Smallholding

Caring for grassland

If you have a property with existing grassland, in almost all cases, it is better to maintain or improve it by on-going careful management than to resort to ploughing and reseeding. It takes a long time for grassland to re-establish after ploughing, particularly if you are looking to have a hardwearing, persistent pasture with a mixture of herbage.

The new grassland will be vulnerable to infestation by weeds such an annual meadow grass and chickweed and attack from leatherjackets and pigeons. Ploughing will also inevitably disturb or destroy wildlife communities.

Assessing your grassland

Most grassland can be successfully renovated without resorting to ploughing. Spend some time looking at your grassland.

  • Dig up some soil – is it clay, sandy or somewhere in between. Is there much evidence of worms and organic matter?
  • Is it well drained or prone to flooding? Grass can pretty much withstand all that nature can throw at it, but it does not tolerate physical damage either from machinery or hooves, especially when wet (poaching). Soil that is badly drained will be more liable to poaching and you won’t be able to get stock or machinery on the land safely until later in spring.
  • What grasses and other plants are already there – are they good or bad? Good or bad will depend on your objectives.
  • How acid is the soil and how much nutrients are in the soil? It’s always useful to have the soil tested – your local agricultural merchant can usually help with this. You may be offered a basic test that measures pH only or a more detailed test that also measures the level of nutrients in the soil. The level of acidity can affect the availability of other nutrients to the grass and therefore to grazing livestock.
Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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