Meade County Extension Office
One method to add legumes particularly red and white clover, to a pasture is frost seeding. Establishing clovers to a pasture helps reduce nitrogen fertilizer costs as well as improve its forage quality. Frost seeding is simply broadcast sowing the seeds on the field without disturbing the soil. In our area, typically, this should be done during February.
A clover seed has a very good chance of germinating with the right moisture and temperature. After germination it becomes a plant. A clover plant needs soil, moisture, warm temperatures and sunlight in order to grow. This is why we recommend the month of February for frost seeding. The seeds will not attempt to sprout until the temperatures are ideal for such. In order for the seed to become imbedded into the soil, it needs to be in place on bare ground during the freezing and thawing of the ground. This freezing and thawing helps the clover seed obtain the soil contact it needs when it does finally germinate. Usually during February, we will have a few times when the ground will freeze for this process. After germination and root establishment, grass needs to be grazed in order to let the light reach the seedling clover.
The big advantage to this method is it can be done on frozen ground and long before any other method of renovation is practical due to wet soils.
Success depends on the amount of bare ground available for where the seeds fall, the amount of competition for light and space, and fertility of the soil. Due to the costs, not much compared to other farm inputs, I think frost seeding is a renovation method everyone should do on at least some pastures every year.
For more information, please contact the Meade County Cooperative Extension Service.