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Grass Seeding on the Eastern Front-Range of Colorado

In This Section

Quick Facts About Grass

Seed Mixes

Preparing The Seedbed

Seeding the Grass

Follow-up Weed Control

Additional Information

Quick Facts About Grass

Grasses can be classified as sod-formers, or bunch grasses, cool season, or warm season and native or introduced. Sod-forming grasses reproduce from their root systems as well as from seeds. Bunch grasses grow in bunches and reproduce primarily from seeds. Cool-season grasses actively grow during the cool months of the year, in the spring and the fall; warm season grasses actively grow during the summer months. Native grasses are those species of grass that are historically found in this area. Introduced grasses are those that are from a different area.

Big BluestemThere are several predetermined factors that must be considered when selecting a grass. Predetermined factors such as soil, climate and available water are factors that you must plan around. Soil texture dictates what type of grass will perform the best on a given site. As a rule of thumb, short, sod-forming grasses perform best on the heavy soils such as clay, and tall grasses perform best on the lighter sandy soils.

In this low rainfall area, a loamy textured soil, which is a combination of the three different soil particles: clay, silt and sand, can grow both mid-grasses and short grasses, but not tall grasses with- out sufficient water.

Our front-range climate typically gives us 12 to 14 inches of total precipitation annually, and we have an average annual growing season of 120-150 days per year. The amount of available water received each year from annual precipitation is certainly enough to support many of the native grass species in this area. However, if you decide that an introduced grass species would better suit your needs, and you do not have irrigation water available, verify that it is a grass adapted to your soils, climate and water regime prior to planting.

Function for your situation should be considered next. Several different seeding recommendations are listed in the tables below. There are mixes for pasture areas, outlying lawn/recreation areas and wildlife areas. If you do not see a mix listed below that fits your situation, or you are unsure of your soil type, please call your local NRCS office for a site-specific recommendation, especially if you suspect a high salt content in your soil.

Seed Mixes

 

DRYLAND PASTURE MIXES1

Pasture areas should contain durable, palatable grasses. In a dryland situation, the desired season of use will dictate which species of grass should be used. If spring and fall pasture is desired, a cool season species should be used. If summer pasture is desired, a warm season species should be used. Or, a combination of the two if season long use is desired.

Introduced Grasses for All Soil Types*

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS** RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE***

Pubescent Wheatgrass

Luna

Cool season, Open sod-forming, Mid-grass

9.00

50%

4.50

Intermediate Wheatgrass

Amur or Oahe

Cool season, Open sod-forming, Mid-grass

10.00

50%

5.00

*This seeding mix will work on most soil types. However, if you have extremely sandy soils, please call your local NRCS office for a tailored seeding mixture.

**PLS=Pure Live Seed. Seed is usually sold in bulk pounds. Bulk pounds includes seed chaff (material that does not germinate), inert matter, seed that will not germinate, and occasionally seed from other plants. PLS pounds are a percentage of bulk seed pounds that will vary from one batch of seed to another. PLS=(% quantity * %germination)/100.

***The PLS seeding rate for one acre should be doubled when the broadcast seeding method is used.

Native Grasses for Loamy Soils

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE

Western

Wheatgrass

Arriba or Barton

Cool season, Open sod-forming, mid-grass

8.00

40%

3.20

Sideoats grama

Vaughn or Butte

Warm season, bunch type Short to mid-grass

4.50

30%

1.35

Blue grama

Lovington or Hachita

Warm season, sod-forming & clump, short grass

1.50

10%

0.15

Switchgrass

Grenville or Blackwell

Warm season, clump type Tall grass

2.50

20%

0.50

Native Grasses for Clay Soils

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE**

Western Wheatgrass

Arriba or Barton

Cool season, Open sod-forming, mid-grass

8.00

40%

3.20

Sideoats grama

Vaughn or Butte

Warm season, bunch type Short to mid-grass

4.50

20%

0.90

Blue grama

Lovington or Hachita

Warm season, sod-forming & clump, short grass

1.50

20%

0.30

Buffalo grass

Texoka or Sharps’ Improved

Warm season, sod-forming, short grass

3.00

20%

0.60

Native Grasses for Sandy Soils

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE

Sand bluestem

Elida, Garden

Warm season, sod-forming Tall grass

8.00

30%

2.40

Yellow Indiangrass

Llano

Warm season, bunch type Tall grass

5.00

20%

1.00

Switchgrass

Grenville or Blackwell

Warm season, clump type Tall grass

2.50

20%

0.50

Prairie sandreed

Goshen

Warm season, sod-forming Tall grass

3.50

20%

0.70

Western Wheatgrass

Arriba or Barton

Cool season, Open sod-forming, mid-grass

8.00

10%

0.80

Introduced Grasses for Irrigated Pastures on Clay and Loam Soil Types2

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES

PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE

Meadow brome

Regar

Cool-season, mild sod- Forming mid-grass

17.00

30%

5.10

Smooth brome

Lincoln

Cool-season, aggressive Sod-forming mid-grass

13.00

40%

5.20

Orchardgrass

Latar Potomac

Cool season, bunch-type Mid-grass

4.00

30%

1.20

RECREATIONAL OUTLYING LAWN AREA SEED MIXES3 Buffalo Grass

 

A recreational outlying lawn area by definition is that transitional area between your manicured lawn and outbuildings or driveways. Typically, these areas need to be durable to heavy traffic, easy to maintain with few mowing operations, and not dependent on irrigation water. Believe it or not, there are a few species of grasses that work great in these situations. A couple of those are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduced Grass for All Soil Types

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE

Crested Wheatgrass

Ephriam

Cool-season, slow sod forming Mid-grass

10

100%

10.00

Native Grass for Clay and Loam Soil Types

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE

Blue grama

Lovington or Hachita

Warm season, sod-forming & clump

Short grass

1.50

20%

0.3

Buffalo grass

Texoka or Sharp’s improved

Warm-season, sod-forming, Short grass

Bur=8

Grain=3

80%

6.40

2.40

WILDLIFE AREA SEED MIXES4

A wildlife area should contain a variety of native grasses, and a shrub or forb. Several different species should be planted together to provide wildlife with food, cover and nesting areas. Native flowers and shrubs have been added to these mixes also for enhanced wildlife benefits!

Clay and Loam Soils

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE

Western

Wheatgrass

Arriba or Barton

Cool season, Open sod-forming, mid-grass

8.00

25%

2.00

Sideoats grama

Vaughn or Butte

Warm season, bunch type Short to mid-grass

4.50

20%

0.90

Blue grama

Lovington or Hachita

Warm season, sod-forming & clump, short grass

1.50

20%

0.30

Green needlegrass

Lodorm

Cool-season, bunch-type, mid-grass

5.00

5%

0.25

Switchgrass

Grenville or Blackwell

Warm season, clump type Tall grass

2.50

20%

0.50

Winterfat (shrub)

 

Cool-season, perennial

3.00

10%

0.30

Sandy Soils

SPECIES

VARIETY

PLANT CHARACTERISTICS

REQUIRED PLS RATES PER ACRE

% OF SPECIES IN MIX

PLS SEEDING RATE FOR ONE ACRE

Sand bluestem

Elida, Garden

Warm season, mild sod-forming Tall grass

8.00

20%

1.60

Yellow Indiangrass

Llano, Cheyenne

Warm season, bunch type Tall grass

5.00

20%

1.00

Switchgrass

Grenville, Blackwell

Warm season, clump type Tall grass

2.50

20%

0.50

Prairie sandreed

Goshen

Warm season, sod-forming Tall grass

3.50

20%

0.70

Western

Wheatgrass

Arriba, Barton

Cool season, Open sod-forming, mid-grass

8.00

10%

0.80

Skunkbush sumac (shrub)

 

Perennial, cool season

3.00

10%

0.30

Preparing the Seedbed5

The best seedbed for all situations is one that is free of debris including old weed matter, weed seed, rocks, clods, and other impervious material. A good seedbed should also be fluffy yet firm. A test of the perfect seedbed is to take a walk across it. You should not stumble over old weed matter or dirt clods, and your footprints should sink about ¼" into the soil. Sometimes it will take several mechanical operations to obtain the perfect seedbed. Those operations can include deep ripping to a depth of 18" if severe compaction exists. This would then be followed by a disc operation to breakup the bigger clods. At this point a second disc operation or a harrow operation would be needed to breakup the smaller clods and smooth the surface. Are you ready to plant the grass now? The answer is yes, if your site is on heavy soil that did not previously have an abundance of weed cover. However, if your soil is lighter than a loam and/or had a previously abundant weed cover, then it is strongly recommended that before you plant your grass, a cover crop is established to protect the seedbed, and discourage annual weed growth.

There are several types of cover crops that can be used. One of those is a hybrid sterile sorghum cover crop. Start by preparing the seedbed as listed above in the spring around early May. Drill the sorghum at a rate of 4 to 8 pounds to the acre on clay or loam soils, and 6 to 10 pounds to the acre on sandy soils. Seeding depth is 1", and row spacing is 14" to 21" apart, the closer the spacing the less weed competition. Planting dates are between mid-May to mid-June. This cover crop will germinate and begin to grow within 7 to 12 days. Typically, the cover crop will outgrow and out-compete annual invasive weeds over the summer. If significant growth is achieved on the cover crop, mowing may be necessary. Ideally, the stubble left after mowing should be 12" to 14". Any mowing equipment that does not produce a windrow of residue can be used. If all of the weeds have been terminated, and you have just the standing sorghum stubble in the field, you are now ready to plant your grass! The grass can be seeded directly into the standing sorghum stubble with a good grass drill.

Seeding the Grass6

Dryland grass seeding can be done between November 15th and April 30th on unfrozen ground. Seeding depth is ¼" to ¾".

Irrigated grass seeding can be done between November 15th and June 30th on unfrozen ground. Seeding depth is also ¼" to ¾".

In both cases, the recommended machine to seed to grass is a grass drill. A good grass drill should be equipped with the following parts:

  1. An agitator in the seedbox-allows for equal distribution of seed.

  2. Double disc furrow openers-opens a small trench for the seed

  3. Drop tube placement-situated between the double disc furrow openers.

  4. Depth bands-control the depth of the planting.

  5. Press wheels or a drag chain-will cover and firm the soil around the seed, ensuring good seed to soil contact.

  6. Machinery should be set up for a row spacing of 7" to 12".

If the area you have to seed is small and you wish to apply the seed with a hand broadcaster or another broadcast method, be sure to double the seeding rates as listed above. The area should then be raked and packed to ensure good seed to soil contact.

Follow-up Weed Control7

The most important factor in establishing grass after it is seeded is continued weed control. Timely mowing operations are the most successful. Mowing annual invasive weeds immediately prior to those weeds setting seed is the most effective time to mow. Mowing may be necessary several times the first growing season. Mowing may also be necessary in the second and third growing years.

If you need help in weed identification and determining when to mow, please call your local NRCS or Extension office.

If perennial invasive or noxious weeds exist, spot chemical control might be the most effective weed control measures. Be sure to consult with a local licensed chemical representative for specific recommendations.

Additional Information

1,2,3 USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Technical Guide, Section IV, Standards and Specifications, Pasture and Hayland Planting, Colorado, March, 1992

4 USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Technical Notes, Colorado Agronomy Technical Note 90, October 8, 1997.

5,6,7 USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Technical Guide, Section IV, Standards and Specifications, Range Seeding, Colorado, January, 1991.

Brighton NRCS Field Office, 303-659-7004

C.A.R.T - A Manual for Success, 2nd Edition

Complete information on this and many other Small Acreage topics are now available in

C.A.R.T - A Manual for Success, 2nd Edition

CART manual
To obtain a copy of this book please contact the Adams County Small Acreage Coordinator 303.637.8157

 

 

 

 


 

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