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There should be a pasturing or grazing community to ask such a question, but I suppose gardening and landscaping is as close as I can get.

I am trying to improve a few acres of pasture (for sheep), but I don't have access to anything expensive and fancy like a no-till drill. I read up on frost-seeding, and so I scattered my seed over the existing pasture on several days from mid-Feb to mid-March. But I also hear it doesn't work too well on sandy soils, and that's what I think I might have, to a degree. Plus I'm worried the existing stand is too thick in many places for a seed to find the soil.

So I'm looking for additional options to increase my germination rate. One idea is to wait for some warm late March days when the soil is really soft, and turn my flock onto a paddock early. There won't be much for them to find, but they'll be excited, and hopefully will spend the day tramping around and using their hooves to push some of that seed into the soft soil.

My kid actually just suggested a new idea and I want to put it out there for comment. She asked, "Daddy, why not just wait for those warm soft-soil days and then drive your tractor all over the pasture? Wouldn't those heavy tires press some seed into the soil?" Hmmpphh. Didn't think of that.

My JD tractor weighs about 8000 lbs and that's mostly sitting on the two big back wheels. The tires are going bald, though, so I may not get that much indentation on the soil, but if the soil is soft it'll squish it some at least. Would that not help get some better seed-soil contact?

Thoughts? Trust the frost-seeding alone? Add in the sheep hooves? Give the tractor a few runs over it? All three?

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    Soft wet soil and heavy tractor sounds like compaction, with a side of sliding all over (or worse) if the tires are bald and the pasture is not flat.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 1:17
  • Thank you, makes sense, glad I asked.
    – Paul W
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 1:21
  • You might try a tiny area with the tractors. But I'm guessing it will make things worse.
    – Boba Fit
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 16:25

1 Answer 1

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You might be OK just putting the sheep on the area and let them do the actual work.

The usual steps to reseed grass are:

  1. Remove cover. That's dead grass and long blades of existing grass.
  2. Wait for a still day.
  3. Spread the seed.
  4. Put down fertilizer, usually something like mulch or composted manure. The best type depends on the grass type.
  5. Water consistently.

The sheep should help you with 1. You might need to go remove some of the larger or thorny weeds. The sheep might just ignore a thorn bush.

You probably don't need or want to drive the seed into the ground so much as get it some good fertilizer. The sheep can also help you there. Though you might need to rake the product around a bit. If there's a big pile of sheep dropping in one place it may not be helpful.

Then you want to water the seeds until the new plants are established. That depends on the weather in your location. Or if you have the ability to irrigate if it is too dry.

If the grass cover is too little the first year you might need to buy some feed for the sheep. That's not too bad. You can use the feeding process to get the sheep used to coming over to you when you are around.

A working farm might keep the sheep in an enclosure for the winter. A barn or such. And the manure that collects then is composted more-or-less on site. Then it is collected and spread. If you have a front-end-loader and a manure spreader you can really get some very healthy grass this way. I know you said you don't have a lot of equipment, so that might be a problem. I would not want to do that task by hand.

But just letting the sheep wander and do their normal actions will tend to be very good for the grass.

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