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By Hubert Earl

Seeding when the ground is frozen produces excellent results, particularly on thin soils. The one great advantage of frost seeding is that the seeds are worked into the ground as the soil freezes and thaws. As a result of this process the seed is then in place for early spring germination. Hard seeds such as the clovers and trefoil work best; however, sowing several varieties of grasses is also recommended. Red clover, New Zealand type white clover, birdsfoot trefoil and grasses such as orchard, timothy, brome, the fescues and the new endophyte-free species of reed canary are all excellent choices. (Alfalfa does not seem to establish well using this technique and is therefore not recommended.) Careful consideration must be given to the drainage conditions when selecting the various types of legumes and grasses. Seeding rates may vary, but on our farm we strive for a 50% legume content in our pastures. As a guide, we broadcast 12lbs./acre of mixed legumes and grasses, and have obtained superb results. If only legumes are to be sown, then 5-6lbs./acre should be adequate. Seeding can be accomplished by means of a hand operated cyclone seeder, or by using a seeder mounted on the back of an all-terrain vehicle. Here we have had good success with a 3-point hitch fertilizer spreader. We know others who have used the conventional seed drill, just as the snow was disappearing, with equally good results. Although frost seeding can be done anytime after freeze-up, we have had the best results by broadcasting on top of the snow. Frost seeding on the snow during February or March enables us to see at a glance where we have already seeded, thus producing a more uniform distribution.

Copyright 1994 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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