of seed, scattering it as best as I could.

In addition to this new paddock, I also seeded a smaller paddock by the barn and our round pen. I was pretty heavy handed spreading the seed so I used up the entire bag. I’d say the total acreage I covered was about 3/4 of an acre.

Seed to Soil Contact

For best germination, a seed needs good seed to soil contact. This means that your seed is surrounded by as much soil as possible. Air around a seed will prevent it from absorbing moisture from the soil around it. That’s why when we plant seeds in our garden we bury them under the soil and give it a nice soft pat after, to ensure the seed is snug.

When you are seeding small pastures, it is possible to do this “by hand” as well. We have an old ice fishing sled (another random thing left from the previous owners) which I threw a fifty pound feed sack in. I dragged it around the paddock Zamboni style, pressing all the seed I just scattered into the ground.

rough and tumble farmhouse seed to soil contact

This step may or may not have been necessary. I will say that we had a nice thick swath of grass come up here. In our barn paddock I didn’t press the seeds, and we still had good results but not quite as thick as the goat paddock.

The Results

I seeded the pasture mix around the 21st of April.

goat paddock rough and tumble farmhouse

Here it is on July 2nd.

seeded goat paddock round and tumble farmhouse

The clover is really doing well and it seems like overall the grass is establishing nicely.

As I mentioned above, our barn paddock didn’t come up quite as thick. In our round pen I’m fairly sure none came up at all. This is for two reasons that I can think of. First, our chicken door opens right into the round pen and they do a lot of scratching and pecking out there.

Second, that round pen was a dump site for old coop bedding which was not properly composted, so the soil may just be too darn hot (as in too much nitrogen).

What About Water?

If you really want your grass to establish well, a minimum of weekly watering would probably do some good. Since we are seeding small pastures here, a yard sprinkler would work fine. Most of May we were in a drought, so I think if I had watered it regularly we’d have doubled the grass we have now.

Overall, I am happy with the germination and growth of forage in our new goat paddock. Next on the docket is to make a little shelter for our boys and to reinforce the fence.

Watch and Learn

If you’d like to see this whole process in action (as well as a riveting search for the rake) check out my YouTube video below!

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