The following instructions are for establishing a small acreage pasture or cover crop field using a drill seeder.
What you’ll need:
- Bag of Swell Seed Co seed
- Drill Seeder
- Soil tiller, rake or harrow
- Sprinkler (if supplemental water is needed)
When to plant: Planting in the correct season ensures proper germination and strong establishment. Ideally, seeds should germinate at the beginning of the rainiest season to limit supplemental moisture.
- Northern ½ of the U.S. (cool-season states): Plant in the spring as soon as you can work the ground.
- Southern ½ of the U.S. (warm-season states): Plant in the fall, 6-8 weeks before the first frost once temperatures stay below 65º to keep seeds from germinating. The seeds will go dormant and establish earlier in the spring.
Prepare the area: Decide whether you will till the soil or use a no-till method.
- Till/Conventional Method: Till or rake to smooth out and level the area. Cultivate until soil particles are between the size of a marble and a pea. Till to a depth of 3-6 inches. It is important to cultivate the ground right before seeding so the soil is easy to work with and not crusty. This method works for drill or broadcast seeding.
- No-Till Method: Leave the area undisturbed by not tilling prior to seeding. This helps with erosion control and weed management. Drill seeding works best if you choose the no-till method.
Clear the area: Regardless of your decision to till the soil or not, make sure the area is free of debris, rocks, roots, stumps, and anything in the soil that will compete with the seeds for sunlight, water, and nutrients. Do so by using a rake, harrow, or other method, depending on the size of the area and your preference. Be sure to start this process a few weeks ahead of time - clearing the area may require more than one attempt.
- Following seeder instructions, spread the seed evenly at a depth of 1/8 - 1/4 inch and make adjustments to the drill seeder as needed. Ensure the soil is firmed for proper seed to soil contact. If needed, go over the area with a roller. * If you firm the soil too much, the seed will be too deep in the soil to receive any sunlight or moisture and may not germinate properly.
- Water! Keep the soil moist by relying on rain water or by using a sprinkler until seeds begin to germinate (or in this case, Swell).
- Irrigated Mixtures: Add supplemental moisture daily until the seedlings are 4-6 inches tall, about 4-6 weeks. After seedlings have germinated, they require much less water. Water less frequently for longer periods of time to develop a deeper root system.
- Non-Irrigated Mixtures: Be sure to plant early enough in the spring to take advantage of spring moisture. Germination times will be longer than irrigated applications.
- We recommend avoiding grazing or cutting hay for the first year to allow the forage to fully establish and develop a strong root system.
- Wait at least 6 weeks after germination to apply herbicide if weeds become an issue. If applied too early and not carefully, the herbicide can kill the new plants.
- If desired, apply fertilizer 4-6 weeks after germination for a quicker and healthier establishment.
- For more recommendations to keep your newly planted area looking Swell, refer to the Future Care guide.
* Cover Crop Instructions: Plant in late summer/early fall for seeds to establish before the winter months. Use a tilling method to prepare the soil, plant with a broadcast seeder, and rake to incorporate the seeds no deeper than ¼ inch. Keep the seedbed moist until germination. In the spring, till cover crops before they go into seed and at least 3 weeks before you intend to plant another crop. Visit our website for additional tips.