- Deciding to seedDetermining whether rangeland can be restored by natural means or if it will require seeding is a matter of judgement. Improved management alone, particularly with livestock grazing, can restore some depleted ranges. Generally, if more than 10 percent of the vegetation is desirable native species, a manager can rely on natural succession. Abused lands may never return to their historical state because of soil loss and other conditions.=
- Grass mixture versus monocultureBecause many landowners have one goal in mind, they do not always consider the effects land management practices may have on other aspects of the ecosystem. Loss of vegetation diversity will lead to a loss of wildlife diversity and threaten the sustainability of natural ecological functions.
Planting a monoculture, or single species, can fragment wildlife habitat. It may be easier to plant and manage just one or a few plant species; it may even be easier in the short term to manage livestock with a monoculture. However, when a mixture of plants is seeded the benefits are better ground cover, a more varied diet for animals, and less risk in getting a stand established if the soil is heterogeneous. A diverse plant community is much more resilient to drought, insects and diseases than a monoculture. Planting a mixture of grasses and other kinds of plants gives the manager greater felxibility in using the land.
- MoistureSuccessful seeding requires planning. To capitalize on moisture cycles, seeding should take place when the soil contains enough moisture for seeds to germinate and plants to become established. For native, warm-season, perennial grasses, the best planting time usually is March and early April. Plans for seeding should be canceled if there is insufficient moisture in the soil at planting or if the long-range forecast is for inadequate rainfall.
- Seed selectionFinding appropriate seed is sometimes difficult. Seeds are not available for all species and varieties of native plants. If you plant varieties not adapted to your area, your risk of failure will be much greater. If you plan to plant native grasses, be sure to select seed varieties that originated no more than 200 miles north or south and 100 miles east or west of your area.
- Native versus non-native plantsNative plants are usually preferable to non-native plants. Introduced plant species often become invasive weeds that compete with native plants. Planting non-native species increases the risk associated with rangeland seeding, especially if the manager does not understand the properties of the plants.
- Planting methodBecause it is important that seeds have good contact with the soil, drilling seed is the most successful planting method. If drilling is not practical, soil/seed contact can be improved by disturbing the soil with roller chopping or “lite” raking before seed is broadcast.
- Land preparationIf plowed sites are to be seeded, they should be given time to firm up before planting. Otherwise, the seedbed will not provide adequate soil/seed contact. If seeding is to be done in March or April, the seed bed should be prepared in late August or September to allow time for natural settling and firming of the soil.
- Weed controlWhen soil is disturbed for planting, it is natural for weeds to germinate and grow along with the native plants that were seeded. You can reduce the competition from weeds by disking between seeded rows or using herbicides to control them. There is less risk of injuring seedling grasses if chemicals are not used until young grasses reach the four- to six-leaf stage of growth.