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How to Plant Alfalfa Grass

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How to Plant Alfalfa Grass

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Overview

Alfalfa grass, a highly productive legume, is widely favored by horse and cattle owners for hay production. It offers over 6 tons of hay production per acre. Once planted a field will easily last 5 to 10 years due to the grass's deep taproots, according to the University of Missouri. The root system can easily reach 20 feet into the soil in search of nutrients and water. Often grown as a commercial crop, alfalfa offers a high cash value. Planting is relatively easy, as is establishing a stand.

Step 1

Select a planting site that offers deep soil because of alfalfa's deep-reaching root system. Alfalfa requires at least 4 feet of deep soil with no bedrock or water table restrictions. The grass prefers a medium texture soil such as a sandy loam. Alfalfa does not generally do well in heavy clay because it does not tolerate a saturated root system well. Rocky soil poses little difficulty for alfalfa, but large surfaces will need to be removed for ease of harvest.

Step 2

Test the soil to determine its pH balance. Test kits are sold at garden supply and livestock supply stores. Alfalfa does not tolerate acidic soil conditions well. If the soil in the area has the reputation for being acidic, then you should prepare the soil by using lime to reduce the acidity 6 to 12 months prior to planting alfalfa. A test kit will help you determine how much lime to use to level out the pH. The ideal soil pH for alfalfa is 6.5 to 7.0.

Step 3

Sow alfalfa seeds from mid-February to mid-May for the northern United States. Sow alfalfa seeds in August to October for the southern United States. Seed at a rate of between 18 to 35 pounds per acre depending on what state the seeding takes place.

Step 4

Till the seedbed prior to planting. Refrain from tilling if the soil is rocky. Once tilled, the seedbed should be rolled to smooth.

Step 5

Broadcast the seeds using a cultipacker. The cultipacker is a seeder that is usually utilized for alfalfa seed because it evenly distrubutes the seed and firms them into the soil at the desired depth. Numerous types of seeders are available that can broadcast on rocky soil that cannot be tilled. Ideally, alfalfa seed should never be planted deeper then 1/2 inch below the soil's surface.

Step 6

Irrigate new seeds abundantly if there is not ample rainfall. Seeds will germinate and shoots will emerge within one week of planting.

Things You'll Need

  • pH soil test
  • Tiller
  • Cultipacker seeder or seeder for rocky soil

References

  • University of Missouri: Alfalfa
  • University of Arkansas: Planting Methods for Alfalfa
  • Forage and Grazing Lands: Alfalfa Establishment Guide
  • Montana State University: Growing Alfalfa For Hay

Who Can Help

  • Small Farm Resource: Growing Alfalfa
Keywords: planting alfalfa, seeding alfalfa, sowing alfalfa

About this Author

Kimberly Sharpe is a freelance writer with a diverse background. She has worked as a Web writer for the past four years. She writes extensively for Associated Content where she is both a featured home improvement contributor (with special emphasis on gardening) and a parenting contributor. She also writes for Helium. She has worked professionally in the animal care and gardening fields.