Dead looking grass: mow before watering?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
We have a bunch of dead grass that we would like to turn into hay.
We have two months of growing season left and we're debating on how to go about it. We're going to irrigate, but should we cut the existing stuff before we start irrigating?
I think that the existing stuff will green back up. If we leave it, we will have more to cut sooner.
My wife thinks that when we start to water, new stuff will grow and that the existing stuff (all this years growth) is dead and will just shade the new stuff and lower the quality of the overall end harvest.
We're a bit new at this and full of guesses. Can anybody set us straight on this?
-- Paul Wheaton (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 28, 2001
Paul, what are you feeding??? The year that we had big drought we went into "survival" mode with our live stock and baled some pretty bad stuff for bulk, then supplimented with grains. Sometimes you just have to feed what you got and usually most animals will do ok on it unless it is moldy. I would not mow first if it were me doing it and I understand your situation there right.
-- diane (email@example.com), July 28, 2001.
Cows and goats. We were thinking of getting some pigs once we could pen them in.
-- Paul Wheaton (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 28, 2001.
I'm not an expert, but I think your wife is right, if not your dead grass(which is probably long and lying down; inedible for the livestock and only straw if baled), then the weeds(which are close to seeding if not already). I had posted a few months ago about our fields which are very lumpy (from previous owner's plowing)and covered in milkweed and other weeds. The suggestions were from burning (locals) to re-plowing and seeding with guidence from government agricultural agents for fertilizer, etc. We fenced it in, let the horses eat what they would, then moved the fencing to another area so we could mow what they left. A week after mowing, the field had such nice green grass that the horses were breaking through their electric fences to get to it. I noticed that their trampling the field lessoned the bumps quite a bit as well. By mowing before the weeds seed, the grass has a chance to grow and the weeds do not reproduce. The horses will not eat what is lying down. The cows may be different, so, please take that into consideration. Our fields are becoming nice, flat pasture with this rotation process. We are in central Maine, therefore a shorter growing season, if that is a consideration. I haven't a clue what hogs would eat, but I know what our picky horses eat. This is in very rocky soil, btw. I mean VERY rocky, like a rock wall with a bit of dirt sprinkled on top.
-- Epona (email@example.com), July 28, 2001.
The grass we have now is standing, but looking dead-ish.
I'm thinking that with some water and fertilizer, that grass will come back to life.
-- Paul Wheaton (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 29, 2001.
Paul, the grass that is standing now and "deadish" will not green up again. When it rains or you irrigate it will start new growth from the base. There's really no problem with leaving it there, it will just fill out your bales more when you finally do cut, and lower the quality of the hay, some. Which is no problem, just feed more of it and let them pick out what they want. I doubt they'll waste too much of it. If things are that dry and you really need the hay, I'd find some way to feed it, at any rate. You can always supplement grain, as Diane said, but finding hay on a bad hay year can be a problem.
-- Jennifer L. (Northern NYS) (email@example.com), July 29, 2001.
We have done hay for many years and the dead stuff needs to be cut and removed before you irrigate and try to grow a fresh batch of new hay. The more you cut grasses, the better quality you get! Don't let grasses go much beyond the "boot" stage, which is just when they start to set seedheads, you see seedheads, it's time to cut it, no matter how short or thin!
Be aware that it will take A LOT of water to grow a field of hay, and it will need an inch a week to make it worth your while to grow and harvest. If you have quite a bit of clover (red or white), you won't have to fertilize the fields, but have the soil checked by your local ag extension sevice (costs 8 dollars a sample here) to see if you need lime, most ground does. Liming is fairly cheap and long lasting, should be enough to have it applied every 8 years or so if you apply enough, the soil test will tell you ( the ag guy will tell you the rate of application needed) how much you need. Here we applied 4-5 tons per acre and the fields are doing great! We hay organically and don't use fertilizer, we planted enough red clover to act as natural fertilizer, legumes return nitrogen to the soil. You can rent a no-till seeder to do this too from your extension service, as we did last year, we planted timothy and red clover into the early spring existing hayfields when the new growth was very short, in March.
Basically, you got to keep your fields cut to discourage weed growth and encourage desirable grass growth, grasses spread by rhizome, not seed, so the more you cut it, the thicker it gets, just like your yard! Twice a year is the minimum required.
-- Annie Miller in SE OH (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 29, 2001.
I,too, had pastures that had been let go and the neighbors would graze their horses on it. I wasn't too concerned when I first moved here about the quality of the pastures because I didn't have livestock but as I have gotten closer to the time when I will be getting sheep, I have been paying closer attention to the quality of the pasture. I started mowing it in the late fall to get rid of the tall stuff and again in the spring after things start turning green. This has really improved the pasture because it gives the grass a fighting chance against the weeds. The only thing I have to be careful about is that I only have a garden lawn mower not a tractor so I can't do too big an area at a time or it will be too hard on my mower. So I do it in sections over the course of several weeks. All that it costs is the gasoline and your time and it really does make the pasture have nicer grass. Good luck.
-- Colleen (email@example.com), July 30, 2001.