Converting a wooded area into pasture | Living the Country Life

Converting a wooded area into pasture

Converting a wooded area into pasture requires a lot of planning. Which trees to take out, where to plant grasses, and how to control erosion are all considerations.

Radio interview source: Willie Woode, Senior Conservation Specialist, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

Converting a wooded area into a brand new pasture is a process that takes a lot of study. It includes evaluating your soil type to determine the right species of grasses, and considering the slope of the land. A woodland with more than a 15-percent slope is not recommended for pasture.
Willie Woode is a senior conservation specialist with the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District.  He says don't immediately bulldoze all the trees. Some have to stay to provide shade and add depth to the pasture. Prioritize what stays and what goes.
"If there is any plant that is toxic to the horses that is the first to be taken off," he says. "The smaller trees would go, unhealthy trees would go, trees that provide too much shade, because you've got to have full sun in the pasture, would also go. Then, be left with healthy, mature trees that don't provide too much shade."
Leave as many trees as you can on areas with steeper slopes, because they help hold the soil in place. Woode also recommends installing silt fences for erosion control around the perimeter of the area.
Test the soil pH before you plant. In a wooded area, the soil is usually very acidic, so it's important to correct the pH by adding the recommended amount of lime.
"Once you remove the trees and the soil is disturbed, that's an ideal time to go in there and plow your lime into the soil," says Woode. "Because the lime is unlike fertilizer, it doesn't dissolve very easily. It takes some time for it to chemically combine with the soil itself for it to change the pH.  So we've proven that if you can disc it into the soil, it's more effective."
Next, apply phosphorous and potash for root development. Once the pasture grasses are growing you can put down nitrogen.

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