How to Grow Hay

How to Grow Hay. Perhaps you want to grow your own hay for your horses or livestock or maybe you want to produce it for market. No matter what plans you have, planting a new hay field takes some knowledge and access to farm equipment. Follow these steps and you'll have a field of soft hay blowing in the breeze before long.

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Prepare your soil for optimal germination and harvest. Take 3 to 4 samples of your soil to the nearest country extension office for testing. They will advise you on the nutrients needed to optimize your field.

Purchase hay seed that thrives in your area. Prairie hay does well in many climates, but lacks the protein level of Brome. Specialty hay, however, has different fertilizer needs, so research your choice carefully.

Loosen the field by plowing 2 to 3 three times over a period of a month to break up large clods and expose the roots of weeds to air, killing them. Plow only when the field is dry to prevent clumps.

Drill the hay seed into the soil on a calm day at a rate suggested on the container. If this is a brand new field, consider using slightly more seed, per acre, to establish greater plant germination.

Let nature take its course. After you seed there is little to do, but wait. If you have planted a winter crop, you may see some seedlings before they go dormant or you may not see them until spring. With a spring crop, you will see the germination sooner.

Fertilize and treat your young hay to increase your harvest. Hay matures its second or third year of growth, but before that time, you need to control the weeds and fertilize the hay to establish strong healthy plants. Take a young plant, roots attached, to your extension office for a professional opinion.

Tips & Warnings

  • Consider asking a farmer to plant hay for you. If you don't have a tractor, plow and drill, he will do it for a portion of the hay harvest, or the selling price.
  • Contact your local farm office for specific information about the best hay for your area.
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