Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pasture Management

Slowly but surely, I'm working on rehabilitating the pasture.  I should've done more of the work BEFORE the llamas got here, but hindsight is always 20-20.  And as it turns out, the llamas are pretty good at pasture management too!

The llamas enjoying the bottom part of the pasture.
As I've mentioned before, I did quite a bit of mowing (with the push mower I might add!) before the llamas got here.  Most of the pasture is too tight or hilly to mow with the bush-hog, and the riding lawn mower is worthless!  So I push mowed and raked about 75% of the pasture, hoping to get rid of some of the weeds and encourage the grass to grow.

For the most part, the mowing worked great.  The tall burdock plants are gone (although there are new ones growing in their place!), and the grass is growing back in.  I couldn't mow everywhere though, as there are two large spots in the pasture that are covered in small boulders/large rocks, and I didn't want to break the mower!  So the weeds in those spots were at least chest high, if not higher.  Luckily the llamas seem to LOVE these weeds, and they are slowly taking care of them!  T prefers to wade through the weeds to find the ones he likes, while Kara buries her head!  It is quite funny to watch.

The llamas are slowly working their way through the tall weeds.
Another big aspect of the pasture rehabilitation is filling in holes and gaps in the fence.  In the past two days we've moved about 4 loads of dirt, using it to fill in some ground hog holes and one big gap in the fence.  I could use another 10 or so loads, but we'll get there eventually...

One of the gaps in the fence we are trying to fill.  There is also probably some barb-wire fence buried underneath too.
I've also been planting a TON of grass seed!  Since the pasture was about 50% covered in burdock plants, there are now a lot of bare spots (where the burdock was shading out the grass).  I fenced off the biggest bare spot (in the bottom part of the pasture), and in the few short weeks since the weeds were cut there has been a lot of new grass growing.  It is already about 6" tall!  Unfortunately there is still a big bare spot right along the fenceline, so I roughed it up with a rake and spread grass seed.  Of course we then got about 2" of rain, so I re-planted about half of what I had done!  This time I covered the seed with a light layer of hay, to protect from driving rain and birds.  Hopefully we will get some rain in the next few weeks so the seeds can start to grow!

The big bare spot in the bottom part of the pasture, now seeded and covered with hay.
Another big area up by the barn was also covered in burdock, and now that those are gone I planted seed there as well.  That spot is close enough to the barn that I can water it on a regular basis, so I expect it to start growing sooner than the other spots.  Unfortunately I didn't have enough temporary fence posts to block this spot off as well, so I hope that the llamas don't trample the new seedlings or eat them too early!

Another bare spot in the pasture, also re-seeded.  This one is up at the top, by the silos and barn.
 And last but not least, I've been doing weed management.  As I mentioned above, even though the big burdock stems had been cut down, there were still new plants growing in.  And the tiny burdocks were producing seeds already!  (The llamas are COVERED in burrs, if you were wondering...)  I tried twice to spray the burdock plants with a safe herbicide mixture (vinegar, salt, and dish soap), with varying results.  I decided that it wasn't working well enough, so I spent two afternoons digging/pulling the larger burdock plants by hand.  Technically it worked (the plants are gone after all!), but there are still a lot of tiny burdock plants, so today I decided to mow about half of the pasture.  I'm planning to mow it every 2-3 weeks, and hopefully the grass can out-compete the weeds and take over!  There are also two low-growing weeds in the same area of the pasture, and hopefully the grass will out-compete those as well.

One side of the pasture which is covered in weeds.

Two of the weeds in that spot of the pasture.
I'll try to remember to report back in a few weeks and give an update on how the pasture is doing.  Unfortunately there isn't much time left in the growing season, so I expect (and hope!) that the real difference will be seen next spring.

Mr. T getting caught in the temporary fence.

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