Following an establishment plan
To maximize your investment in seed, follow the establishment plan to get the best chance of success. These timelines are guidelines. Weather and individual situations can change the process and the dates mentioned are only recommendations.
During establishment and for the life of a native planting, always consider the movement of seed with vehicles and equipment. We recommend you blow down or wash off equipment and vehicles before entering the field, especially if the equipment/vehicle was recently used in a field ripe with seed of a species you do not want in your native planting (e.g. fescue, sericea, Johnsongrass).
Choose the best timeline
If you’re not sure this is the right establishment plan for your situation, use our Planting Timeline Selector or read the Establishment Plans Overview.
Establishing diversity with Panoramic herbicide
Based upon the knowledge that native warm season grasses are slow to establish, there are occasions where an establishment plan involving imazapic (i.e. Panoramic, Plateau) may be a better choice. The advantage is quicker establishment of the Big Bluestem and Indiangrass (Little Bluestem and Sideoats Grama can also be a component of the mix on drier sites). The disadvantage is that the planting will be dominant in only the above-mentioned grasses.
These guidelines are for fescue/clover pastures. If the pasture contains Bermudagrass, Johnson Grass, Sericea Lespedeza, Caucasian Bluestem, Crown Vetch, an overabundance of Broomsedge or other problematic species, the guidelines may need to be adjusted.
The timeline below details a process to kill the existing vegetation, but an alternative is to grow glyphosate-resistant crops for one year before planting natives. See the notes below for more information on cropping to establish natives.
Kill existing vegetation
It’s crucial to remove unwanted trees and other unwanted obstructions from within the field and its edges before staring establishment plan. Fewer obstacles in the field (e.g. unwanted buildings, equipment, trees, brush, fence, etc.) make it easier to get equipment around the field and therefore get a better kill without as much hand work. A better kill will decrease the chance of reinvasion of undesirable plants from the edges and spray misses. While this step is optional, it is a good idea to take a look at the site with this in mind before starting the other actions in this timeline.
See the note below about using caution with Panoramic near trees you intend to keep.
Fescue should be sprayed when actively growing. If the fall rains have not come, delay the spraying until fescue is actively growing. If fescue is really the only weed of concern, the field can even be sprayed up through October. Follow up on any misses and pay special attention to fence lines, field borders, areas under trees, creek banks, and other hard to get to areas.
Plant native seeds
Notes on using herbicides
Always read and follow label directions of an herbicide! The labels are not only helpful in knowing how to be safe, but they also provide great information about how the herbicide is most effective and how to keep the soil and environment healthy.
When using Panoramic (aka Plateau or imazapic) be careful with application near trees. Walnut, white oak, dogwood, and redbud trees can be killed by Panoramic. Take a wide berth when spraying and follow label directions about avoiding driplines. If you’re concerned about preserving your trees, choose a different method for killing existing vegetation.
Notes on cropping an area
Another alternative to the “Kill the existing vegetation” section of the establishment plan above is to grow glyphosate-resistant crops for one year before jumping in with the “Plant the native seeds” section. Other herbicide/crop combinations may also be used, but it is important to ensure the herbicides do not have a carryover problem in the soil that will impact the native seedlings.
Identify the plants in the field so that the proper herbicide(s) may be used. During the two years of cropping before establishing natives, make sure that weed seeds do not fall on the ground, and also make sure that the perennial plants have been killed.
This guide is intended for a fescue pasture. If other perennial plants of concern are present (e.g. Bermudagrass, Johnson Grass, Sericea Lespedeza, Caucasian Bluestem, Crown Vetch, an overabundance of Broomsedge or other problematic perennial species), ensure that the area is cropped for one more year after the last of the plants of that kind have been killed.
Crops may be harvested by any means that do not introduce weed seeds to the field, such as combine, cutting for silage, or grazing.
When converting crop fields, usually field borders, fence lines, grassed waterways, etc. are not killed out and planted to crop, but it is important to make sure these areas also undergo cropping for one year or the timeline outlined above is followed on these areas. If this is not done, seeds from these areas pollute and invade the native planting.
Sometimes long-term crop fields do not establish well, possibly because the soil biology is unhealthy. If you feel this is the case with your field, consider cover cropping and other techniques to boost soil health before planting natives.