I get questions like this one below all the time. Is this situation similar to yours?
I HAVE A 2 ACRE STRIP THAT I KEEP MOWED.
I DONT REALLY HAVE THE MONEY TO PUT A GOOD food plot IN BUT I WOULD LIKE TO PUT SOMETHING IN..
MY QUESTION IS IF I WERE TO PUT IN THE NO PLOW FORMULA DO I HAVE TO KILL THE GRASS?
IS IT POSSABLE TO JUST ROUGH IT UP WITH A RAKE IF I CUT THE GRASS REALLY LOW? WHAT WOULD BE MY BEST APROACH TO PLANTING THIS WITH NO TILL?
ALSO DO YOU HAVE ANY KNOWLADGE ON ALFALFA? I WAS GIVEN ABOUT 5 LBS AND TOLD JUST TO SPRINKLE IT IN THE GRASS WERE I WANT IT TO GROW.. ANY INSITE?
Answer: Yes, it is possible to over seed some no-till preparations.
Here are the issues:
1. Soil test:
Most of the no-till blends are cereals, grains, and clover mixes (+/- brassicas) and most of these plants really like near neutral pH. If you don’t know the pH range of your soil, you may be wasting your time and money.
2. Seed to Soil Contact and Depth:
Most of the no till blends can be overseeded into something else (provided conditions are right), but they still need seed to soil contact. Roughing up the soil with an old bed spring or drag harrow behind an atv will usually suffice. If you are doing it by hand even a rake can work provided your back holds out and you don’t have much land to cover.
3. When you are planting:
If you are planting late summer make sure you are likely to get adequate sun and rainfall and the soil has to be good, especially in conditions where you already have grass competing for nutrients.
As you have mentioned above, the grass would have to be cut short when planting is done: shorter the better: stunting it a bit and giving the overseeded plants time to gather nutrients,sunlight and moisture to get a start.
4. The issue of overseeding into grass:
The type of grass that is growing into your plot can be an indicator of soil conditions there. For example if you have tall fescue then it usually has a moderate tolerance for dry or moist conditions and a HIGH tolerance for pH below 6.0. If this is the pH of your soil overseeding forages deer like will not likely be effective.
Given the competition from the grass and the low pH, survival should be poor. Conversely, timothy grass has a low tolerance for either wet or dry extremes and is barely tolerant of pH below 6. So if it is growing there, maybe the pH of your soil is a bit better.
5. Killing the grass:
This may be your best bet, depending on your soil conditions. Killing the grass alone will not provide a big benefit if the soil conditions are not near neutral pH because weeds will take over and you will have no added benefit.
However, assume your soil conditions are good, you may consider doing a chemical burn down on a strip down the center of your grass plot. Follow this by removing or raking up the dead thatch and then use no till seed after roughing up the soil.
You could also to a strip around the outside, but the deer may eay it up before it gets a chance. Having it in the center means the deer will be limited to night feeding in the area and this may provide it with more opportunity to get established.
The trouble with this approach is that it will be an ongoing effort for you likely: between encrouching grass, maybe moderate soil conditions, and the fact that most no till blends are annuals you may be doing more work than you would like to do.
Generally speaking alfalfa is the most pH sensitive of forage crops, followed by legumes and then grasses. Below pH 6.0 this plant has virtually no tolerance. It doesn’t do well in alkaline soil, salty soil or poorly drained soils either. Slow to establish and high phosphorus requirement (soil test: low phosphorus you will have to be adding fertilizer to keep it going).
Once established is very competitive and can be drought tolerant once established. Can withstand periods of flooding if early in spring. Does establish deer root system which allows it to out compete other less viable weeds and plants. Can be used as no-till planting, but not in your situation because: Must do chemical burn down first, then use drill for precise depth of planting at 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep using pre inoculated seed. If you just scatter this seed you likely will not see much benefit. Keep in mind, when we discuss recommendations, it doesn’t mean if you just throw it out there it won’t grow, what it means is you aren’t likely to see productive growth: