Brassicas…. What a strange word. When it comes to fall food plots we hear this term used a lot. But what are they and how do we use them to our advantage. If you look up the word Brassicas you will find out that it is a noun and is used to describe plants that are of genus to the mustard family. If you look it up in the deer hunting world you will find a totally different answer. I would define it as a plant such as turnips, radishes, rape, kale and sugar beets that are used to attract and kill deer after the first hard frost. Throughout this article I am going to refer to brassicas as turnips. There are three things that we are going to cover. When to plant them, how to plant them and new ideas about places to plant them.
If you have the land, you should be considering what you will plant for a fall attractant this year. For the author, the answer is Turnips.
First, right now is the time to get out and plant your turnips. They can be planted any time after July 15th. Most of the guys here in central IL prefer to plant them around the 15th of august but it will differ depending on where you live across the country. The most important thing to remember is to try and get them in right before a good rain. The first step is to work your ground until the dirt is fine; you don’t want it to be cloddy. Once you have achieved this it is time to add the fertilizer. There are a lot of different fertilizer combinations that are recommended. I try to stick to 150 lbs. of straight urea to the acre. This will provide your plants with plenty of nitrogen and allow them to grow quickly. After you have spread your fertilizer you will need to lightly disk the entire food plot again. This will incorporate the fertilizer into the soil and allow it to work better.
When it comes to planting turnips I prefer to broadcast them on a well prepared and fertilized seed bed and then roll them in with a yard roller. This will always produce a good stand.
Next, spread your turnips. They should be planted at 4 to 5 lbs. to the acre. It is very important not to get the seed to thick. I always set my seeder at the lowest possible setting and still usually end up with too high of a population. After you have your seed spread, roll the plot with a yard roller if you have access to one. The yard roller will help pack the seeds down into the top 1/8 in of the soil and also provide good seed-to-soil contact. It’s ok to skip this step if you don’t have a roller or the time. When it rains it will naturally beat the seed down in to the ground. The problem that I run in to with this is if your plot is on a slope the rain will sometimes wash your seeds down the hill and cause them to gather in the low spots.
Never harrow or disk your seed in after you have broadcast it. This practice usually will result in a marginal stand caused by the seed being too deep and not germinating.
This year I have tried a new way to plant my turnips. First, I planted my beans in 38 rows this spring. This allowed me to cultivate the beans which in turn provided me with a good seed bed for my turnips in between the rows. I then applied my fertilizer and cultivated them again to incorporate it into the ground. Then I broadcast my turnips into the rows. It rained the next day and so far I have a pretty good stand. Hopefully my beans are far enough along that it won’t hurt the yield too bad and will allow me to provide a lot of high quality food for the late season. I will keep you posted on this throughout this fall.
In addition to turnips, the author likes to plant commercial seeds (like those from Heartland Wildlife Institute) throughout his various food plots. This adds variety and increases the attractiveness of his hunting area.
As I have stated before the work that you do now will drastically increase your odds this fall. Watch the weather and when you see a rain coming in the next month get out and get your turnips/ BRASSICAS in the ground. You’ll be glad you did.