Seeding Horse Paddocks
The first thing that often stands out about grass seed mixtures for horse paddocks is the sowing rate, why is it so low? The recommended sowing rate for a paddock grass seed mixture is 15kg per acre, whereas a mixture for a lawn would be sown at around 120kg per acre. The reason for this is because for a lawn we need a very high population of small grass plants, but for a paddock we need a much smaller number of large grass plants. For a lawn we need small plants that form a dense coverage, whereas for a paddock we need much bigger plants that produce more leaf material for grazing or hay making.
Establishing a New Paddock
When establishing a new paddock, the ground will first need cultivating by ploughing and harrowing to create a seedbed; the seed can then be applied. Applying 15kg of seed over one acre requires the application to be precise; it is therefore recommended that the seed is applied with a purpose made grass seed drill. For smaller paddocks if the grass seed is to be applied with a rotary spreader, it may not be possible to accurately spread the seed to 15kg per acre. It therefore may require more than 15kg per acre to achieve full coverage of the area. If the seed is broadcast on to the soil surface, it will benefit from being both lightly harrowed and always rolled in. This will ensure that the seed is incorporated into the top 10-15mm, providing good seed-to-soil contact and maximising germination potential.
Overseeding an Existing Paddock
Before overseeding an existing paddock, it is important to give the new seed the best chance to germinate and successfully establish. Firstly, the paddock will require either grazing or cutting to remove as much of the existing grass as possible. Then the sward will need to be opened and the soil exposed using chain harrows or a grass rake. Ideally the seed will be applied with a seed drill which will plant the seed into the soil. If the seed is broadcast on to the surface it will then require chain harrowing to try and incorporate the seed into the top 10-15mm of the soil. Finally, the paddock will require rolling to press the seed.
Repairing Poached Areas
Poaching occurs in the most frequently used areas of a paddock, such as in gateways, along fence lines and around water troughs. Poaching will occur when the ground conditions are excessively wet; keeping livestock off in such conditions is the best thing that can be done to prevent this. However, it is inevitable over time that some areas will become compacted and grass cover is lost. Badly poached areas will require cultivating by harrowing to break up and loosen the soil. The seed can then be applied and harrowed in again to ensure it is incorporated into the top 10-15mm of the soil. For small areas it may be more practical to do this by hand with a hand fork and rake. There is no specific sowing rate for repairing poached areas, although it is advisable to sow the seed quite heavy to produce a denser sward that will be more resilient to wear. Another option in high wear areas would be to repair with an amenity type grass seed mixture as used on a football pitch, as this may be more wear tolerant than a traditional horse paddock grass seed mixture.