Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thinking of Sprigging a new Pasture? Harvest Bermuda Sod with a Two-Horse Turning Plow Instead . . .

The health of pasture grasses this season, after the really hot late summer drought we had here, is a constant topic of conversation - even if only in my own mind with my own self.  I've seen lots more weeds this year, and some even look like new varieties to me, and some of the pastures are growing thinner stands of grass than last year.  I've been exploring having the back pasture plowed up and sprigged again with one of the new bermuda grasses.  But Ouch, it costs a lot to do, and I don't know that it can be justified except in a hay farming operation where irrigation is available - unless you are really good at predicting healthy spring and early summer rains.  Otherwise, there's lots of risk your money will go right down a dry drain.

Here's a look at an old-fashioned approach to establishing bermuda grass pastures in 1898 Mississippi. 
"You will find it growing well on the sandy soil of the piny woods, and on the red clay hills and on the black lands of the prairie belt.  Since Bermuda grass very rarely, if ever, matures seed in this latitude, the only safe method to propagate it is by transplanting the roots or the underground stems. This should be done in March.
After the land has been prepared as recommended above, then with a bull-tongue or narrow shovel plow open rows two feet apart. With a short spade shave off sod two inches thick; or, a cheaper and quicker method would be take a two-horse turning plow and set it to run shallow, and turn or edge up the sod.  
The sod can then be hauled in large pieces to the field and there be broken or cut into small pieces and dropped in the drill two feet apart, and covered with a light harrow;or, a better plan would be to go over the field with a heavy roller. This would firm the loose soil around the sod and at the same time level or press down the ridges left by the plow.  If the pieces of sod are entirely covered there will be no harm done - as soon as there is moisture enough in the soil the roots will take hold and the grass make rapid growth. In this climate Bermuda will furnish excellent grazing from the middle of May until the middle of November, and often as late as the middle of December."

From:  Winter and Summer Pasture in Mississippi, 1898, by Edward Read Lloyd

Here's a look at the cows in the back pasture a couple weeks back.  This pasture was once a dedicated hay pasture and received constant commercial fertilizers like clockwork in the growing season for probably 20 years.  It has been the poorest growing pasture for years now, and I have to wonder if it's not because of all that commercial fertilizer.  Cows never grazed the land to give it back more complex natural fertilizer, it just lived on N, P, and K. 

 



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