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Pasture Planting Guide


It is important to consider the following list when deciding what to plant:

  • Hay or Grazing
  • Best species for your area
  • Equipment available
  • New pasture or pasture renovation
    • If pasture contains 40-75% desired species, over-seed
    • Otherwise, reestablish new pasture

Establishing a new pasture or renovating an existing pasture typically requires some management for forage to establish quickly. Below are a few steps to establish or renovate a pasture

Sample and Test Soil:

First step in preparing to renew or establish your pasture is to get a soil test so you have an accurate picture of your soils needs. You can contact your local extension gent to get information on getting a proper soil sample.

Using your soil test recommendations, incorporate necessary fertilizer/soil amendments during seedbed preparation. Avoid applying fertilizer to drought stressed seedlings as that can kill your stand.

If your soil is very acidic this can take years to correct completely. It is best to apply lime 6 months prior to seeding when broadcast over the pasture to allow pH to adjust in the root zone for optimal success. But, if you are going to disk your soil apply the lime prior to disking so that will be in your root zone and you are ready to plant.

Choose best species:

It is best to check with your local extension agency about the best grass/legume to use for your area, soils, and desired usage (hay, forage, types of animals).

If legumes are part of your pasture, seed inoculation with fresh inoculum (unless seed comes pre-inoculated) just before planting will provide additional nitrogen fixation. Be sure to get proper inoculum for your species of legume. If using inoculum, this should NOT be mixed with fertilizer as this can kill the bacteria within the inoculum.

Ground Preparation:

Prep soil so that is it fine and firm so that you will get good seed-soil contact, this is a must for good germination. It allows for consistent moisture is necessary for germination.

You will need to kill of all existing vegetation. Rake off excess debris so seed can make good soil contact when spread.

Planting Time:

This will vary upon region. Guidelines are to plant in the spring after danger of frost though fall (approximately 6-8 weeks before frost for most species). Or, after everything is frozen for dormant seeding. Dormant seeding allows the seed to begin germination at the onset of warm weather. Either way, what you must avoid is having a frost occur AFTER the seed has germinated.

Seeding Method:

Seed depth should be about 1/4 inch. However, it is better for the seed to be on the surface of the soil than to at a depth over 1/2 inch or greater. There are 3 main options for spreading seed.

  • Drilling - cuts a thin furrow in the soil, deposits the seed, then covers it and firms the soil with wheels
  • Cultipacking - seed is dropped onto soil, toothed rollers press seed below surface. Be careful not to press too deeply.
  • Broadcasting - most common and easiest method. Simply use a seed spreader to cast soil on the surface on the soil.


Irrigate as needed to maintain soil moisture. The new seeding should not be allowed to dry out until seedlings are well rooted. Once the seeds have germinated and established roots, you can ease off the watering over the course of a few weeks.

Weed Control:

There are many herbicides that only kill annual grasses or only kill broadleaf weeds. Be sure to check the label to make sure it will not kill your pasture species. Plants must be well established before using any herbicides, a good rule of thumb is when your plants are 6 inches tall or more, they strong enough for your to spray herbicides.

Pasture Management:

Use proper management to maintain a productive pasture - be sure not to allow animals to graze to early or too often. Allow plants to become well established before allowing animals to graze (typically 8-12 inches tall). Rotate animals away from pasture when grazed down to around 4 inches, then allow to get to about 8-12 inches again.

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