We need some help on seeding

   / We need some help on seeding #1  


Super Member
Apr 21, 2001
Rural mountains - Colorado
Kubota M59, JD530, JD310SG. Restoring Yanmar YM165D
I need to seed about 4 acres of hay land and don't know the first thing about seed drills or such.

Here's the situation.... we had a few acres of hay in a little field with nice dense growth (mostly bromes). It was never seeded: it just volunteered due to years of broadcasting horse manure onto that land. Nice lush growth along a creek. Then along came a flood in 2013 which stripped off all the top soil and replaced it with sand and rocks.

So for what we have now, the sand is actually the best part of it, eventually it will have some organics, but no way am I ever going to be able to get the stones & rocks out. Keeping them down below the surface is the best bet. The water table is fairly high so at least there's moisure 3 feet down. So even though it looks nothing at all like good soil, we've still got to grow something on it...just not sure quite what. The local extension agents are stumped. So we've decided to put in some 100 yd. long strips of various grasses and legumes and see what works in this new "soil".

But how to put the seed in? Will a drill work? I know nothing about them. Do they even come in small 4 to 6 foot wide style? Is there some small drill that I could pull behind the 30 hp JD?
Or alternately, there's broadcasting. Just surface broadcasting seems like a bad bet because we have a bunch of crows now (flood brought them in). And I am reluctant to broadcast and then back-drag to cover the seed because doing that pulls up so many rocks. So it would be pretty much a broadcast on the surface and mostly go to the crows

I did try some areas just hand-raking the seed in last year. That worked a bit, but for small areas only. And even so, it had poor germination probably due mostly to not having good cover over the seeds.

I'll sure rather do some sort of seed drill even if I have to do it by hand. At least doing it by hand I could avoid the rocks. Hmm.... Is there even such a thing as a hand-operated seed drill? Some sort of seed wand? It suppose if there was such a thing it would be the sort of device that an experimental farm might use.

Feel free to suggest anything.
   / We need some help on seeding #2  
I'm not an expert, but I have a Truax no till drill. It would certainly seed this easily with many types of seed. Especially if it's no too rough or uneven. But this drill, although only 5 feet wide (planting width) is heavy, and I doubt a 30 horse would handle it. And mind is one of the smaller drills I have seen. I do know some areas have places to rent no till drills.

I have also broadcasted seed, but first you would have to perform some tilling or disking, then some leveling with a drag harrow of some kind. But it would work. As long as you don't get carried away going too deeply, I doubt if the rock issue would matter very much. On 4 acres, you could manually remove the bigger rocks. After seeding, cultipacking would help to imbed the seeds and increase germination and reduce bird loss.

Not sure what to plant. Sounds like anything is better than nothing. I just planted some brown top millet over a similar area. I read good things about it.
   / We need some help on seeding #3  
I'm not sure what your temperature's are now, but there is a method called frost seeding. Here in Ohio, it's normally done the last two weeks of Feb., up through the first two weeks of March, when the ground freeze's slightly on the surface, causing the dirt to form tiny honeycombs.

Seed is sown by broadcast seeding, and the honeycomb action pulls the seed into the ground, just like Mother Nature does with established growth.

I have done it more than several times over the years, and have always had good results.

Perhaps it may too late for you to try this, but maybe something to try for next year. Maybe a little prep work months ahead will help too. The first time I tried this, I seeded what was to be pasture on a large area I kept mown as a lawn. I mowed it down low the last of Oct. or first of Nov. pretty much when the grass went dormant,so as to get the best seed to ground contact. I seeded in Feb.,and had alfalfa knee high by the first of June, and Blue Grass in the pasture mix had went to seed.

When I reseeded my hayfield, I clipped it low at last cutting in Sept., then in Oct. I ran a disc over it at full cut, two different directions running diagonally to the field, to open the surface a bit. The following Spring, there was enough dirt showing to make the seed stick. A couple freeze/thaw cycles, and it planted itself, and had a very good result with that too.

You can do a search on it, and get many results.
   / We need some help on seeding #4  
Here is a typical No Til Seed Drill. Most are similar. Some are three point hitch (but takes a big tractor, bigger than my 70 horse) but most are pulled off drawbar. And most require rear hydraulics to raise/lower.


   / We need some help on seeding #5  
Get with the Colorado State Agg service through CSU and you local USDA office. They can walk you through everything you need and recommend mixes for your area. They may even have a seed drill for use.

Where at in Colorado are you located? A lot of rural mountains around here.:D
   / We need some help on seeding #6  
How deep is the sand? I understand it will vary in depth, but the grass roots likely would get down to the older soil.
   / We need some help on seeding #7  
For that small of an area I would use a small broadcast seeder. They make them for tractors and I think atv's. I have an old one that is hand crank and I have planted larger areas with one like it. Set a disc so that the blades are not at much angle and use it to cover the seeds.
   / We need some help on seeding
  • Thread Starter
How deep is the sand? I understand it will vary in depth, but the grass roots likely would get down to the older soil.

The sandy gravel is 4 to six feet deep. The flood scoured out all the soil down to bedrock and left streambed deposit behind as the water retreated.

But I think we've figured it out! As we were trying various seeders we came upon some areas where some grass had sprouted with last year's seeding try. My wife pointed out that the grass was coming up where she had put seed down in the cleat marks left by the bulldozers. On of the bulldozer operators turned her on to that trick. The cleat marks are about an inch deep - just right for seeds. But the cleat marks only stay for a few days and then wind and weather covers over the marks right along with burying the seed.

So....we used the front end loader to put in some loader marks as the picture shows. It seemed to work well.
We'll know in a month or so. The seed is an inch or so down and then hand-covered by raking. I'm thinking this would be a good way for reclamation people to get a cover crop established after a burn or a flood where regular implements can't do anything at all. Of course an even easier way is to simply rent a 40 ton and up bulldozer, drive around, and then seed the cleat marks.
Thanks for all the ideas,


  • 2_After FLood.JPG
    2_After FLood.JPG
    488 KB · Views: 119
  • cover cropping in gravely sand.jpg
    cover cropping in gravely sand.jpg
    1 MB · Views: 141