With spring just around the corner, now is the time to start thinking about your paddocks and fields to ensure your horses and ponies get the very best pasture. Here grass seed expert Peter Hunter offers advice to make the most of your grass land.
Explains Peter: “Early last spring, I was asked to write an article on how to rescue fields after one of the driest periods ever recorded. Publishing date was mid-April and we managed to stop publication, just in time as the heavens opened up.
“Work, which should have been carried out never got done, as there were never enough consecutive dry days to get on the land without making a mess and making matters worse.
“This year we have the problem of the wettest year recorded and in early spring the land is still saturated. The most popular time to re-seed or over-sow is April, August and September but with the strange weather patterns we have had in recent years, this is no longer the case.
“For instance the ideal time to sow last year would have been anytime in the wonderful March we had. So throw away the calendar and carry out your grassland work, when conditions allow.
“If there is such a thing as a normal year, grass seed will germinate between the months of March and September in lowland areas. Sowing in the summer months was taboo in case of drought but now that weather forecasts are much more accurate and can advise when rain is on the way, the summer should not be ruled out.
“So let’s be optimistic and hope that this year the weather will allow us to have good paddocks. Wheel ruts and poaching are likely to be the first problems to sort out. However tempting, leave well alone till conditions improve or matters will only be made worse.”
My ‘Ten Top Tips’ for grassland recovery are as follows:
- Poached land can be rescued, but timing is very important. If the ground is too wet, using a tractor will make a real mess. If the ground has dried out too much, then hoofprints and ruts will not roll back, leaving you with an uneven rough field which is not suitable for riding on.
- Start renovating work when the land is drying out and the temperature is warming up.
- Harrow the field. This will tear out old feg and moss, and make a partial seedbed. Harrow as a matter of routine, particularly if the droppings are not being collected.
- Oversow poached or damaged areas as weeds may invade these areas. Grass seed can be spread by hand, drill or fertiliser spreader.
- After the seed has been sown, lightly harrow then roll.
- Choose your grass seed carefully a good paddock mixture should be hard wearing and provide a thick and relatively short sward. If your field needs a complete reseed, March, April, August or September is a good time.
- If the preparation is right then the maintenance and upkeep is relatively easy. Topping stops the grazing sward from getting leggy and encourages horses to graze the entire field, not just parts of it.
- Pull out weeds when you see them and don’t leave them to spread their seeds. Droppings should be removed on a daily basis.
- Feed in different parts of the field to avoid poaching and spread by hand a little seed in those areas each time.
10. Put in an extra gate. This will prevent poaching and allow one gateway time to recover.
Hunter’s Newbury Paddock Mixture is designed specifically for horses and has been a firm favourite with horse and pony owners all over the country for many years.
It provides long-lasting grazing, with an abundance of ‘bottom’ grass and herbs to provide minerals from deep in the soil and is regarded by many as the mixture by which all others are judged.
Peter Hunter Seeds offers advice on all aspects of grassland management and supplies grass seeds for the equine and agricultural industry. He can be contacted on 07831 442415 or visit www.hunterseeds.com.