Contributors to this thread:
frost seeding switch grass
I have a property in west central WI that I am trying to improve. Property is about 160 acres. There are about 15 acres in the interior that have been hayed, and as a result the cover is at about 6" in height as it comes into hunting season (every year).
I am thinking about discontinuing any haying or mowing on this acreage, and letting the grass cover grow to its natural height. (it is "lost" hunting acreage due to the lack of any cover during deer season - like a lawn). But I would also like to frost seed switch grass into it late this winter, both for hidden hunter access to stands, and for deer bedding/travel reasons.
Any thoughts, or experience with frost seeding switch grass? Should I add clover as well?
Thank you for your time.
I have done it. Be patient.
Is it ready and prepped for frost seeding? I’d so plant around end of March for that area. Maybe later if you have too much still on the ground at that time.
WhitetailHtr.....go to Iowawhitetail.com, go to the Dbltree’s Corner forum, and pull up the “switchgrass” thread. There is a TON of great information for you to read up on.
You can top dress seed into standing grass pretty effectively to get a stand to hide a hunter’s approach. Big bluestem also works for this. The best time to seed if broadcasting is late fall just before your FIRST snow. The gravity of the snow will take a lot of the seed down and it will have a chance. The switchgrass seed will slide to the bottom better than the bluestem but it might struggle a bit more to grow past germination. Remember that when you plant either it might take 2-3 years to actually see it show up in the mix because when you broadcast, as in nature, there are a lot of seeds that lay dormant until conditions are just right.
I'm in Monroe County, WI so maybe we are close? In my experience, you have to kill the existing grass cover first before planting/frost seeding switchgrass. For frost seeding you would have wanted to kill the grasses last fall. If you could, you could kill the field this spring with glyphosate, then drill in the sg seed but that may not be an option for you. I remember reading an article on frost seeding sg in the spring then spraying simazine as a post emergence to kill the early growth grass and weeds before the sg sprouts. I'll see if I can find it, maybe some here has done it.
To me, 15 acres of a monoculture of sg is a lot. Have you considered other options or ideas of what to do area that may include sg but not limited to sg. You may want to look into CRP. The new sign up deadline is at the end of the month. It is very wildlife friendly if you ask me. You get paid for land rent (low in Monroe County is a drawback), you also get 50% cost sharing on the projects you sign up for. You can choose from prairie (including sg), hardwood and softwood tree planting, food plots, wildlife openings, etc. Anyway, a lot of options. BC
I would not make one 15 acre switchgrass area you will be sorely disappointed. Deer will occasionally bed in it and pass thru and maybe hide out when pressure ramps up but a solid stand of switchgrass is just that. Deer need daytime browse in their bedding area and solid switch will provide none of that. I would instead makes pockets of switch and add plenty of bushes and shrubs or allow natural regen to take place by spraying the cool season grasses. After a few seasons you will have some growth that will also provide food/browse
You really need to kill off the existing vegetation then seed it anytime after things go dormant. I have seeded it in November and February with the same results. I planted a 7 acre solid stand of switch and thought it was going to be fabulous. It got some use but not like I thought. No browse no deer. I have since went back in and carved out 1/8 acre sections and added Red Osier Dogwood, Rough leaf Dogwood, cedars, poplar, and hybrid willows.
The key to switch is first season weed control and patience. Two varieties that I have used are Cave In Rock and Kanlow. All the rage is Cave in Rock but my favorite is Kanlow. It’s taller and stronger. Both will stand all winter though and pop back up after a big storm. Last week I seeded an 8’ strip by 700’ that divided a destination plot and provides screening from bedding into an open field. I killed the vegetation in early fall.
If you are hell bent on getting it into the ground you could seed now and spray in the spring. I’ve heard of people using 2-4D at green up to get a good kill but never tried it. It will be out of the soil long before the switch germinates. I could see a scenario where 2-4D, glyphosate, and Simazine could potentially work. Atrazine is even better if you can get access to it. The switch won’t germinate in your area probably until the end of may early June so the issue you will have is growing vegetation that will choke out the switch.
I would spray as soon as green up and then drill hopefully you will still get enough cold to stratify the seed.This is why it appears to come up some much better when frost seeded.I think it also helps to have seed sitting in cold before planting.For the best results you would want to spray in late fall and then frost seed in winter but you have to have seed to soil contact.Mow about foot tall first year and you are set.I personally think the bigger the area planted in switch will create better bedding.My neighbor has two 10 acre patches and thats a main bedding area unless raining,small areas I think they feel trapped
Check with NRCS and see if you're eligible to enroll in CRP. If so, they will cost share your planting expenses and also provide you payments for maintaining it the next 10 years. The DNR has Truax seeders available to rent. Check with your wildlife manager. They're specifically designed to handle the variety of shapes and sizes that prairie grass seed comes in. You'll have way better success using it, the rental rate is cheap and you'll save lots of time planting. I would recommend the following mix/rate per acre: switch grass 2 lbs / big bluestem 3 lbs / indian grass 3 lbs. This diversity will help ensure the success and density of your stand. Add some flowers for pollinators if you'd like (black eyed susans, bergamont, yellow coneflower to name a few). Mow several times the first year just before weeds seed out and once more the following year. We had 30 acres of tall grass prairie that we planted (Buffalo Cty) but the deer weren't using it as much as we had hoped so we planted 12 acres of it to trees that they definitely do use! Maybe they didn't feel as safe in it due to the steep slopes? Feel free to message me with questions.
Thanks for all the good insight. Really gets me thinking about browse introduction, too.
I have been in CRP programs in the past on other property. Have owned this piece less than a year so not eligible for this sign up, but good points nonetheless.
I live in Western WI and did this very thing last year. I would be happy to talk live as well about this. I have changed my thoughts a bit since I did this. My picture is attached the yellow is switchgrass and the green is our food plot it was beans under seeded with cereal rye, clover, radish, and brassicas in late summer for additional food. I liked how the deer moved through our layout give close shot opportunities and they felt safe even though the switch only got 3ft tall. I’m not going to change the layout but I’m thinking more old field pockets in the switchgrass instead of straight switchgrass.
We sprayed our 10ac field in the fall of 2018. I frost seeded in Late March pure cave in rock switch. Then in the spring early green up we sprayed it with a combination of gly (round-up) and atrazine. Switch is really slow to start out. It got some thistle in spots that I spot sprayed with 24D the bees loved the thistle I’ve never seen so many.
I’m hoping the switch gets up to 5-6ft this year. I recently watched a Jeff Sturgis Video on creating pockets in your switchgrass and I’m planning to do that this year for diversity and some natural food. I’m also going to spray grasses this spring with Cleth to try and improve natural Forbes and browse along my field edges, waterways, edge feathering etc because I think this is overlooked and can provide lots of natural browse and food we food plotters don’t think about.
Prime example was this year my buddy missed a spot with the sprayer and the switchgrass got choked out my native vegetation in the strip. I sat and watch tons of deer leave our beans and greens and go browse that strip every time I sat that spot. Light bulb went of.
Best of luck let me know if you need any further guidance