How to Grow Orchard Grass Hay

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Both fresh and hay orchard grass is used for feeding livestock. Many farmers are switching over from fescue and alfalfa grasses to orchard grass, because this warm-season forage crop is relatively inexpensive and horses prefer this grass type, according to American Horse Rider and Horses. It is important to prepare your soil prior to planting. Soil amendments may be necessary and you should apply starter fertilizer so your orchard grass can germinate and spread.

Things You'll Need

  • Shovel
  • Bucket
  • Container
  • Soil test
  • Dolomite limestone
  • Elemental sulfur
  • Fertilizer
  • Rotary spreader
  • Fertilizer truck
  • Rake
  • Dig 10 6-inch wedge-shaped holes in your lawn or pasture. Collect 1/2 cup soil at the bottom of each hole and mix all soil samples together in a bucket. Pour ½ cup of mixed soil in a container and mail out to your local cooperative extension office. Wait roughly three weeks for your soil analysis to come back. Apply limestone to soil that is too acidic or sulfur to alkaline soil based on the analysis' directions.

  • Apply a starter fertilizer to the soil that has a NPK amount of 5-10-5 with a rotary fertilizer spreader or fertilizer truck depending on how large of area you are planting. Distribute the starter fertilizer at a rate of 20 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. Work the starter fertilizer into the first 2 to 4 inches of top soil.

  • Pour your orchard grass seed into the fertilizer truck or rotary spreader. Distribute your orchard grass seed at a rate of 4 lbs. per an acre.

  • Cover your orchard grass seed with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of soil using a rake. Water the lawn or pasture area until the soil is moist. Keep the soil moist for one week, which may mean that you have to water several times a day. If the seed dries out, it will not be able to germinate.

  • Cut your orchard grass in the beginning of May. An early cutting means that grass has time to replenish itself.

Tips & Warnings

  • Plan to plant your orchard grass after the last frost for your area in the spring.
  • Reduce the chances of growing a yard full of weeds by purchasing quality orchard grass. Purchase a grass that has at least 85 percent purity and 80 percent germination.

References

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