If your pasture is looking tired and in need of a refresh, it might be tempting to opt for a complete reseed, however the cost of this process and the time it takes for the field to become productive again could be prohibitive.
In this case, overseeding the pasture may be a more practical and cost effective option – indeed it is estimated that a quarter of all ryegrass sown in the UK is laid over existing pasture.
Preparing Pasture for Overseeding
Before sowing, it is vital that the soil is properly managed and pH levels are checked, along with levels of phosphate and potash. Seeds can then be sown anytime the temperatures are warm enough for germination – typically between March and September, however May should be avoided as late Spring growth may stifle germination of new seedlings.
Much in the same way you would tightly mow your lawn before overseeding, pasture should be grazed as short as possible – sheep may be a good option for this as they will remove more of the old grass than other livestock.
You may also need to make use of a chain harrow to pull out stubborn thatch or rocks which would impede the new seedlings from germinating properly.
The Right Seed Mix for Overseeding Pasture
Your seed mix should be designed to grow quickly as you need it to top up the existing vegetation before being smothered by weeds and other pests. For this reason, there is little point using slow-growing varieties such as timothy and cocksfoot.
It is better to sow ryegrasses and Italian or hybrid varieties will be good for short-term improvements, however if you are looking for a longer-term solution perennial ryegrass might be a better choice and your seed specialist will be able to create a blend specific to your needs.
Seeds can be sown using a fertiliser distributor, which has the benefit of covering a large area quickly, and placing the seed on top of the soil which is the best place for it to start germinating.
Returning Pasture to Use After Overseeding
Using the analogy of your lawn again, in the same way pets and children should be kept off it while the grass seed is trying to take, so too should your pasture be allowed time to flourish before it is put back into use.
However, that being said, there is a benefit to introducing light grazing into the field after around 4-5 weeks to keep exiting the grass in check and allowing the new seedlings to develop.
Avoid silage until a steady grass length of 4-5 inches can be regularly maintained – likewise avoid using nitrogen fertilisers as this will likely accelerate the growth of existing grass and inhibit your newly sown seeds.
For help creating a seed blend perfect for your pastures, get in touch with us and speak to one of our friendly seed specialists.