Published May 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Dew Drop Drill is a big help is spring drill seeding

WORTHINGTON — It doesn’t matter if I’m planting trees or native prairie grasses, the month of May is a great month. When you have a motivation to improve wildlife habitat there is always some part of your project that you can make better.

By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — It doesn’t matter if I’m planting trees or native prairie grasses, the month of May is a great month. When you have a motivation to improve wildlife habitat there is always some part of your project that you can make better.

My folks have an 80 south of Rushmore that we have been improving the habitat for about four years now. I am a participant in my own individual research projects along the way.

One part of my personal research is trying to prove one way or another which seeding methods for native grasses work the best for me.

There are two trains of thought on this issue. One is to do a fall seeding and the other is the more traditional seeding in the spring. Last year, we completed a fall seeding which used a tractor-mounted seeder which uses a fan of sorts to basically throw the seed evenly on top of the ground.

This is done after Nov. 1 to insure than none of the seeds germinate after seeding. If theses seeds did germinate in the fall, the plants would not be developed enough to make it through the winter. Cold soil temperatures in November accomplish the delayed germination.

Broadcast seeding has several advantages. The first of those is that broadcast seeding doesn’t leave seeds planted in rows. You get a more evenly dispersed seed placement and it’s harder to have missed spots like you can with a drill. The other big advantage of a fall seeding after Nov. 1 is that there is normally very little going on at that time of year. Equipment is generally more available as well. And the biggest benefit of fall seeding is that the planting window is much longer. You can seed any time after Nov. 1, and can continue to do so even if there is snow on the ground. This bigger window really can be a great help.

As the seeds lay on top of the ground they eventually get covered with snow.

This along with the ground going through a freeze/thaw cycle packs the seeds firmly to the ground. Native seeds need to be just barely covered with soil.

The rule of thumb is to plant native seed the same depth as the thickness of the seed. Most native seeds are very fine and are planted super shallow.

Spending the winter on the top of the ground results in good soil to seed contact and insures that the seeds are not planted too deep. I often wonder why they don’t just blow away after a fall broadcast seeding, but I have never heard of this being much of a problem.

The other more common method of seeding is a spring seeding using a native seed drill. These are special drills that can handle many different sizes of seeds and plant them all at the same time. They have very precise adjustments that allow these small seeds to be distributed properly. You can seed in the spring in Nobles County from May 15 to June 15. This is a much smaller window of opportunity and weather can play a big part. I did a 2 1/2-acre spring seeding with a small four-foot native seed drill that I borrowed from the Osceola NRCS office in Sibley, Iowa. The Osceola County Pheasants Forever chapter purchased this drill and donated it to the NRCS office.

It has been in almost constant use since that time. It is small enough to go where bigger drills can’t, and can be pulled by a normal sized ATV.

It was for this reason that I wanted to give it a try. My spot was small, and I wanted to do the work myself.

I used this drill called a Dew-Drop drill will ease. I was very impressed with its performance and am very anxious to see how this spring drill seeding will compare to the fall seeding (done last year), which is adjacent to it. I will be able to see over the next few months and ultimately over the next few years a head-to-head comparison of these two methods.

I had seen this little ATV drill in action before, but had not used it on a solo basis. It really allows just about anyone who is interested in habitat work to be able to complete this work himself or herself.

The website to the manufacture is They cost about $7,000, so you probably wouldn’t own one by yourself, but it could be very workable for several individuals to go in together. I used it to plant my food plots as well and it worked well for that too.

As of this writing, none of the seed that was planted last year had come up yet, but as the weather warms I am sure that it will. The spring seeding was completed only a few days ago so it has not come yet either. It takes about three full growing seasons to get a good stand of native grasses and flowers.

You want it to happen faster, but I have never really seen it done in less time than that. I will have to control the weeds this summer, most likely by mowing the parcels once or twice with a stalk chopper or my rough cut ATV mower. This eliminates the sunlight and moisture competition, and for the most part, does not cut the native grasses as they grow slower than the weeds and are uninjured as a result.

The month of May is just about shot. Pheasants are hatching the fist week of June and the fishing should be picking up in the next week or two. It is good to have the hard work done so other pursuits can be enjoyed.

I have about 40 trees that will need to be matted by hand and that should complete my list of spring habitat endeavors.

I enjoy collecting volunteer red cedars that grow in the ditches that are almost always mowed off every year. I find the ones in the fence row or other location that prevents them from being mowing and moving them into places that will allow them to be pheasant winter habitat in the years to come.

Ditches near WMA’s are not mowed and these are good places to look. There will always be some of this fun work to do, and I hope that I will be able to do for many years to come.

50 years from now when I am dead and gone, the trees that I have planted and habitats that I have touched will most likely be the greatest testament to the fact that I was ever here.