Fall is the best time of year to nourish your pastures. A multitude of things can lead to pastures becoming stressed. Whether it was this summer's drought, one too many horses grazing in the pasture, or even an abundance of weed growth. Evaluating your pastures and taking action in the fall by soil testing and fertilizing will help produce a robust and lush pasture in the spring and summer.
Studies show that fall fertilization of cool season grasses: orchardgrass, rye, fescue and bluegrass, feeds the root system of these plants. Fertilization will also increase tillering, and winter survival. The best step to take when looking to fertilize during the fall months is to have your soil tested. One must know what nutrient levels are present in the soil before selecting fertilizer. When testing your soil you will discover specific nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium levels. These levels will determine the fertilizer and lime needed to help your pasture and soil thrive.
When testing pastures try to avoid areas with manure, fence lines, water, hay and mineral feeders. These areas will have excess nutrient build up. It is best to walk in a random, zigzag pattern to get good samples. Once you have your test results you can fertilize pastures to attain proper nutrient levels. A well maintained pasture, that is not overgrazed, should produce up to two to three tons per acre of forage annually. And one major benefit of soil testing is cost savings. Land and farm owners will save money by providing the exact needs to enhance fields without over spending on unnecessary fertilizers and lime.
The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture has information dedicated to soil testing and analysis. Their website: https://soillab.tennessee.edu/field-soil-samples/ , has educational soil sampling videos available to watch. The website also has the steps needed to submit samples to their lab. There is a downloadable field soil submission sheet, shipping sampling tips, and where to pick up sample boxes. Field owners can access their soil test results online by using an email provided when samples are submitted. After receiving results via email then one can create an online account to access current and future soil samples taken in other fields or for future needs.
You can purchase fertilizers from a dealer or company. It is recommended to purchase a cone spreader and apply your own fertilizer. This gives you the advantage of being able to apply the fertilizer at the correct time for optimum plant use. It is important to not allow horses to graze fertilized pastures until rain has thoroughly dissolved the fertilizer into the soil. Fertilizer should be applied after the horses have been removed from the pasture and the pasture has been mowed.