Seedbed preparation is crucial for late summer plantings of alfalfa, grass, or some small-seeded cover crops. Half-hearted seedbed preparation will produces only a half-decent stand. Good seed-to-soil contact and weed control are essential.
Two types of seedbeds work well in August. Fully tilled seedbeds are best for many growers. Weeds are eliminated and fields are smooth. If you choose thsi method, don’t overtill. Conserve soil moisture whenever possible, and put extra effort into getting a firm seedbed. You should be able to bounce a basketball on
a firm seedbed. Rolling, harrowing, and waiting for rain or irrigating all help make seedbeds firm.
Stubble from cereal crops like wheat also makes a good seedbed. So can hailed-out beans. Hailed out corn may be a bit tougher but many no-till drills can place seeds into this stubble soil very nicely, as long as there isn’t excessive residue. Make sure you control weeds like foxtail, sunflowers, and volunteer grain before stubble seeding. Use herbicides like glyphosate or Gramoxone before planting to kill existing weeds.
Whenever planting in August be wary of grasshoppers. They love to eat new seedlings. Spray field margins with insecticides if more than 20 hoppers per square yard are present.
Remember, all these preparations are useless without moisture. Avoid planting into dry soil. If you have moisture, plant — shallow for rapid emergence and early for seedlings to develop good cold tolerance. With help from Mother Nature, you’ll be happy with the results.