Improving grazing but just a bit, advice please.

millikins

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7 March 2011
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Hi, I have 5 acres of paddock and 1 small horse and 3 ponies (10.3hh to 15.1hh). In theory this should be enough for them to live out, in practice I am lucky to get 2 months without topping up with hay. This year has been extra difficult with the lack of rain. The paddocks are light, well draining soil and one has several large trees. It isn't infested with docks or nettles but is a meadow; I have yarrow, daisies, cowslips campion etc. How do I encourage a bit more grass without losing my flowers, insects and the birds that I also love?
 

SEL

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I'm on rye grass that is so rich its a killer for my metabolic ones so I'm completely jealous of your meadow!

With my gardeners hat on though the best way to kill off all your lovely flowers and encourage grass is to fertilise. The big herd at our yard is out on 10 acres and that isn't poo picked, just harrowed and rested. Grass on it is amazingly rich. Maybe you could fertilise just an area so you get a bit more grass but without destroying the meadow?
 

JillA

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Shropshire
I'm by no means an expert, but if you could rest it well and allow it to grow longer it will improve. Or you could have it overseeded with a good mix of herby grasses they will be more vigorous and therefore grow better. But even then you will need to rest to allw it to become established, at least a year, ideally 18 months. Can you do half at a time?
 

cobgoblin

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I have proper meadows with lots of wildflowers...though probably not as free draining as yours.
I fertilise lightly by hand....less than a quarter of the amount recommended and then only about once every three or four years. Any bare parches are overseeded with a meadow mix of grasses...and I always leave some areas ( rotated) to seed themselves before grazing as standing hay. We seem to have kept the plant variety by doing this and the grass isn't too rich.
 

millikins

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Thank you for replies, I don't think I have the space to rest for a year, and worry they would poach the unrested bit too badly. Cobgoblin's method of a little fertiliser and overseeding sounds doable, which fertiliser should I use? I have also been offered 3 sheep, would they eat the weeds or be three more mouths eating the grass?
 

Esmae

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First I would divide it up a bit. That way you can rotate it and top, feed, weed kill etc. We have 3 on 5 acres but I rest half of it summer and winter. We topdress it with Paddock royale in the spring but at half the recommended rate. We keep 2 paddocks for winter use and accept it will get trashed, however it gets plenty of time to regenerate and then if any rolling, harrowing, reseeding is needed, you have time and opportunity to do it as the rest has the grass you need. We do all the work ourselves. Very rewarding but it is hard work and you do need to be organised. Hope this helps.
 

catroo

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When I took over some rough land I had a similar issue with not a lot of grass but as it's for natives, I didn't want rich rye grass.

I went for the long game, first summer I put a track around the outside and effectively sacrificed this bit of land and fed hay. That gave me a good six months to selectively kill weeds, over seed with a meadow mix and apply a little fertiliser. I also regularly topped it to help develop a good sward.

Each year I now section off about an acre, either in one lot or two strips, and give it a bit of tlc. This means that roughly every part of field gets attention every four years. This works for me, not glorious green bowling greens but lovely variety of grasses that suit the ponies grazing on it.
 

windand rain

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I have 4 ponies on 5 acres I have a track round one acre of it which I use in summer the rest is allowed to grow and seed itself before being incorporated into the track as standing foggage over the winter the intitial acre is then shut off and allowed to grow from about november to April, we buy fewer than 10 bales of hay in winter slightly more for summer to soak to go on the track if needed. I do chuck two bags of horse pasture fertiliser around by hand in the spring when they come off the winter field just to replace what we take out by poo picking every day
 

honetpot

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I think if you think of your grass paddock as a garden it doesn't have to be all the same. Sandy soil in some ways is harder than clay as the roots tend to get exposed, and they have nothing to hang on to.
As everyone has said you do really have to split it if only at certain times of the year. If you want to keep the wild flowers, have a strip for them and do not fertilise it and the fatty area. Spray the rest and a low nitrogen organic based fertiliser like Suregrow will thicken it, but it should not grow long and the sheep will help. Sheep do keep on top of the weeds but do not kill most of them, but they stop them from flowering and setting seed.
I am spending all my money on spray this year, the ragwort is getting out of control.
 
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