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Rehabbing Overgrown Pasture

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  • Rehabbing Overgrown Pasture

    Due to crappy boarding situations, the DH and I are considering purchasing our own farm (again).

    I've managed several turn-key style operations, and my own farm for several years, but all of the pastures were in excellent condition and didn't need much more than rotation of stock and occasional over seeding.

    We've found a property that we really love, and monetarily its a great deal, but the ten acre pasture looks like it hasn't been used or bush hogged in about ten years. The weeds look like trees, the grass is thick but sporadic, and of course the fencing needs to be replaced.

    We're coming into Fall in Tennessee, near Knoxville to give you an idea of seasons and weather.

    Whats the best way to go about rehabbing a pasture like this? Should we have it bush hogged going into Fall? Overseed? Would it be best to continue to board the horses through the winter while we get the pasture back into the best shape possible or is it realistic to think that we can rehab the pasture while keeping the horses on it?

    I'd love to hear your opinions and experiences.
    “Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion.”

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • #2
    Had a friend move into a new place with over grown pastures....they burnt off the long tall grass ......and new grass started to sprout shortly after the burn.......they now have quite a lovely pasture.



    • #3
      Originally posted by pamperedponies View Post

      Whats the best way to go about rehabbing a pasture like this? Should we have it bush hogged going into Fall? Overseed? Would it be best to continue to board the horses through the winter while we get the pasture back into the best shape possible or is it realistic to think that we can rehab the pasture while keeping the horses on it?

      I'd love to hear your opinions and experiences.
      Gary Bates from UTK published a bit on this very thing this week...you could always call him :
      865 974 1000 and then ask for plant and soil sciences and then ask that secretary for Dr Gary Bates...great guy to talk to...

      it basically says to clip or graze the mess super low...then gramoxone spray once the rain returns this fall and no till drill fescue for the next years establishment a few days after spraying....

      Tamara in TN
      Last edited by Tamara in TN; Sep. 2, 2010, 02:33 PM.
      Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
      I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


      • #4
        We rehabbed our property. We had weeds and grass so tall a huge tractor with an enclosed cab could not be seen when I had it mowed the first time. I have my own tractor now, so I mow. Been here for 13 1/2 years now.

        I never mow to the ground. Your pasture is not a golf course or house lawn or a hay field. Also the dirt can errode, and when it is short fungus, and weed seeds can grow better. Longer is healthier.

        Mow now, and at nice height about 6" or so inches.

        We just mowed everything last weekend. We are in N. AL. So time to mow.

        Also if you mow to low or to the ground, it may dry out or burn the grass that is there.

        Put some horses on it and let them start fertilizing and eating.

        Come spring let it grow until about april then call somebody like Southern States and have them come do a weed and feed spraying. The weeds have to be actively growing for the weed killer grazon to work. Wait a week or two then mow again. It is suppose to not have rain for a few days after using grazon. So watch the forecast come next spring.

        You could mow, and overseed come this winter when it will finally ever rain again. Then come spring have them spray with grazon. And in no time you will be mowing every two weeks due to all the grass growing! Oh all that dang poision ivy will DIE DIE DIE with the spraying they will do. It is worth to have somebody else come spray. They are very experienced in spraying.

        Remember, do not mow ever to low. Your pasture is for food not looks(ie golf course). Well you know what I mean.


        • #5
          I'd bush hog immediately, then again toward the end of the growing season. From that point, your local extension agent can go into details about lime, fertilizer, herbicides, and overseeding in your area.

          When I bought my place 6 years ago, about 30 acres of it was thick weeds and multiflora rose. It was a real beast to bush hog the first time. There has been a very strong correlation between which areas are mowed more frequently and the quality of the forage--in other words, just keeping the weeds cut back has encouraged an amazing amount of good feed to grow. If we had fewer acres per horse, I'd be more aggressive with the pH, fertilizer, seeding, herbicides, etc. But frequent mowing alone has done a surprising amount of good.
          Last edited by WildBlue; Sep. 3, 2010, 08:17 AM. Reason: poor phrasing


          • #6
            I live right outside Knoxville also and had similar issues when we first moved there about 4 years ago. Definitely talk to the extension agent. Mine came out, walked the area with me, helped me get soil samples, identified weeds, and was a great resource. The key will be your soil test - the soils here are very acidic, and 2-3 tons of lime/acre were required for our renovation. It will take time to "sweeten" up the soil, so it should be put down as soon as possible.

            We ended up spraying BEFORE cutting the weeds (they have to be able to uptake the herbicide) and no-till drilling in the fall. You can inexpensively rent a no-till drill from the Farm Service. We did a mixture of orchard/non to low endophyte fescue. In the late winter/early spring we added a little white clover (have not had slobbers yet). You really need to wait until the grass is established before putting the horses on it or they will tear it out by the roots.

            If your pastures are not 95% weeds like mine were, you could mow then overseed with something like Marshall ryegrass/wheat to get some extra cover/forage and prevent erosion over the winter (these can be broadcast and dragged) and/or no-till drill some seed. I tried broadcasting the orchard/fescue seed also, but did not get a good germination rate. The ryegrass and wheat will die out in the spring about the time the other grasses are taking off. Might want to put in some warm season grass in the early to mid summer also (bermuda or crabgrass) as by mid-summer the cool-season grasses are shutting down and overgrazing can be a problem.

            Sorry about the long message - renovating my pastures have been quite educational (I also have been part of the Master Gardener Program).
            Last edited by neversaynever; Mar. 26, 2012, 04:20 PM.


            • #7
              Originally posted by WildBlue View Post
              ...in other words, cut the weeds back so the desirable stuff can thrive.

              Since I'm on a large rental, and the landlord doesn't want to spend a penny on the property, I'm not going to invest a fortune on rehabbing the pasture. BUT, I have mowed last year, the year before, and this year I have a lawn tractor (15 years old mind you) and managed to mow all by myself. I'm so proud!!!

              Anyway, I'm probably going to mow again this weekend, PRIMARILY to get rid of the weeds...and I'll set the mower as high as it will go ... which is about 6 inches.

              It seems to be seriously helping the pasture...LOTS of grass.
              "For God hates utterly
              The bray of bragging tongues."
              Sophocles, Antigone Spoken by the Leader of the Chorus of Theban Elders


              • #8
                Too late to spray, kills weeds that frost will kill anyway and the seeds are still there.

                Bush hog to 6" or so. I agree that minimum height cutting is not desirable; you'll be amazed how well the grass will spread itself if given the opportunity.

                Drill grass seed. Overseed not effective at all, especially in dry weather.

                Get ag agent to soil test. Fertilize and lime to spec. New grass won't grow without feed.

                Keep horses off during the winter if possible. In TN, you'll get some germination/growth until late December. If horses are on it, they'll beat hell out of it.

                If you can't keep 'em off, that's OK too but progress will be slower and you'll have to work harder at it.

                Cross fence so you can rotate and minimize stress on pasture.

                It may take a year or two (depending on use vs. growth), if you keep it fertilized and mowed, without overgrazing, it will be remarkably resilient.


                • #9
                  Oldenburg Mom you have me beat---and that's saying something. I too mow my 7 acres with a garden tractor and I have grass up the old wazoo!

                  This place started out in the old civil war days as a cotton farm. I just kept mowing it all down and underneath it all was actual grass. My place is all in pasture.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by kaluha2 View Post
                    Oldenburg Mom you have me beat---and that's saying something. I too mow my 7 acres with a garden tractor and I have grass up the old wazoo!
                    My place is all in pasture.
                    We'll we've got 52 acres, and believe you me, I do NOT do 52 acres! I just came in from mowing and actually, really, there is a certain visceral satisfaction mowing the weeds, especially the wild roses. Change that roses to: anything with prickers. Oh, and the burdock too.

                    I tried my newest technique in the Mowing war-on-weeds. If you raise the mower bed, it cuts about 6 inches. Perfect. If you lower the mower bed, you can adjust it to whatever height you want.

                    He he he. I've got it adjusted to 3". When a pricker weed comes along, I lower the mower to 3" ... and annihilate the sucker.

                    I cannot tell you how satisfying this is ... I swear, my blood pressure must be about 90/20!

                    Drawback: I have sunburned hands (*sigh*) and neck. Everthing else was covered.
                    "For God hates utterly
                    The bray of bragging tongues."
                    Sophocles, Antigone Spoken by the Leader of the Chorus of Theban Elders


                    • #11
                      something also not normally mentioned is that there are warm season weeds and cool season weeds..what everyone would be talking about right now would be the warm season grasses that spread by seed...you are also going to have to have a plan for the cool season weeds that will show up in the early spring..it's silly to try to fertilize w/o killing both seasons worth and that will take a full year plan in in the case of really bad fields two years

                      Tamara in TN
                      Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                      I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.