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Old 11-15-2014, 08:08 PM   #1
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Default Pasture management and for those who have lawns

daps comment about reviving old threads reminded me of one we had about controlling pasture weeds. I think natural pasture management and natural lawns are similar. I have done a lot of reading about how to naturally control weeds in pastures. The key is to keep the grass healthy so it competes with the weeds. In a lawn it is even easier because you don't have horses eating the grass and leaving the weeds. Lawn chemicals are such an unnecessary pollutant. When I want to eliminate weeds in my pasture I plant more grass seed and make sure the horses don't eat the existing grass too short. This is an environmental issue I fight every chance I get. Lawn chemicals. A neighbor who died years ago used to spray gallons of chemicals on his lawn. Years later his family puts nothing on the lawn and it still looks the same. With no chemicals.

This reminds me that there is a good alternative to using lawn or pasture chemicals. Plant more grass seed.
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Old 11-15-2014, 10:58 PM   #2
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I definitely agree that using chemicals on lawns is unnecessary. My problem is not just weeds (read non-natives)...but the grasses themselves are often non-native European grasses. My goal is to smother large sections of the grasses and weeds that make up our lawn and replace them with native grasses and forbs. My hope is that I can do a section at a time and keep the non native grasses from creeping in and infiltrating the native sections.

I realize now that I can't leave the turf grasses in the paths or they will make their way back into my native sections.
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Old 11-16-2014, 10:55 AM   #3
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I took a class a few years ago from Oregon State: Ecology of Invasive Plants. One of the key take-home messages was that disturbance is one of the critical ways that non-native invasives get established and start to take over. Disturbance can be natural or man-made. Natural would include things like fire, flooding, avalanche, or severe storms damaging trees and other vegetation. Man-made can be many, many things. Logging, clearing land for development, overgrazing, and alteration of waterways come to mind. Sometimes you have to disturb a land base that already contains non-natives when you are trying to restore it to native vegetation. Either way, being diligent to replant with natives immediately, followed up with repeated weed control is critical. If you can maintain a natural ecosystem and minimize or eliminate disturbance, you're ahead of the curve.
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Old 11-16-2014, 11:00 AM   #4
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For lawn lovers they don't care about native or non native. They just want that perfect uniform look. Are you still going to have a mowed lawn dap or will you have native grass that doesn't tall that you don't have to cut? I wonder what kind of grass seed I could plant in my pasture that is native. I have looked up the grasses in pasture mix and they are non native. What is your source for finding out about native grasses? I haven't had any luck when trying to do searches for native pasture grass.
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Old 11-16-2014, 11:12 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kchd View Post
I took a class a few years ago from Oregon State: Ecology of Invasive Plants. One of the key take-home messages was that disturbance is one of the critical ways that non-native invasives get established and start to take over. Disturbance can be natural or man-made. Natural would include things like fire, flooding, avalanche, or severe storms damaging trees and other vegetation. Man-made can be many, many things. Logging, clearing land for development, overgrazing, and alteration of waterways come to mind. Sometimes you have to disturb a land base that already contains non-natives when you are trying to restore it to native vegetation. Either way, being diligent to replant with natives immediately, followed up with repeated weed control is critical. If you can maintain a natural ecosystem and minimize or eliminate disturbance, you're ahead of the curve.
That is what I have found when researching natural pasture management. If you let the horses overgraze that makes a perfect area for weeds to grow. Cows will eat weeds but horses won't eat a lot of weeds so they will spread if the grass gets too short. I rotate my pastures. When the grass starts to get short in one I move them to the other one. I mow the pasture that is resting so the weeds don't get too tall. In the winter the horses stay in a lot with hay off the pasture so they won't eat it down to the ground. Creeping buttercup is a huge problem for pastures in this area. I have been able to decrease it by not letting my grass be overgrazed. There is a farm nearby that has way too many horses. Their pasture is a sea of yellow in the spring when buttercup is blooming. Buttercups are one of the many plants that are toxic to horses. They will only eat plants that are toxic if they are starving. I sure hope that farm gives their horses enough hay so they aren't tempted to eat buttercups in the early spring.
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Old 11-16-2014, 11:26 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EllenW View Post
I wonder what kind of grass seed I could plant in my pasture that is native. I have looked up the grasses in pasture mix and they are non native. What is your source for finding out about native grasses? I haven't had any luck when trying to do searches for native pasture grass.
Check this out, Ellen. They have a native mix specifically for your area.

Native Grass Seed - Native & Prairie Grasses

You may need to consider rotational grazing if you don't already, to allow for establishment and depending on your grazing pressure, to give your grass a rest.

***********

I see from your post right above this one (we must have been writing responses at the same time) that I "spoke" too soon, and that you do rotational graze. It's a handy tool.
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Old 11-16-2014, 02:28 PM   #7
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Adding legume to grass will increase grass production, and the leaf structure work well together. I personally find white and red clover to be a decent exotic to encourage because of its palatability and productivity. Partridge Pea is usually added in native mixes for some of that function.

Grass mixes will depend on your natural meadow/prairie conditions. Short grass, Tall grass, Savannah, Wet, Dry and so on. I think a lot of pasture grasses are cool season so theres things to eat early/late. Warm season grasses are more productive but are only growing during the summer. The core species that I like are

Switchgrass (Tall, Warm Season)
Indian Grass (Tall, Warm Season)
Big Bluestem (Tall, Warm Season)
Little Bluestem (Short/Tall)
Virginia Rye (Short, Fast growing, Cool Season)

Native Grasses, Native Shrubs, Northeast Native Plants, and Soil Erosion Control Solutions at: New England Wetland Plants, Inc.

"Turf" grasses. These can be used for lawns, but wont keep up to constant foot traffic. Isn't native on the coastal eastern US.

Blue Grama
Buffalo Grass

Grazing (cows): Conservation Grazing in Iowa | The Prairie Ecologist
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Old 11-16-2014, 03:42 PM   #8
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oh cool. Thank you kchd and rockerBoo. Off to feed the horses but will check out your info. I plan to turn my pastures into meadows if I eventually end up without horses so if I plant grass seed in the pasture I would like for it to be native although either way with or without horses I would rather plant native grass.
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kchd View Post
I took a class a few years ago from Oregon State: Ecology of Invasive Plants. One of the key take-home messages was that disturbance...If you can maintain a natural ecosystem and minimize or eliminate disturbance, you're ahead of the curve.
That is one reason I like the idea of smothering...perhaps I'm wrong, but it feels like there is less disturbance to the soil itself--not only the beneficial microorganisms and their various zones, but also exposing the seedbank (likely more invasive plants where I live as it has been developed/farmed for decades if not centuries).

I really hope that I am successful in reclaiming areas, then pretty much letting nature take its course (with the exception of several areas where I will try to prevent natural succession...my goal is to leave several areas in various stages of succession).

Once I move all of the rocks, and mini-boulders into place for my pond/streambed project, I hope to stop disturbing things that surely are utilizing the dry areas underneath. Creating landscapes that don't require continuous (man-made) disturbances seems to be the way to go.
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Old 11-16-2014, 05:11 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EllenW View Post
...I rotate my pastures. When the grass starts to get short in one I move them to the other one. I mow the pasture that is resting so the weeds don't get too tall. In the winter the horses stay in a lot with hay off the pasture so they won't eat it down to the ground. Creeping buttercup is a huge problem for pastures in this area. I have been able to decrease it by not letting my grass be overgrazed. There is a farm nearby that has way too many horses. Their pasture is a sea of yellow in the spring when buttercup is blooming...
Ellen, I commend you for not only researching this topic, but putting it into practice with huge success. I hope your neighbors notice your pastures, and inquire about how you've achieved it, so that they can put it into practice.

Keep up the good work, I hope you reduce your weeds more and more each year with the sound practices you are implementing.
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