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 diverse native grassland
The Traditional Establishment Plan is an ideal method to use when converting a fescue/clover pasture to a planting with a lot of diversity. It is especially applicable when a good component of cool season grasses and grass-like species are desired.
These guidelines are for fescue/clover pastures that maybe contain some Spotted Knapweed or even an abundance of Broomsedge. If the pasture contains Bermudagrass, Johnson Grass, Sericea Lespedeza, Caucasian Bluestem, Crown Vetch 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 two consecutive years before planting natives. See the notes below for more information on cropping to establish natives.
Kill existing vegetation
Good cover crops include: Sorghum Sudangrass (this species is allelopathic, so it may inhibit establishment of the fall-planted cover crops), Pearl Millet, Soybeans, Buckwheat, and Cowpeas. Get seed-to-soil contact by drilling the seed or broadcasting and dragging. Keep in mind that bigger seeds need more soil coverage while it is easy to get too much coverage with smaller seeds. If the cover crop is not supressing weeds very well and these weeds look like they are going to make seed, the planting should be sprayed with roundup and the cover crop needs to be replanted.
immediately following the spray, year 2
Plant native seeds
Notes on using herbicides
Notes on cropping an area
Another alternative to the “Kill existing vegetation” section of the establishment plan above is to grow glyphosate-resistant crops for two consecutive years before jumping in with the “Plant 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.
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 two years 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.