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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have about 6 acres that I could plant in switchcgrass in two different fields. After seeing Lynn Applemens presentation on the PF forum I am impressed with the cover it makes and would like opinions on whether it is a good idea on small plots. I am not in a good pheasant area but need cover for deer, grouse and rabbits. I have been planting white pine in one area and it has a lot of shrubs and berry vines that will soon make some cover it I let it go.

I need some quick shelter from hawks and owls.

Is there any food value to switchgrass?

If I go the switchgrass route, can i stil leave the other stuff in the plot to make a good mix?
 

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If you plant it you will likely never get rid of it, its spreads like wildfire. I studied it at the USDA and yes switch is awesome.

Youll want to plant the perimeter to give you an entry when deer are in the plot so that they cant see you. Thats what switch is really good for as it grows 6+ feet.

Do you have a grain drill?
 

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Quick shelter would happen a lot faster with hinge cuts
 

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Switch is great. 6 acres is great. ANY switch of ANY size is great. I would not do a straight planting (monoculture) of it. It has no food value directly as a food itself.
I would plant with it a mix of Big blue stems, Indiangrass, and possibly either a mix or a separate side planting of pollinators.

Spend this year getting the soil ready in terms of weed control--don't rush planting it. If you don't have all weeds in control ahead of time you will be unhappy and out quite a bit of money.

Use a no-till drill for best results. Contact PF chapter for access to one.

Be patient. The first year usually looks like a failure. The only way I have found to get around the 1st year blah's is to plant RR soybeans the year prior. It allows you to spray for weeds, keep the soil intact, and the beans put valuable N back into the soil. It jump starts what you plant for NWSG next year. Look at it as tho you are planting to prepare for NWSG--not as a food plot and you will be better off.

Quick shelter from hawks and owls is tough if you want something of value for the long run. You may be better off being patient. Hinge cuts-1/2 cuts are a glorified media hyped band-aid in most habitat situations and I prefer to use them only as a last resort. To achive high quality long term habitat there are better options than hinge cuts.

Contact Hilltop Seed (sponsor on HPA) poster name is Pheasants. He has done very well by me in the past when I bought seed from him.
 

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yes and some of that I believe is directly related to aspect to the sun, soil type and moisture, and weed comp.

I've planted Shelter in several areas of a farm that have the same soil, identical prior ag practices, but one has southern aspect vs northern aspect. They both get full sun all day but the southern one is a much beefier, taller stand that tolerates heavy snow better than the other. Both were drilled the same day at the same rate. Both are a hands down success. They are just different if you look at pix of them side by side...

I believe their are no less than 13 varieties of switchgrass that vary in mature height and climate zone. I typically plant Shelter, Niagra and Cave In Rock in PA.
 

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For escape cover and thermal cover monoculture Cave-in-rock Swithc grass cannot be matched. It works great for small game and deer love to bed in it.

Grouse are more early succesional woodland habitat. I do not believe that they would use the switchgrass.

If the surrounding area has food and decent habitat, the switchgrass would be a nice addition to the area. Switch grass stripped with Sorghum provides food and shelter for many critters.

Contact a local Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever for more ideas. Upland bird habitat benefits Turkey, deer, and non game species as well.
 

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Based only on the information provided I would say you are better off letting your areas go. Especially given the species you are interested in. Ideally, you want the areas to develope into a mixture of herbaceous vegetation, shrubs, and young trees. This will happen naturally - but you could introduce a variety beneficial trees and shrubs by supplemental planting. This supplemental planting could also be directed at diversifying or extending the mast crops within your property. Long term you simply want to prevent the opening from succeeding into a young forest with a complete canopy. Once that happens your herbaceous and shrub layer will be lost.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks to all for your comments.

I will do at least some of the area in switchgrass. There are a few acres between my food plots and woods that are facing south. I have been discing the area for weed control and there is a cover crop of annual rye in there now that I plow under before planting the switchgrass.

How important is the drill? I usually rototill or disc in the grain seeds. Is switch different?
 

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I would give this site a read through. Ed Spinazzola knows his stuff when it comes to forage and cover plots. http://www.deerattraction.com/wildlife1.htm

He has a mix with warm season grasses and perennials that I am considering planting next year. He goes into great detail on what each plant does in your plot and that ways to prep and plant. I am about half way through his book, which I would recommend as well.
 

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You can't till in sw grass. At all. You will not get any results except weeds.

Sw grass and any other native grass for that matter needs to be right on top or 1/8" deep MAX.

Sw grass and all other natives need to go thru a process called stratification. It is natures way of breaking down the protective coating on the seed so it can germinate. This is done in nature thru a frost cycle. It can be reproduced in a refridgerator.

The drill is best for a few reasons:
1) NWSG seed is very expensive. A drill ensures you are not wasting it by putting it on too heavy and possibly too deep.
2) It minimizes trips over the same area preventing compaction.
3) The seed is metered out more evenly making it so you don't get clumps or open spaces.

If you think you will use a drill STOP disking or tilling now. The soil needs time to settle or when you plant it will end up too deep. Weeds need to be controlled with glyphosate instead of tillage for this reason. I would not plow/ disk or anything except roundup that rye. You can plant now and when spring comes use a weed wiper to kill off the rye instead of spraying it. Jsu don't turn any dirt....

If you have soil ready to go you can drill it as soon as it freezes over again. This is called a dormant season planting. I planted 16 acres in 2 different counties the 1st week of Dec 2012 this way. Come spring it should pop up ASAP since you used natures stratification. IF you wait till spring to plant you may get some growth but very minimal is likely. You will also spend a good bit of the summer fighting weeds back. Spring of 2014 you should have some stuff really starting to push up. Much of the 1st year of NWSG growth goes into roots not height. I have had fields I previously planted in RR soybeans the season prior that had 2-3 feet tall sw grass the first year but those fields are not the norm. They were managed specifically to plant NWSG in in a 3 year plan.
 
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