Some frost seeding tips

By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo

There is still plenty of snow around but it’s always good to plan ahead.
The following is Part 1 of an article on frost seeding dealing with time of seeding, equipment, and site selection:
Frost seeding is used to improve productivity and forage quality of pastures and hay fields by broadcasting seed on frozen ground.
Conventional tillage, minimum tillage, and no-till usually have higher establishment success rate than frost seeding. However, frost seeding can be an economical way of rejuvenating an existing forage stand when tillage or no-tilling seeding are not viable options because of soil depth, variable soil drainage, stoniness, risk of soil erosion, cost, or immediate forage needs.
For much of Ontario, the best time to frost seed is from mid-March or early April, once the snow is all or nearly all melted (in our part of the world, it is usually about three weeks later than this).
Ideally, the ground freezes and thaws at least two-three times after the seed is broadcast. This freeze-thaw action helps to incorporate the seeds into the soil surface.
Avoid frost seeding on top of snow where any run-off from rapid snow melt will wash the seed away.
Frost seeding often is done using a spinner–spreader on an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), a snowmobile, or a tractor. In particularly rough or small areas, a hand-held broadcaster may be the preferred option.
For the seeds to germinate, there needs to be good seed to soil contact. The best sites for frost seeding are thinning grass stands with some soil exposed.
Seedling establishment also can be improved by overgrazing or clipping to five cm the previous fall to open the stand, weaken the existing plant growth, and allow for better freezing and thawing action.
Frost seeding is least successful in fields with thick sod.
Next week’s article will deal with species selection, seeding rates, and harvest management when frost seeding.
Dates to remember
•March 19–Food security gathering, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Emo Inn (call 482-221 to register).