Frost Seeding – When, How, and What

By: Patrick McFadden

Frost seeding is the surface placement of seed in late winter into early spring. The freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw cycle and spring rains establish proper quality seed to soil contact. This time of the year, the nighttime temperatures are below freezing and the daytime temperatures are above freezing, causing tiny cracks to form in the earth essentially working the seed into the soil. There is no need for disking or dragging and is an effective way to let Mother Nature do your dirty work, ultimately saving you time and money. Before you head out to frost seed, there are a few things you need to know

 

When should I frost seed? 

Timing can vary from year to year, depending on your location and how long Ole’ Man Winter hangs around. Generally, the best time to frost seed is when there are three to five remaining frosts. Seeding on a thin layer of melting snow is also a common practice.  

 

How do I Frost seed? 

Broadcasting seed with cyclone-type spreaders that are mounted on ATV’s, UTV’s, tractors, or hand spreaders are the most commonly used. Broadcasting clover seed into an established clover field or winter wheat are two very common methods.   

 

What should I frost seed and how much should I broadcast? 

Only a select few seeds work well. Species that germinate rapidly and are small hardy seeds work best; clover is the most common seed used in frost seeding. Red clover is the easiest to use due to its good vigor, shade and cold tolerance. A good second option would be ladino clover. Using a good mixture of clover is also a good option. Using properly inoculated seed, having the soil pH in the proper range, and good soil drainage is also needed to be successful. I normally use these seeding rates. Seed red clover at 4-8 pounds per acre, and ladino clover at 1-2 pounds per acre. If combined, seed 3-4 pounds of red clover plus 1-2 pounds of ladino clover per acre.  

 

Frost seeding is an effective, economical way to improve your food plot program; in fact, it may be one of the most cost effective and energy efficient seeding methods. Good quality seed and the proper conditions will yield great results. I have only mentioned the basics of frost seeding as always do your homework and pay attention to the details and you will be successful.  

 

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