December 10, 2015

Curly Dock is the Bane of My Pastures!

The pastures need some love.  One in particular needs some weed control big time.  Curly dock is a broad leaf plant that is hard to control by simply pulling.  It has a large tap root.  I did some research and came across several recommended herbicides that are intended for use in grazing pastures, plus Chances mom gave me some recommendations since she's dealt with that weed many times.  The herbicides state that you can even let a horse graze right after you spray!  I've decided to give it at least a week or two just in case but the two pastures with the most curly dock are out of the grazing rotation at this time so it's really not been an issue.

Our property is laid out really nicely with a sacrifice area, named the Wormhole since it goes between the three main pastures.  This encompasses the paddock near the run-in,  the stable yard and an part of one pasture I enclosed with temporary fencing to make a "riding area" about the size of a large round pen.  The three areas interconnect with gates to make a larger sacrifice area when it's too wet to be on the pastures.  Below is our diagram, not quite to scale of course, of the property.  Steve and I named the 3 pastures: Westeros, Galafray and The Shire.  The stable yard and a pathway through the riding area is the muddy muck area we'll be working on soon.  The riding area I envision, far down the road mind you, grading it and getting proper substrate brought in to make a relatively flat riding area.

Anyhow, the Shire had the largest concentration of Curly Dock followed by Galafray.  The weed spreads by dropped seed hence the clustering of plants observed.  I spot sprayed both Galafray and the Shire (on Thanksgiving day actually!) with PasturePro using a 4 gallon backpack sprayer.  It just made sense to spot spray this weed for now.  

In the future to control onion or other more spread out weeds I may need to get a sprayer I can use with my mower. Onion seems like a problem in Galafray but there are also bald spots that need over seeding.  I've also read that sometimes balancing the soil pH and nutrients can fix an pasture onion problem.

You can see how the Curly dock grows in clumps and followed a small berm in The Shire.  There was basically a path of Curly dock leading from one end of the pasture the the other in dense patches.  Of course there were some micro-patches in other areas of the pasture too.

Westeros has a few bits of Curly dock here so I'll spray in the spring since the horses are grazing that pasture right now.  The forage is dense and Westeros has fewer weeds than the others so I'm going to focus my efforts on the Shire and Galafray.

Within a couple of days the weeds were starting to melt away.  Many more days later most of the weeds are brown and dead looking.  I'm sure I'll have to spray again in the spring since  I know missed areas or didn't fully saturate certain plants but I feel that at least we are doing something to get this under control.

We'll need to over seed with warm and cool grass species (so the pastures have more year round grazing availability), test the soil and apply lime as needed, aerate, and of course spread some compost when the growing season is back in full swing.  I want to get the pastures nice and lush with few if any bare spots.  Some areas look like they have been over grazed or perhaps had too much pony traffic during wet periods.  It will be a management task for sure to keep the horses off the pastures when they are grazed down to about 3 inches or when it's wet. If there are spots I need to have intensive restoration done I can always utilize temporary fencing to protect baby grasses for a season.  

It will take a few years to get the pastures less weedy and more forage-y.  Pasture maintenance is an ongoing task and on a smaller acreage even more necessary!  I will certainly document as spring comes and I can really assess what is going on with the pastures.  I'll also post information about pasture management as I learn more!

1 comment:

lytha said...

Curly dock and thistle and nettles are our main pasture weeds, and I don't have a fancy sprayer like you, but go around with my little 2 liter one and spray dicamba on them. With dicamba (weed & feed) I don't worry about the animals poisoning themselves because I'm careful to only spray the weeds they don't eat. (I might be pushing my luck there.) Since the curly dock get mowed, they don't get too bad here, but you should see the pastures nearby where they don't try to control it - the horses have almost nothing but curly dock to walk on. And it's in our hay often. Isn't having your own pasture fun? I love not having anyone telling me what to do.