Seeds and Seeding are a Waste of Money, Time and Energy 

Yep. You read that title correctly. Seeds are a waste of money, time and energy (which includes money, labor and fuel). Just to be clear about the context, I’m talking about establishing pasture or grassland. Seeding and seeds are very useful for gardening and permaculture (depending on your viewpoint within those practices).

As Ian, Jessica and I were talking the other day, he brought up grazing practices. Many people are under the impression that they need to seed their pastures every X amount of years for certain species to “survive” or come back the next growing season. The most common reason for seeding is for establishing or reestablishing clover or another type of legume. Seed companies love to sell you seed (take your money). They come up with all sorts of scientific or marketing reasons to get you to give in and buy seed.

I want to make the point that I’m not trying to sell you anything on my website. I’m trying to save you time, money and your local ecosystem. In the future I will be releasing paid eBooks or other products, such as having advertisers sponsor the website, but you don’t have to buy them and that is fine by me.

Back to the topic at hand. Species will thrive or suffer depending on the environment you create for them. Creating the “correct” environment can be achieved through management. Mostly in the form of livestock management (assuming you are a farmer or rancher). It depends on what you want. If, for example, you desire to have a ranch/farm that is diverse with grasslands, a few areas of brush and an extensive woodlot you need to manage each area uniquely. It also depends on how much rainfall you get and the brittleness of your climate. The way you graze cattle in the wooded area will be drastically different from the manner in which you graze your grassland. You might more aggressively graze the brushy areas to keep them limited to a smaller size, which we just determined is what you want.

So in order to avoid spending money, time and energy on seed, you can adjust your management. How do you do that? If your ranch/farm has a lot of bare soil and the brush seems to be getting worse every year, it would probably be a good idea to start grazing your livestock at high densities with frequent moves. To review, high density grazing does the following:

  • Breaks the soil surface AKA breaks the capped soil surface AKA “capping”
  • Compacts the soil to provide good seed to soil contact. Please note that compaction is brief, as livestock are moved frequently. Many climates that have freeze-thaw cycles will have excessively fluffy soil if livestock are not grazed at high densities during some part of the year
  • Places litter on the ground
  • Litter keeps soil moist, cool in the summer and warm in the winter
  • Stimulates soil microbes
  • There are many more benefits to high density grazing, I won’t list them all here

By placing litter on the ground and moving the cattle frequently you are changing the type of environment on a given piece of land. For example, the brush that is annoying you might require a dry environment with lots of bare soil to thrive. If you cover the soil with litter and consequently create a moist environment, the brush will have a much harder time establishing. Other species, probably perennial grasses will have an easier time establishing.

As time goes on, you will start to see perennial grasses coming back to your land. The seeds are there, 100 years worth. Species will thrive in the environment in which they grow best. So, if you create an environment that is unfriendly for the brush, you will get more desirable species to establish (assuming you want a productive grassland). Conversely, if you want to enhance and maintain your woodlot, you will want to avoid grazing it for long periods of time or high densities.

The solution is usually simple. Instead of hauling in a tractor, spreader, seeds, fuel, time and labor, try creating an environment that will allow the species you want to naturally establish. This technique will take longer than the technological quick fixes that we have become accustomed to, but in the long run will instill a long term solution that is more resilient and stable.

Next time a “seedsman” (I hate that term) comes around, run the other way!

Chris Stelzer

Chris Stelzer is a published Author, founder of Agricultural Insights and creator of many resources that help family farmers and ranchers grow their businesses. His flagship courses are the Grazing Mastery Program and The Farm Marketing Mastery Program. 

Chris Stelzer

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