Recommendations for Overseeding Horse Pastures

Overseeding horse pastures can help improve pasture production, forage quality, and ground cover. Here’s what to know.
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Overseeding horse pastures that contain cool season grasses can help improve pasture production and forage quality and ensure a good ground cover the following year without major pasture renovations.

Overseeding consists of planting seed in a field with existing grass cover to fill in bare patches and thicken the stand. Property owners can overseed the entire pasture or just the trouble areas. The best time for overseeding is the fall when weed competition is low and ideal growing conditions exist for cool-season grasses. The ideal time for overseeding in Kentucky is Sept. 1-15. Seeding dates might be earlier in northern regions and later in areas south of Kentucky. In areas with long cold winters, overseeding should occur in early spring. Note: In this article we will not discuss overseeding bermudagrass pastures with annual ryegrass.

Controlling competition from weeds is an important first step in overseeding. While herbicides are an effective way to control weeds, spraying can also hinder young grass seedlings, resulting in a failed establishment. Check your herbicide label for the recommended waiting period before seeding. More important than spraying weeds is mowing or grazing pastures close before seeding. This not only knocks back weeds, but reduces the chances that the existing pasture “shades out” the young seedlings that are just getting started.

Proper seeding method is also a key factor in overseeding success. The goal of any method is to place the seed ¼- to ½-inch into the soil and cover it to achieve good seed-to-soil contact. Use a no-till drill for the best chance of success. Make sure the drill is set correctly to keep seed at the correct depth. Harrowing before and after broadcast seeding is another method; however, it is much less effective than drilling. Using a cultipacker or roller after the harrow method can help improve seed to soil contact. Finally, frost seeding is an option for overseeding clovers. Frost seeding involves broadcasting seed onto the ground during mid to late February and relying on the freeze and thaw cycle to work the seed into the soil. Frost seeding works well with red and white clover, but success is limited with grasses and alfalfa

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