It’s time to think about the coming wet season, and growing a prairie. Why? Because prairies actually sequester more carbon than forests. Both are sorely needed and we humans must grow them to replace what we have destroyed and rebuild our soil resource, or go the way of the White Pointer. Prairies are amazingly diverse. The remnants of prairy grasslands show us they contained at least 700 species. Most of us are lucky to have one species in our paddocks…capeweed ! Get ready to rectify that !
We’ve recently acquired a Green Pro small seeding machine which disturbs the paddocks minimally, cutting one inch wide furrows ( 6 of them) , depositing seeds, covering them and rolling. Stew has rigged up a 12 volt pump to deliver compost extract from a tank in the tractor bucket tractor through to the seeder at rear where it emerges though a manifold as a dribble into each furrow. With a multi way mix of pasture seeds (including many perennials) in the seed boxes, it’s a winning combination for increasing fertility .
Pasture seed mix
We have searched far and wide for seed of the deep rooted perennial pasture species. Hankering to grow these in order to have year ‘round carbon sequestration and green animal feed. Cows love a mixture of plants in their mouth, a bit of hay, a bit of fresh green, a bit of this, a bit of that. When their poops are runny it indicates the pasture is too lush and dry hay is needed. They seem happiest on a very diverse, maturing pasture in late spring. Although our search has not ended we have so far procured a good diversity of pasture seeds suitable for autumn sowing. The seeds are not coated with a chemical fungicide and pesticide, except for chicory which could not be obtained uncoated. The pasture mix is as follows ( those marked with asterisk are perennial) :
Arrow leaf clover ( dry and acid tolerant)*Tall Fescue “Fawn” , *Fescue “Resolute” , * Cocksfoot “Yarck”, Prairie Grass “Persista” * Lucerne “Silverado”, *Perennial Rye “Impact2 “, French Serradella “ Margarita” Plantain Major ( Plantago) , purple vetch, Ballard’s seeds “Ball Trotter” horse pasture mix, *Kangaroo grass awns, wheat, rye, Swan oats, Dunn peas, flax, *lab lab bean, chick pea, celery, tillage radish, kale, forage turnip, *chicory and red mustard. For spring sowing we add sunflower, amaranth, lentil, cow pea, millet, mung, kidney and borlotti bean.
Very roughly 25 kgs of seed are needed per hectare, that’s 10 kg per acre. Our seed mix costs $17.50 a kg, plus postage if applicable.
There are a few fantastically drought tolerant pasture plants best obtained through divisions: Bana grass
Bana grass is a particular variety of Pennisetum. Its amazing growth power makes it suitable for tall grass hedge, fuel and fodder. It propagates from a tiller and grows 8 feet tall. Golden rod is a medicinal herb and forage and grows ( too) easily from any part of the plant . Honey suckle is a marvelous tough hedgerow plant stock love to eat, as is Saltbush, elderberry, warrigal greens and wormwood. For those blessed with summer wet land or irrigation Russian Comfrey is another medicinal herb of excellent forage value. We have potted plants of all the above available from the Farmacy.
Some of the most profitable broadacre farmers today are buying in excellent compost, making an extract from it and coating their cereal grains just before sowing . This kind of organic seed dressing ensures a great start for the plant, developing vastly superior root growth to untreated seeds, rapidly forming rhizosheaths of soil aggregates all along the fledgling root system, preventing the uptake of toxins, ensuring a healthy immune system and preventing disease. Ian and Dianne Haggerty were early adopters of Elaine Ingham’s ideas and have streamlined their technique over 10 years. Here is Dianne explaining the method and showing the results: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8fTJdSr61o
Elaine Ingham says you can choose a fine day to soak your seeds in compost tea for about 10 minutes, then spread the seeds out on a tarp in the sun, raking it about now and then till dry. The organisms find there way into the microscopic size cracks and crevices of the seed coat. They will go dormant as the seed dries but just like the seed will come back to life when moisture germinates the seed. We sell a 10 liter bag of our best vermicast for inoculating purposes for $25.00