Prime Time to Frost Seed

This article was originally published in The Journal  on February 25, 2019.

Mud, mud everywhere, and hardly a plant to be seen.

That is the case for many high traffic areas this time of year. Whether it is your pasture or your lawn, muddy patches are an eye sore and a threat to the integrity of your soil. It is in the best interest of the environment and visual appeal to have some kind of cover on the soil all year round.

Soil cover helps prevent erosion, which is extremely important. Displaced soil is a disappointing and detrimental loss from the source and often considered a pollutant where it ends up. Muddy areas are more prone to erosion, nutrient loss, and compaction. All of which reduce the productive potential of the site.

One of the ways we can improve muddy and damaged sites is to frost seed legumes in late winter. Most people think about planting as a spring activity, but mid-February is ideal for frost seeding. As the title implies, this practice is done while the soil is going through cycles of freezing and thawing. The change in temperature causes the soil to heave and resettle. This provides a great opportunity to broadcast legume seeds across the soil surface and for the seed to be worked into the soil gradually.

The most commonly used legumes are clovers. There are many types of clovers on the market for both lawns and pastures. You can chose tall or short growing types with traits that make them more adaptable to various conditions. Clover seed is also an economical choice for quick and easy improvements, because frost seeding only requires 2-4 lbs. of seed per acre.

Even though those muddy areas seem devoid of life right now, rest assured that some of the previously present plant material will grow back, along with some weeds. To promote the growth of the clovers and suppress weeds, keep the grass canopy below 6 inches in early spring to help light filter through the plant canopy.

For more information about seed selection and/or how to frost seed, reach out for more information by calling the Extension Office at 740-732-5681 or emailing gelley.2@osu.edu.

2 thoughts on “Prime Time to Frost Seed

  1. Good evening, I want to frost-seed a pasture hay-mix here in miami-county, and wanted to know when the best time that you think I should do this, the ground that I will be seeding already has some growth. Thank you for any help that you can give me.

  2. Hello Mark,

    Most likely mid-February will be your best bet. You can try a little earlier or a little later, but we are really watching for signs of soil heaving due to the freeze and thaw cycles of the transition from late-winter to early-spring. Here are two additional article to look over that can give you some specific tips:

    https://u.osu.edu/beef/2021/02/24/frost-seeding-legumes-for-pasture-improvement/
    https://u.osu.edu/beef/2016/01/13/frost-seeding/

    If you have additional questions, feel free to email me at gelley.2@osu.edu to discuss.

    -Christine

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