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Pasture questions, grow it or mow it? Does weed killer contaminate well water??

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  • Pasture questions, grow it or mow it? Does weed killer contaminate well water??

    Ok, so I'm rehabbing a small pasture that has a variety of different grasses in it, from Bermuda to who knows what. The Bermuda is close to the ground, but some of the other grass is getting quite tall, while I'm reseeding with some Rye. First question: Should I mow it down or let it grow? Some have said that it will "go to seed" and I should mow it, but recently I've seen some pastures where folks just let it grow tall until they put horses in it. What should I do? Second question: I have a few different weeds growing, one of which is that nasty stinging nettle and so I was spraying Round-up. Well, ranch hands came over and asked me not to use that because it pollutes the water they drink from the well. Ooops, my bad. So, other than picking the weeds by hand (my achin' back!) what can I do to kill the weeds?? TIA!
    Last edited by Dune; Oct. 6, 2009, 12:30 PM.

  • #2
    You can mow and still leave the grass pretty tall. It is good to let the grass go to seed and then mow it. If you put horses on a pasture with tall seed heads on the grass they tend to have eye problems and sticky seeds in their manes etc. I doubt that a weed killer would pollute a well unless it runs in to it. I would think it would all be filtered out by the earth, depending on the depth of the well. There are pasture weed killers that do not kill grass.
    ... _. ._ .._. .._


    • #3
      Mowing is always better than letting grass go to seed. Most grasses spread better via the root systems and very little of the seed actually reaches soil in order to take root.

      Mowing will also take care of some weeds, particularly if you mow before the weeds go to seed.

      The bad news is that Carolina Horsenettle is very tough to kill. Even pulling it by hand is not totally effective, since the root will regenerate the plant. I have been battling nettle for several years now and have found that spraying with a herbicide specifically targetting nettle is the only way to make progress. And you have to spray three years in a row in order to really be successful ... and have your neighbors spray if their property is infested. There are several combinations recommended, but all require a license to use .... do an internet search on horsenettle and see what might work for you.

      "Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit."
      - Desiderata, (c) Max Ehrman, 1926


      • #4
        Originally posted by ShotenStar View Post
        Mowing will also take care of some weeds, particularly if you mow before the weeds go to seed.
        True. Most plants (besides grass) will not live if mowed regularly.


        • #5
          Check with your county extension folks about what organic farmers
          are using in your area to control nettle. You might be able to kill it
          with a very strong vinegar (not the grocery store version but a
          concentrated acedic acid about 10X stronger). As I understand
          Roundup breaks down after about 24 hours but the farm workers
          are still going to be concerned even if there is no danger to them.
          If you tell them you are using vinegar or some other less worrisome
          sounding chemical, they will be happier and less likely to leave the
          job suddenly.
          Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
          Elmwood, Wisconsin


          • #6
            When I moved to my farm 5 years ago, the 9 acres of pasture were about 50% weeds. I mow all the time, with the blades up at 3.5 inches, and the weeds are losing the war. And leaving the grass that tall leaves plenty for the horses to graze. Also, I only mow about 2 acres per session, so it is at various lenghts throughout the pasture, by the time I finish the last section, the first section is ready to mow again.

            The only thing I have to do manual battle with is prickly pear cactus, those I have to dig up and dispose of, since mowing them only makes more.

            I do not use any herbicides, other than weed and grass killer along the fencelines.
            There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


            • #7
              Goats will eat most weeds before they eat the grass. I got portable electric netting with posts from Premier1 for about $100 hooked up to a solar charger that will keep all but my one "Evil Goat" in.
              By using goats for one year I now have a nice stand of grass on a couple of areas that were previously thick weeds.
              If you rotationally graze a flerd (flock + herd) all of the forage is utilized very nicely.


              • #8
                Mow fairly short (horses won't generally eat tall grass anyway, they think it's the "roughs"), frequently (weekly would be awesome but I'm lucky if I do it monthly), definitely before either grass or weeds go to seed. Spot treat (e.g., hand sprayer) specific plants of concern - there's no way the amount of Roundup you put on one plant will ever see ground water. Reseed in the fall with desirable grass strains for your area (varies by location - see your local ag people), highly recommend it be drilled for maximum germination. Fertilize in the fall (again, good to use ag people by sampling and getting fertilizer recommendation).


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Robin@DHH View Post
                  but the farm workers
                  are still going to be concerned even if there is no danger to them.
                  If you tell them you are using vinegar or some other less worrisome
                  sounding chemical, they will be happier and less likely to leave the
                  job suddenly.

                  I have a big problem with this


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by Lambie Boat View Post

                    I have a big problem with this
                    I don't know what you mean by this, I don't think she was saying to lie about it, just switching to something that would make them more comfortable. I still have a hard time believing that a small amount of Round-up is that big of a deal. I mean think of all the flyspray, medicine, urine/manure that is on the ground in much higher quantities. Maybe I should start another thread on weedkiller and well water contamination???


                    • #11
                      What I meant about telling ranch hands you are using vinegar is
                      to let them be comfortable with the product used. I don't think
                      these ranch hands understand the difference between Roundup
                      and Atrizine; they just don't want to see any chemicals sprayed
                      on the fields because they think the water will be polluted. If
                      the OP can show them that the item she is using is something
                      they have no fear about (such as vinegar), they are not likely
                      to be worried about the well water. Even if someone explains
                      to the ranch hands that Roundup is safe, they are not likely to
                      believe it and won't be happy to see it in use. Better to choose
                      something they are not uncomfortable about.

                      OP another possible approach might be to use flame weed killing
                      on those thistles.
                      Robin from Dancing Horse Hill
                      Elmwood, Wisconsin