Not many people think of the dead of winter when deciding when to plant forages, but taking advantage of frost seeding forages can be beneficial to your operation. Mid- February and early March is a perfect time to inter-seed cool season annuals into a grass based grazing system for spring grazing.

Tillage methods of planting has the greatest rate of success, though frost seeding by broadcasting seed can be very cost effective. Seed to soil contact is crucial for seeds to germinate and grow.

Pastures that have been grazed intensively throughout the fall and early winter provide a good base to start with due to the fact that the seed has better chances of having proper soil contact.

By dragging the field or slightly disturbing the soil can increase the yield of the stand by incorporating the seed into the sod and soil. This can be also accomplished by having cattle walking over the seeded area and having the seed trampled in the ground.

Frost seeding works as the ground “honey combs" during this time of year. As temperatures climb to above freezing during the day, but drop below freezing at night, the soil opens and closes, work the seed downward, into the soil surface.

Early morning frost seeding, before the soil surface begins to thaw, is recommended. If the soil surface is “slimy", wait to seed until you get another morning when the soil has frozen again.

Legumes such as Red Clover work the best when frost seeding into a stand of grass, such as Fescue to give additional nutrients and growth coming out of Winter. Red Clover does well due to its seedling vigor, as well as able to tolerate varying pH, drought, and fertility.

For more information on this or other agricultural topics, contact Agent Matthew Place at (252) 257-3640 or matthew_place@ncsu.edu.