Farmers grow alfalfa primarily for hay -- as a food source for domestic farm animals. It grows best in well-drained soils where there is no water puddling. Alfalfa is best planted in early spring, as soon as all possibility of frost has passed. Spring plantings will generally yield two cuttings for the season. Plantings later in the year may only yield one cutting.
Take samples of soil from at least three locations in the field and mix them together. Take the mixed sample (approximately 1 cup) to your local soil testing center. Your local nursery or home improvement center can help you locate the nearest soil testing center. Let the testing center know that you plan to plant alfalfa.
Spray the field with a non-selective herbicide, which should kill most plants, to kill the existing weeds and vegetation. Wait seven days for the weeds to die, and then either rake the area of dead vegetation and dispose of it, or till the top 6 inches of soil, tilling the dead vegetation into the ground. Rake the area to break up clods and to level.
Spread fertilizer and/or lime on the soil based on the results of your soil test, following the testing lab's recommendations for the amount of soil amendments necessary. Alfalfa grows best in soil with a pH between 6.2 and 7.8. If your soil is too acidic, with a pH below 6.2, the lab will recommend that you add lime to the soil. The lab could also recommend the addition of phosphorous or potassium to the soil if your soil is deficient in those nutrients.
Use a seed spreader to spread 15 to 20 pounds of alfalfa seeds per acre. Rake the area lightly to cover the seeds with approximately 1/4 inch of soil.
Water well. Keep the ground moist, but do not let water puddle. Alfalfa should sprout within 7 to 10 days and be ready for the first cutting in approximately 70 days.
Things You Will Need
- Soil test
- Soil amendments (as needed)
- Fertilizer spreader
- Alfalfa seeds
- Seed spreader
- Alfalfa does not require nitrogen fertilizer but can benefit from the addition of potassium and phosphorous.
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