Renovating and reseeding a pasture requires time, money and a little luck. If you begin the planning process in spring, you’ll save yourself from last-minute decisions in the fall. Non-irrigated, western Oregon pastures are typically planted in early September to early October, depending on weather conditions. Preparation begins earlier in the season.
Many different renovation options await you. You can kill your existing pasture in the spring and leave the land fallow all summer. You could intensively mow the pasture or periodically disk the soil to reduce weed pressure. Whatever your strategy, make preparing a good seedbed a top priority.
Take soil samples from your fields for analysis in spring. That is a perfect time to evaluate the soil’s fertility and apply nutrients.
Many soils have an acidic pH, which would benefit from incorporating lime before seeding. For example, white clover is a common pasture legume that prefers a soil pH near 6.5, which is relatively acidic.
For long-term success, plant grass and legume varieties adapted to the property’s soil conditions and intended use. For example, plants suited for a field that will be grazed and cut for hay are different than plants for an exercise area. In general, ryegrass tolerates somewhat poorly drained soils, orchardgrass prefers well-drained soils, and tall fescue varieties adapt to most soil conditions.
Another consideration is selecting which fields to renovate and how that will affect your grazing system. Generally, we recommend renovating no more than 25% of your fields or acres in a given year to allow for grazing the remaining acreage. Give a newly planted pasture a year to become established before animals graze.
Perhaps most importantly, evaluate your current pasture management and determine ways to improve. If you feel the only solution to a better pasture is to finance a complete renovation, be ready to implement sound management practices, so the new seeding is a long-term investment.
To explore options in detail download the free Extension publication “Pasture and Hayland Renovation for Western Washington and Oregon”.