Native species are often the most trying species to establish. However, when done correctly establishment can be very successful and timely. The instructions below will offer you the best results possible for seeding and establishing native plant species. It is important to note that ground disturbance WILLpromote weed growth. Therefore it is imperative that proper precautions and treatments be understood and implemented to prevent and control weeds. Without a plan to address weed pressure, the likelihood of a successful native plant stand is minimal.
A THREE STEP PLANTING APPROACH
- 1st Planting – COVER CROP: Planting a cover crop such as: wheat, rye, oats, sorghum or a blend of multiple species allows for a window of opportunity to eliminate future weed pressure. This is done so by allowing the bank of weed seeds in the soil to germinate and then apply appropriate herbicide(s) to terminate the weeds. The timing of the cover crop planting is based on the cover crop species being planted. Therefore, use species suitable to your desired planting window. It is recommended that all existing vegetation prior to the planting the cover crop. The goal of the cover crop is to provide standing residue to plant the native grasses into. Terminating the cover crop is recommended in non-droughty conditions. Terminate the cover crop with glyphosate when the cover crop is beginning to set seed. Alternatively, if planting a cover crop isn’t an option fallowing the area for one growing season prior to planting the native species is an option. Disking the area during the fallow period is recommended as long as the risk of erosion is not increased in doing so. The goal during the fallow period is to attempt to germinate as many weed seeds as possible then chemically terminating the weeds. By doing so, you reduce the weed seed bank present in the soil bed. This method allows for a “sterile” seed bed to be created and therefore reduce weedy competition. Once the “sterile” seed bed is created the native species may be planted.
- 2nd Planting – GRASS: Upon terminating the cover crop, the grass species may be planted into the standing cover crop residue. Note: glyphosate may be sprayed to terminate any weeds present at this point. Grass species may be planted on irrigated sites when the soil temperature reaches 60°F. Dryland areas can be seeded from December through August. Successful dryland stands are possible with 2 or 3 timely rains. Thus, we suggest planting prior to your area’s most consistent rainfall period with suitable tempatures for seed germination. Planting the forbs/legumes at a later date allows for broadleaf weeds to be chemically controlled in the establishing grass. Reference the Post-Grass Planting Weed Control section below for weed control recommendations.
- 3rd Planting – FORBS/LEGUMES: After the grass is successfully established and the weed pressure is controlled, the forbs/legumes may be planted. To offer the newly planted forbs/legumes the least amount of competition the newly seeded area needs to be shredded to a height of 4-6 inches. In most cases, the seeding rate of the forbs/legumes alone will be very light. Therefore, in order to aid in regulating the flow of the forbs/legumes a no-germ filler may be used to increase the overall seeding rate. Alternatively, the forb/legume rate may be increased to obtain a manageable seeding rate and the seed sown in strips throughout the grass stand. Reference the Post-Forb/Legume Planting Weed control section below for weed control recommendations.
HOW TO SEED NATIVE PLANT SPECIES
- Drill seeding into a cover crop is highly recommended. However, there are instance where a cover crop is not an option. When drill seeding in an area with no cover crop chemically terminate existing vegetation prior to planting the native species.
- Allow time for weed to wither.
- A drill capable of planting fescue or wheat can be used to plant Buffalograss, Switchgrass, and other slick-seed native species. Depth bands on the opening disks are required in order to maintain the required 1/4 to 1/2 inch seeding depth.
- A native grass drill will be required for chaffy species such as: Big bluestem, Little bluestem, Blue grama, etc. Depth bands on the opening disks are required in order to maintain the required 1/4 to 1/2 inch seeding depth.
- When planting all native all native plant species it is very important to place the seed under the soil surface to ensure adequate moisture and seed-to-soil contact for seedling germination.
- Irrigate after planting if possible.
- Broadcast seeding into a cover crop is highly recommended. However, there are instances where a cover crop is not feasible. When broadcast seeding in an area with no cover crop disk or till the soil 4 inches deep to loosen soil and to terminate existing weeds.
- Spread seed with a fertilizer spreader, commercial air fertilizer truck, or by hand.
- Disk, harrow, or aerate 1 to 2 inches deep at an appropriate speed to cover the seed with soil 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.
- Pack the soil with a cultipacker or roller to ensure the seed is in good contact with the soil. Seed-to-soil contact is essential for germination and successful stand establishment.
- Irrigate after planting if possible.
NOTE: Hydromulching may be used on sloped sites.
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HOW TO CONTROL WEEDS IN NATIVE PLANT STANDS
- Pre-Planting Weed Control: Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide; therefore it will terminate the actively growing plants. Glyphosate can be used to control existing weeds before planting the grass and may eliminate the need for disking or tilling prior to planting. Glyphosate can also be used to terminate the cover crop.
- Post-Grass Planting Weed Control: After the grass species have reached 4″ tall or 6 leaves (not including forbs/legumes) it presents an excellent window of broadleaf weed control. Chemicals such as: 2,4-D, Dicamba, or Banvel have the ability to control unwanted broadleaf weed species while your grass is establishing. Once the grass stand is established a pre-emergent herbicide such as trifuralin may be applied to prevent future broadleaf weed pressure. Follow label recommendations for chemical applications rates and methods.
- Post-Forb/Legume Weed Control: After the forbs and/or legumes have been seeded there is no ability to chemically control weeds at this point without damaging the forbs and/or legumes. Your weed control abilities now shift to mechanical methods of weed control. For example: shredding, mowing, hoeing, and/or individual plant removal are the required methods for controlling weeds. Once the plants are established a pre-emergent herbicide such as trifuralin may be applied to prevent future broadleaf weed pressure. Follow label recommendations for chemical applications rates and methods.
HOW TO IRRIGATE NATIVE PLANT STANDS
After planting, begin irrigation by filling the soil profile to field capacity and depending on weather conditions, water once or twice a day to maintain adequate moisture for a three week period. After the seedlings have germinated and an acceptable seedling density has been achieved, water once or twice a week until the stand is fully established. At 65°F, most native species will germinate in 10-14 days.
HOW TO FERTILIZE NATIVE PLANT STANDS
Due to a potential increase in weed pressure we do notrecommend applying fertilizer at seeding. If a soil test has been conducted, apply post-establishment fertilizer at the recommended rate. If tests have not been conducted apply 2 pounds of nitrogen and 1 pound of phosphate per 1,000 square feet at six to eight weeks of age.
[avatar user=”Rhett Kerby” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]by Rhett Kerby, M.S.[/avatar]