Rains this past week may have hampered plans to mow pastures or some other outside chores. But make no mistake, we now have adequate soil moisture to plant winter pasture or wildlife food plots or even get that vegetable garden re-started.
Home gardeners that just avoided working in a hot, dry garden will appreciate the opportunity to plant frost tolerant plants at this time. All manner of cool season vegetables should be considered now. Just be sure to not plant all your garden at once as you’ll want to space out your harvest over time.
Wildlife enthusiasts can also plant a number of forages to benefit white-tailed deer. Looking at the opening day of deer season, plant a quick emerging seed such as turnip or collard greens or even a southern pea.
Southern peas (which include purple hulls and related peas) don’t stand a chance for any pea production. However, they will germinate in the soils that are still warm and their tender vegetation will be a big magnet for white tailed deer.
Other wildlife plantings such as grains and clovers can certainly still be planted at this time but will do more to fill the gap of forage when the acorn crop is gone and before spring green up.
It is an ideal time for cattlemen to also plant winter pastures.
It’s no secret that the stockman spends worlds of time and money getting ready to carry cattle thru the winter. Unlike the summer pastures that we expect to graze from April to at least October, winter finds ranchers hauling hay out to cattle.
To lessen the burden of hay, many utilize a winter pasture. Our most common winter grazed forages can be from ryegrass, small grains (such as cereal rye, oats, wheat or triticale), and clovers. If planted correctly under good weather conditions, the economics certainly favor this winter grazing option.
By far the most commonly planned and planted winter pasture is annual ryegrass. This grass is what commonly seen in abundance on roadsides and ditches. It is easy to start from seed, needing minimal to no seedbed preparation. Planted in late September thru October, it will be available to graze starting in February under most growing conditions.
For an earlier growing winter pasture that doesn’t adversely affect summer pastures, consider the small grains such as cereal rye, wheat or oats. Regardless of which you choose, let’s be clear that we have no interest in the actual grains that it could produce. We are completely interested in the leafy, nutritious forage that livestock will graze.
The biggest drawback of utilizing a grain is that the seed must be planted about an inch deep. And for most every producer that doesn’t want to disk up their summer pasture, that means renting or buying a no-till grain drill to get the seed into the soil.
Our third most common option is clovers. Planting clover will not only provide forage during the winter month in addition to beautifying your pastures when they bloom, but they will build your soil.
As a legume, clovers can add nitrogen to your soil. A benefit that pays you even if you don’t fully utilize it by grazing.
So whether a gardener, hunter or livestock producer or some combination of the three, last weeks rains should really be setting us getting fall plantings off to a great start.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is email@example.com
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