Fannin Soil & Water Conservation District

200 E. 1st St. Bonham, TX 75418
Tel: 903-583-9513 Ext:3
Fax: 903-583-7993

National Resources Conservation Service

Tel: 903-583-9513  Ext:3

Fax: 903-583-7993

Fannin Soil and Water Conservation District




C. W. Jones, Chairman
Billy Partridge, Vice Chairman
Leon Bowman, Secretary-Treasurer
Harvey Milton, Member
David Keene, Member
Sam Stewart, Team Leader
Randy Moore, District Conservationist
Steve Deckard, Soils Cons. Technician
Johnnie J. Kay, Technician
Mary Jane Godwin, District Secretary


Volume 11

Fall 2004

Number 2-1

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5

Perennial Grass Establishment

By: Randy Moore, District Conservationist


High cattle prices will encourage many ranchers to improve their pastures this next year.  There are proven steps to a successful stand of grass.  Leave out one of the steps and your chances of success are reduced.

Step 1:    Seedbed Preparation There are many ways to establish a stand of grass but the best way is to disturb the soil 4-6 inches deep with chisels, disk, field cultivator, and harrow.  The key is to completely kill all existing vegetation and end up with a smooth, firm seedbed.  This takes time, especially in the blackland.  We recommend you start seedbed preparation in the fall on blackland in order for the clods to dissolve and create a smooth seedbed.  It is essential to remove all competing vegetation such as Johnsongrass and ryegrass.  These can be controlled with an application of glyphosate (roundup) in the fall for Johnsongrass and January - February for ryegrass.  On sandy soils, seedbed preparation may begin in the spring unless you are planting (natives) in December or January or sprigging in February or March.  Immediately before planting pull a harrow to smooth the seedbed and dry out the top soil surface so soil will not stick to grass planters and cultipackers.

Step 2:  Seeding Operation There are many ways to plant seeded grasses, but the best way is to broadcast the seed over a packed seedbed then follow with a packer behind the seeder.  This requires two packing operations unless you are using a Brillion Seed Planter which is equipped with a front and back packer.  The Fannin SWCD (903-583-5612) has two of these for rent to farmers and ranchers to assist with their seeding operation.  Without packing the soil you have little chance of survival of the seeded grasses.  Do not harrow, disk, or pull any tillage equipment over the seeded area after planting.  This will cover the seed with too much soil.  This is why it is important to have a smooth seedbed.  If clods are present (even small ones) the seed will filter through the cracks around the clods.  If seed are over inch in depth they will not come up.  Timing of the seeding operation is also important.  Native grasses and forbs should be seeded in the months of December, January, February, March, or early April.  Bermudagrass should be planted from April 10 through May 5.  Old World Bluestems should be planted between March and late April.  Fescue and Tall Jose Wheatgrass should be planted in late September through early November.

Step 3:  Nutrient Management Soil test can save you a lot of money and also insure you a good stand of grass.  I get a copy of most soil test in the area and believe me there is a huge variation of fertilizer elements present in Fannin County Soils.  There are only two soil test analysis that should be used; Texas A & M, and Melich III.    The Nacogdoches soil testing lab uses the Texas A & M process and Texas A & M uses the Melich III process for extraction of elements.  Phosphorous should be plowed in just prior to planting.   Nitrogen should be applied after plants have germinated or you will increase weed competition.  All fertilizer should be applied when the plants can utilize the nutrients.  In other words do not apply nutrients in the fall for spring use.  Lime should be applied and incorporated in the fall because it takes several months for the lime to change the soil pH .

Step 4:  Pest Management Weeds are the single most limiting factor in grass establishment.  They can cause a total stand failure or cause several years in delay for getting the desired forage stand.  Johnsongrass should be controlled chemically by treating it in the year previous to planting.   This may require 1 to 2 applications of glyphosate followed by frequent plowings.  After grasses have been planted it is recommended to control weeds in the first year with mowing only.  Chemicals can hurt young plants in the first year of establishment.  The exception is when; a good stand of grass has reached the 5 leaf stage and annual weeds are abundant.  A light rate of herbicide can if applied early effectively control these weeds in a more efficient way than mowing.  Never let weeds shade or crowd your planted forage.  Either mow or apply herbicide.  The year following establishment I suggest herbicide applications in May or early June to control weeds and brush species.

For more information on establishing perennial grasses contact the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service office at 200 E. First Street, Room 14 or call 903-583-9513, extension 3.