Fertilizer Advice

Q. I live in Southern Michigan. The plan is to establish about 6 acres of praire. for my local should we use Blackwell or Cave -in-the rock Switch grass. The piece of land has laid fallow for the last year, the Crop was corn on this ground. With a soil test where should be with Ph and what possible amendments willwe have to make Nitrogen lime fertilizers?? Thanks Hal

I would use Blackwell in your area. In most cases you should not have to do anything to establish a native grass stand. A soil Ph between 6.0 and 7.5 is favorable. Phosphorus and Nitrogen levels already in the soil are usually good enough to support native species. It is when a grass stand is used for pasture or cut for hay that you may need extra nutients for recovery. If your soil test shows otherwise, you can add both. A local Co-op or fertilizer dealer should be able to help you out. Also, planting a native legume such as Illinois Bundleflower or Purple Prairieclover can improve Nitrogen levels in the soil. Thanks!

Q. I have been reading about planting hairy vetch in my garden beds in the fall as a _quot_green_quot_ manure. But I can't find any instructions on how to grow it, and have found conflicting information on whether to till it into the soil in the spring or just cut it real short and plant the vegetables right into the growing vetch. Can you please tell me basic growing instructions and whether it should be tilled into the soil or left growing? Thank you so much!

Planting the vegetables right into the growing vetch would be using the vetch as a cover crop. Tilling the vetch into the soil would be considered green manure. I would plant the hariy vetch in the fall (mid-October), and till it under in the spring. You will want to wait at least two weeks before planting after tilling (I would probably till twice... once four weeks before planting, and then again two weeks before planting my garden). If you do not till it ahead of time, the decomposing material will consume the available oxygen and cause problems with your vegetables. Hairy Vetch is a good choice, so is Crimson Clover, or red/white clover.

Q. We just put in about 3/4 acre of Cody and another 2 acres of Prairie 3 with wildflower mix. We put rye grass in with all the buffalo and in the native in erosion areas. Do you recommend fertilizer at this stage? Someone recommended we put some 12-12 on it, in part to give a charge to the rye grass included with the buffalo and native grasses.

Whether the ryegrass was used as erosion control, or as a green-cover, we do not recommend the use of fertilizer at this stage. The ryegrass will take control of all of the moisture the ground has to offer, espically if you encourage it's growth, taking valuable moisture away from the buffalograss and other native grasses. I would, however, recommend keeping your ryegrass mowed to allow the sunlight to be received by the native grasses.