Site Preparation

Site preparation enhances seed to soil contact, helps ensure proper planting depth and can even provide erosion control.

Prior to working the site

  • Walk the site looking for gullies, culverts and other hazards (e.g., logs, stones, stumps, etc.).
  • If weed growth is excessive, mow and disk stubble into the soil, if possible.
  • Check with utility companies before disking.
  • Calculate the size of the area to be planted and the amount of seed it will take.
  • Size up the watershed and the site’s erosion potential.

Seedbed preparation for drill seeding

Ideal seedbeds are friable, firm and smooth

  • To reduce erosion, don’t smooth up the site until just before planting.
  • Relatively level sites can be worked with a disk, chain-tooth harrow or similar equipment.
  • To avoid excessive clodding, don’t work the site while it’s too wet.
  • Cultipacking can help firm the seedbed and reduce clods.

Seedbed preparation for hydroseeding

Seedbeds can be left rougher to reduce erosion.

  • Steep slopes can be ripped with a wide-track dozer.
  • Directional tracking can be used to interrupt water flow.
  • Work the site perpendicular to the slope to interrupt water flow.

Heavily compacted soils

  • Try to work the site to a depth of three inches.
  • A heavy disk might be necessary.
  • Some sites may need to be worked with long bulldozer tines. 
An illustrated bulldozer creating grooves in a sloped roadside.
This diagram illustrates directional tracking: dozer treads create grooves perpendicular to the slope.

Getting your seeds to grow is a priority, try to get good seed to soil contact when possible.

-Joe Kooiker, Story County, 2024

For hydroseeding we prefer the site to be rough and a little soft. We seed immediately after the construction equipment has left, with no additional seedbed preparation. The rough texture keeps the seed in place and the softness allows for better root penetration. However, for drill seeding, firmness is the most important factor. It is easy for seed to get buried too deep in soft seedbeds, either during or post planting. 

-Doug Sheeley, Dallas County, 2024