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Helping the grass growRSS feed

Wednesday 17 April, 2013

by Rosemary at 10:22am in Grassland management 4 comments Add your own

I think I have said before that managing grass causes me more headaches than any other part of smallholding. All I can say is “nothing’s changed”.

Last year (2012) was pretty awful for our grazing. Grass doesn’t really appreciate being under water – and some of ours was for a good part of the year. Although our soil is mostly loamy sand and sandy loam, we are close to sea level and the water table is quite high. Coupled with the fact that some of our neighbours aren’t terribly assiduous are ditch clearing, we had a lot of standing water for much of the year.

And of course, wet soil and stock isn’t a good mix, so there’s been some poaching. We housed the cattle from Christmas until early March, when they went to our rented grazing but the sheep have been outside, albeit with access to a field shelter and the access to the field shelter has taken a hammering. :-(

I am seriously considering housing them next year from Christmas or scanning in January until lambing (see previous diary entries and there will be more on sheep housing).

Anyway, we are where we are so I reckoned that it was time to make a plan for the grass. First of all, I wanted to reassure myself that there is not a soil pan preventing the rainwater draining away. If there is, then we would look at getting a contractor to do some soil slitting or even subsoiling.

To do this, I needed to dig a spade width, 12-14” down and see where the grassroots are and if the soil is wet on top and dry underneath. Done that – no pan.

I have also taken some soil samples for analysis. On grazing land, the sample should be taken 2-4” below the surface and I needed 0.5kg per sample (sorry to interchange imperial and metric measurements). I took four samples – one from Sheepfold, the paddock the ponies use most of the time; one from the paddock in front of the house; one from the two Top paddocks and one from the two Ditch paddocks.

The two Top paddocks are similar as are the two Ditch paddocks so I reckon they can get the same treatment. The samples have gone to SRUC at Forfar for testing. Each sample will cost £15.70 to test for pH, phosphate, potassium and magnesium. I could save some money by submitting one test, given our small acreage but the ground conditions do vary across the property. But if the tests come back very similar, I will only submit one sample in future. :-)

In the meantime, SRUC has advised to spread a straight nitrogen fertiliser (33.5%) at 50kg/acre now. Thereafter, we’ve to apply 16.16.16 in mid-May and end of July, subject to the soil analysis. We may also have to lime. Given all this spreading, we have invested in a fertiliser spreader so that we can do this ourselves. The nitrogen fertiliser has been delivered – we just need to get the technology sorted out. The application rate of N is low, so should give the grass a boost without doing any long-term harm to the clover in the sward.

We’ve also been advised to harrow hard and overseed at 1/3 rate with a ryegrass / clover mix. We’ve harrowed twice now and I have two bags of Barenbrug Barmix Renew in the shed ready to go. The grass seed mixture is designed for overseeding and contains ryegrass, timothy, cocksfoot and white clover.

The plan is to mix the grass seed and the fertiliser and spread them together in one pass, then roll. We’ve borrowed a roller from a local contractor.

Just need to wait for the wind to drop, or we’ll be treating the neighbour’s fields.

Comments

farmerjim

Thursday 18 April, 2013 at 7:48pm

Very interesting piece about the grass,or lack of it.You got the sample tested at SRUC is this a university dept.?

Rosemary

Thursday 18 April, 2013 at 9:46pm

SRUC is what used to be SAC Scottish Agricultural Colleges plus Oatridge, Elmwood and Barony Colleges (more or less) :-)

Derbyshire Hillbilly

Friday 6 May, 2016 at 11:19pm

How did your overseeding go, did you see a noticeble improvement?

Rosemary

Monday 9 May, 2016 at 1:10pm

Hi DH. Some parts have doen really well and last summer it all looked great. We've had a pretty awful wet winter with quite a lot of flooding and tbh it looks a bit scabby just now. I haven't resolved the issue of the sheep - we had four groups of sheep from January scanning (gimmers, singles and tup, twins and triplets) so four paddocks that have been grazed hard over winter. That and the cool spring mean the grass has been slow to come away. The harrow has made a huge difference pulling out the moss and rubbish. I think things are improving slowly, but it's an ongoing task :-)

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