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Holzer-style Perennial Pasture Seed Mix

Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Hi there, I'm selling a seed blend I designed based alot on Sepp Holzer's teachings, and my experiences with similar, though less diverse mixes, here on my farm in SW Montana. I developed this seed mix because our farm is located on a high, dry, cold piece of land north of Bozeman that has been overgrazed for decades. The only plants ekeing out a pitiful existence were, and still are on most of our land, crested wheatgrass, smooth brome, sagebrush and rubber rabbitbrush. Non-natives, mostly, and the rest have emerged as dominate only because there weren't any native prairie plants left to keep them in check. The soil is mostly clay, zero organic matter, zero nitrogen, compacted, crusted, erosive. Ugh. The first thing I did when we got here five years ago was start planting different pasture species, and cover cropping with red clover. Astoundingly, the clovers particularly took to this soil. The voice in my head said: "This is what the soil here wants..." and I went with it. Well, a number of catalystic factors in my life convened around this piece of land, and having studied and enacted traditional organic farming techniques here on our farm since 2008, and having some training in Permaculture from some of the best teachers, and seeing Sepp Holzer's farm in video, and then having the great fortune to read his book, as well as having a background in the landscaping trade led me to the creation of this seed mix. It contains 17 species of plants, specific varieties bred for cold hardiness and drought tolerance: "Synergy West Perennial Pasture Seed Blend" is a unique seed blend we designed here at Cloud Nine Farm for the cold, arid Mountain West and perennial biodiversity-building agricultural applications. Useful for multi-year green manure rotations, nitrogen fixation, pollinator habitat, soil-building, a premium grazing forage for birds/poultry, goats, sheep, cows. People-compatible herbal and traditional native edible species. "Synergy West" contains a blend of: Orchardgrass, Perennial Ryegrass, Indian Ricegrass, Western and Snake River Wheatgrasses, Red and Ladino Clovers, Sainfoin, Small Burnett, Annual Sunflower, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Blue Flax, Chicory, Yellow Prairie Coneflower, Purple Prairie Clover, Purple Coneflower, Western Yarrow.

The purpose of this blend is to create a deep, resilient root mass, a hearty, biodiverse and nutritious forage free from GMO contamination concerns (GMO alfalfa is being planted widely around the West this year), above-ground biomass and insane pollinator habitat, self-seeding capacity, winter forage for domestic and wild animals and birds, and re-introduction of nitrogen into depleted soils. As a bonus, many of the species can be foraged upon by people, for food or medicine. Plus, it is beautiful to the eye. The grasses are cool season grasses, meaning they grow when the weather is cool, and thus are suited to cold climates and high elevations. This mix is an alternative to the pasture mixes and green manure crops you might see in the big alternative ag supply catalogs.

This winter for the first time, wild songbirds overwintered on our farm, subsisting on seeds they found in ungrazed, unmowed stands of this mix. I think that nature likes these plants together.

How best to establish this perennial pasture blend? Prepare the soil by roughing the surface...we've used a disc pulled behind a tractor, and are now using pigs, electric fencing, and mobile housing. Broadcast the seed, 1# per 50' x 50', or 15# per acre. Cover the seed, again, lightly with the disc, a harrow, or the rooting tendencies of pigs...if you can incorporate straw bedding/manure as a light mulch over these seeds, or with these seeds, it will help you get better germination rates right out of the gate. The best results with getting this mix established will be had if you can irrigate, but we're trying to get it established in areas we also DON'T irrigate. If you plan to try non-irrigation, plan to incorporate some type of surface mulch for the best results. We mow no shorter than 4" the first year, once or twice, depending on growth rates and rainfall...this knocks back annual weed pressure, allowing the desired species to dominate, as well as providing a layer of detritus mulch for the planting, so that even more of the seeds will find ideal germination conditions. Since some of the species are wild, they will take longer, with more fluctuations in temperature, to sprout. In the second year, the plants will reach their mature size. Begin to graze...and do that like nature does...for short intense durations. Allow stands to recover before grazing again, for short intense durations. Plan to allow stands of this pasture to mature to seedheads, for winter forage, bird habitat, and self-seeding, to keep the mix diverse. We're using this mix in conjunction with pastured mobile poultry flocks, pasture mobile pigs, and soon larger livestock like goats and cows. I planted it in a series of earthworks we built on the farm last spring. This summer, it will grow as the understory in food forest plantings we put into the earthworks, in it's second year. I'll post photos later in the summer.

This mix should be planted at the rates I mentioned above, and costs $10 per pound. Contact me, and we'll ship some to you, 1# minimum, shipping and handling costs depend on quantity ordered.

I look forward to sharing this, and the continuing evolution of this project, our farm, and other permaculture projects like ours!
Rock on Permies!

Allison Rooney
Cloud Nine Farm
Wilsall, Montana


Farmer at Cloud Nine Farm, located at 5300' elevation, on Sagebrush Steppe, northeast of Bridger Mountains in the Shields Valley of Montana. We do market gardens, four season growing, build earthworks, plant food forests, raise livestock and poultry, grow and sell plants and seeds, host WWOOFers, and more. Find our farm on facebook!
Julie Heneghan


Joined: Apr 07, 2012
Posts: 2
Hi Allison,

Your mix sounds lovely. I do have a couple of questions though. First, I have heard that flax when exposed to frost can develop prussic acid, which is dangerous for horses. Does that apply to blue flax? We have two pastures, one we lease to a man for his horse, and the other is for the chickens and rabbits. I was only thinking of using your seed mixture in the chicken/rabbit pasture, but the horse pasture is right next to it on the downwind side? Would this be a problem?

Second question is regarding the yarrow. I seem to be very allergic to the variety in my garden. Whenever my skin comes in contact with it, I get itchy welts. Also, when put in the garden, the chickens turn up their beaks at the yarrow. Is it possible to have the mix without the yarrow? It is not a deal breaker, but I just thought I would ask. Thanks for your help. Julie
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Hi Julie, Thanks for your interest in the seed mix! Regarding your question about blue flax, horses and prussic acid, I've found an NRCS plant data sheet, http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_lipe2.pdf, on Blue Flax, Linum perenne, that states that it has fair forage value for livestock and wildlife during spring and winter. It also states that the flax species with red or yellow flowers have toxicity to livestock, but makes no mention of this in regard to the Blue Flax. Other web sources seem to indicate a toxicity concern with the species...see here: http://www.agriculture.gov.sk.ca/Default.aspx?DN=8e652ef5-f098-43fe-8d9f-d3ceca667147

I have trouble with the data, since it seems to imply a forage crop of solely flax, which is different from the seed blend. The seed blend contains 1% of Appar Blue Flax, so a relatively small proportion of the ley. My opinion is that if horses are to graze this mix, it should be done with care, as there are other potential dangers for horses in the form of the clovers and bloating. I tried to lessen this risk by keeping the ratio of grasses in the mix higher than clovers, but horse owners should use caution. There are so many factors determining whether plants will sicken animals, but the biggest is probably what were they eating before, and when are they introduced to the mix? If the horses were eating dry scrubby yuck like our grazed out pastures for months, and then were turned out onto a field of all of these lush plants in July, or a field of blue flax alone, they'd probably get pretty ill, because of the shock to the system of nutrient density and richness of the forage, or prussic acid poisoning in the case of the flax. Sepp Holzer intentionally sows poisonous plants for his livestock, a means by which they can self-medicate. If they have plenty of other delicious fare, they won't gorge on the toxic stuff, is the gist I get from his writings and work, but they use the toxic compounds in some plant species instinctually to maintain health, as all animals do in nature.
I don't think planting this mix adjacent to your horse pasture is dangerous for the horse. My understanding is that the animal will have to consume a fair quantity of the broken and trampled plants to get sick, since it is when the plant is damaged that the chemical processes happen that create prussic acid. You could be careful to sow the mix 3' from the pasture boundary if you are very concerned about negative effects on the horse, or potential for wind to carry seed over, flax is pretty heavy seed that won't be carried far by wind.
As for your question about the yarrow, do you know the species/variety in your garden, by any chance? The yarrow in this mix is the native Western Yarrow. It is less invasive and more diminutive than Common Yarrow, and less aromatic and oily, but still a good bitter plant. Many of the ornamental Yarrow cultivars are big, potent plants, but not the Western. Chickens may generally not eat much of it, but it has benefit for animals for health maintenance. The ratio of yarrow in the mix is a quarter of a percent, so it will be present, but minimally so.

I hope this helps!

Incidentally, I can't customize small batches of seed, but I can customize special orders of seed with a 200# minimum order, if you want a seed blend with no flax or yarrow.

Thanks!
Allison
Julie Heneghan


Joined: Apr 07, 2012
Posts: 2
Hi Allison,

Thanks for the reply and the research. I will read the info and get back to you. Regards, Julie
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 143
    
    1
My horses graze fields of native grasses with some spots being very high in clover. The horses choose, by themselves, when they like to eat that Mammoth clover; otherwise they ignore it. The same is true for all the grasses. It is fun in the fall, when the seed heads are ripe, to watch the horses harvest those. They walk through the fields snapping off seed-heads like popcorn.

I would be interested in you seed mix, also. So if you need a couple of horse-types to reach a your minimum blend volume, let me know and I would be willing to pilot a plot of it to my herd here in Michigan.
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Thanks for your reply Susanna! I would be happy to combine custom orders and ship them separately for the mix without the flax & yarrow to reach the minimum order of #200, so just let me know how much you are interested in.

For anyone reading this thread, and for Julie and Susanna, I received a copy of F. Newman Turner's book, Fertility Pastures, published by Acres USA after I posted the original description of this seed mix. In this book, written in the 40's, Turner describes his work restoring spent pastures with herbal ley seed mixtures and herds of Jersey cows. He used very much the same types of plants that are in this mix. In fact, reading his book, Fertility Farming was one of the reasons I decided to try to make such a mix for our farm. In Fertility Pastures, his description of his programs with herbal ley pasture seed mixes is detailed. I was struck by how much seed he advocates planting: upwards of 50# per acre! You may have noticed that above, I recommend #15 per acre. Well, I am amending that recommendation now, in light of this new reading, to 25# per acre. In my earlier research, I looked at recommended seeding rates for a number of pasture seed mixes, and the recommended rates were anywhere from 10-25# per acre. I decided to suggest that people plant at a rate in the middle. I was particularily concerned with this seed mix being affordable, and felt that the middle road of seeding rates would help keep costs down for folks. Now, I am thinking that a rate of 25# per acre is more realistic. I want to succeed with this mix on our land, and planting at a heavier rate will mean more germinating plants from the start, and a thicker stand. I also want people who plant this seed on their own properties to succeed, so the heavier rate of seeding seems wise. Of course, feel free to try less to start, if you are concerned about costs.

As far as shipping goes, I just shipped the first batch of 25# via UPS ground. It cost $27.00 to ship from MT to CO, so the shipping rates are reasonable, and I don't add a handling fee!

Thanks so much for responding, and being interested in this seed blend! Ladies, get back to me with how much seed you are interested in trying when you can, and I'll organize the custom order if enough volume can be generated, with a turn around time of about 5-7 business days. Otherwise, I have the original mix in stock, and can ship orders now, with a 1# minimum order!

Is there anyone else reading this thread who would like to be added to the custom order (no flax, no yarrow)?

Susanna de Villareal-Quintela


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 143
    
    1
Allison,

Thank you for responding. I will be interested in purchasing for a fall planting. I think this will give everyone an opportunity to do whatever research they want and others to determine if they would like to take a portion of the seed. I will save with the idea of purchasing 25# to bolster a couple of my pasture divisions that have been struggling after a flood. Planting those two sections this fall will allow me to leave those fields ungrazed until fall the following year. For me, this will be a good test batch and the plants will have ample opportunity to dig deep before that first bit of grazing pressure.

Let me know if you are albe to find enough purchasers.

Susanna
Merry Cox


Joined: Aug 19, 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Salida, Colorado Zone 4
I want to buy some seed from you. I live at 7,000 ft in Colorado and definitely want to try this in my very large chicken runs.
Please post info on how to get ahold of you.
Thanks,
Merry
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Susanna, I'll put you on the custom seed (no flax no yarrow) list for fall! Thanks!

Hi Merry,
I can be reached by phone 406-578-2144 or email: rooneymontana@imt.net

Contact me anytime with questions or to place an order!

Thanks everyone!
Peony Jay


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 145
Location: B.C.
Have any of you had great success with this mixture? Can you put up pictures? I'm just a curious biatch.


My Marxist Feminist Dialectic Brings All The Boys To The Yard!
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Hi Peony,
I've got a planting in its second year. I can get a photo for you, but the plants are still small, and we have possibly the coldest shortest growing season in North America, so take that into consideration. Perennial pasture plants need time (first year) to develop roots before they'll put on too much top growth, so it's a good idea to wait until later in the second year to graze them. I don't expect this planting to reach full size until late July or early August of this year, and I'll definitely post a photo of that. The seed mix I planted last spring didn't have any Chicory, Echinacea or Annual Sunflower in it like the current recipe. I have other plantings of other predecessor seed mixes with Chicory in them, and it is an awesome gorgeous plant...and we've had a few patches of Annual Sunflowers volunteering around the farm. I noticed that wild and domestic birds go nuts for Sunflower (they eat all parts of the plant), and I felt it would be a great addition to the mix. I'll be planting a few acres of the current recipe this spring, to continue the development process. I'll try to take a pic today and get it up here...

Peony Jay


Joined: Mar 24, 2012
Posts: 145
Location: B.C.
Thanks, Allison.
Rick Brodersen


Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: MLT,WA
Email sent for order....


www.ricksdiy.com If I Can't Fix It, It's Definitely Broken.
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
Hello everyone! Finally, here are some photos of the pasture mix! This is a planting of the first version of this particular seed mix...it does not have the Echinacea, Annual Sunflower or Chicory in it, but we just overseeded those into this planting from last spring yesterday, and I took the opportunity to multitask and photograph this early spring, second year stand. The ratios of species/seeds within the current seed blend are refined, as in, exactly as I wanted them to be represented in the stand. The planting in the photographs was done with seed from a different company, and they were too busy to assist me in developing a mix properly, so I found another company to work with, and am excited to have more "say" in the actual recipe that we are now selling seeds of.

Some things to consider in looking at these photos: Where we farm is possibly one of the coldest places in the lower 48, we just got a three day snow event/sometimes blizzard. If you live in a warmer part of the West, these plants would already be two or three inches taller. Here, they are about 4-5" tall so far, with a peak size of over 30". The soil where we planted these plants was totally grazed out barely fertile (zero organic matter, zero soil nitrogen) alkaline clay. This planting has seen no additional soil amending, besides where the fruit trees and berries are planted, and they are individually composted/mulched with pole peelings, and sprinklings of chicken bedding and manure we clean out of the nest boxes, only around about 3' in diameter around each new fruit tree/berry youngling.

I'll post more photos in several weeks when the growth gets toward its full potential. From looking at what we've got now, this planting is about to go OFF!!! !! And there is very little to no evidence of any undesirable weed presence. We did not mow this last summer at all.

Thanks for all the great responses to this mix so far!

Allison

PS Cloud Nine Farm, Wilsall, Montana is on Facebook, be our friend there, and see the other stuff we get up to!


[Thumbnail for 2nd Year Pasture Seed Plants Spring 2012 a.JPG]

[Thumbnail for 2nd Year Pasture Seed Plants Spring 2012 b.JPG]

[Thumbnail for 2nd Year Pasture Seed Plants Spring 2012 c.JPG]

Rick Brodersen


Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 44
Location: MLT,WA
I was very excited to get my seed mix, looking forward to getting it in the ground. Thanks again.

Rick
Allison Rooney


Joined: Mar 24, 2010
Posts: 42
Location: Shields Valley Montana
That's great Rick! Keep us posted on your results, OK? And thanks for your support of this project!!
Aaron Potter


Joined: Apr 26, 2013
Posts: 4
Would this pasture mix do well in southwest Oklahoma?
John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 1982
Location: Augusta, GA
    
  61
Aaron Potter wrote:Would this pasture mix do well in southwest Oklahoma?


Couldn't hurt to try it. If you planted a test plot and let it reseed itself, the species that are appropriate for your climate would be the ones that multiplied. With the dry weather you have been having, it's probably a good idea to try lots of stuff and see what adapts itself. Even things like Indian ricegrass that does well in places like Albuquerque.

If you are looking for chicory seed, send me a PM with your address and I will send you some. I had a bunch of it go to seed this year and I am just now collecting up the dried stalks and seed pods.
Aaron Potter


Joined: Apr 26, 2013
Posts: 4
Thanks John, pm sent.
 
 
subject: Holzer-style Perennial Pasture Seed Mix
 
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