Food Plots - Plot Journal

By: bhadmin
|
7/17/2009
| Comments

After 6 years of trial and error, I think I can share some good advice on how to improve your whitetail hunting property with food plots.

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A spring planted clover plot

First thing to keep in mind, there are really two times when it makes sense to grow your food plots, spring and fall.  I will outline practices that I have found successful in each of these growing seasons below.  To be honest, I have had much better success with fall plots when compared to my spring plots.  I feel this is because of competition your seed will face with other seed native to the area in the spring.  My plots grown in the spring tend to end up with more weeds, etc.  I have still turned out some excellent plots though with spring plantings.  For spring plantings, I only plant perennials such as clover and chicory.  Deer tend to stay away from brassicas during the summer, it typically takes a couple hard frosts to turn the starches in them to sugar, and this is when the deer will start to focus on them.  Brassicas tend to get overly mature if planted too early, and aren’t as palatable by deer when planted in the spring, so I plant my brassicas about 90 days before first frost.  I have had great luck planting them in the northeast about the first week of August.

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A fall brassica plot 30 days after seeding.  This plot was seeded on August 9th.

 Lime

The first step to any food plot is to make sure your PH balance is ideal.  We accomplish this by spreading lime.  Most experts will agree that a “perfect” PH will be between 6.0 and 7.5.  The best time to spread lime is always yesterday.  It takes lime a significant amount of time to affect the soils and PH, at a minimum 90 days and sometimes up to a year.  I have seen measurable results after 90 days of spreading, but the earlier the better.  If you plan to plant in the spring, the previous summer or fall is always ideal for spreading lime.  One other recommendation is to use powdered lime instead of pelletized lime.  Pelletized is tempting because it is much easier to work with, but it takes significantly longer to dissolve into the soil and affect your PH level.  You can send soil samples off to your local agricultural Co-Op, or to other places such as www.biologic.com for testing, and they can tell you the exact amount of lime to spread per acre for your plot.  To give you an example, I typically spread 1.5 tons per acre to start on my properties, and then re-apply the following spring based on the results of my tests. 

I accomplish spreading lime with an inexpensive drop spreader (about $200) from www.northerntool.com that works excellent for spreading lime.  You can tow it behind your lawn tractor or quad easily.  I have spread several tons of lime per year through mine, and used it many years in a row now, and it just keeps going.

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There are few things in life that are messier then spreading lime on a 90 degree day!

 Mowing/Spraying

Before you can break ground to prepare you new plot, you will need to prepare the area first.  Depending on how mature the native growth is on the area, you may want to mow first if it is any taller than knee height.  After mowing, give it a couple of weeks to green up and look healthy again before spraying, as Glyphosate (generic RoundUp) works best on healthy green plants.  Spraying glophosate will kill off the unwanted growth and root structure to make sure you don’t have competing plants in your plot.  I typically use a $20 hand pump sprayer, however one day will drop the $$$ for a towable boom sprayer for behind the lawn tractor.  After spraying, I typically will give it 2-3 weeks to die and rot down a bit before discing.  If you are doing a spring planting, it may be best to mow/spray the fall before you intend to seed, so it can rot down over the winter.

Discing

Now it’s time to prepare your seed bed.  I feel it is best to make sure you disc at a time when you can seed immediately after.  You don’t want an exposed fresh seed bed sitting around for too long, otherwise you will end up with native seed getting in before your plot seed and competing for nutrients and sunlight.  If you happen to have a small tractor, you can purchase a disc for $400-$600 depending on how big you want to go and how much ground you have to cover.  I personally have a 5’ wide disc with a 3 point hitch for behind a small tractor.  This allows me to cover more ground much quicker, but you can just as easily use a small tow behind disc for a quad. 

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A field disced and ready for fertilizer and seed


Fertilizer 

When it comes to fertilizer, it is VERY important to know what types of seed you intend to plant.  Different plant types like different types of fertilizer.  It is also important to know how to identify what is in the fertilizer.  Most fertilizers will have a set of 3 numbers on them, such as 10/10/10.  Fertilizer is typically made up of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  These numbers equate to the amounts of each (in that order) that is in that particular blend of fertilizer. 

Clover (my personal favorite perennial) has little or no need for nitrogen.  Because of this I tend to pick a 0-20-20 blend of fertilizer for my clover plots.  Rely on your soil testing results to tell you the amount of fertilizer to apply in a given area.  I most recently applied 300lbs of this fertilizer per acre to my clover plots, and then did another 100lbs per acre spread with a hand broadcast spreader 30 days after seeding.  Your initial spreading can be made with the same drop spreader described above in the lime section of this article. 

Chicory plots will require a bit of nitrogen.  Again, rely on your soil test samples to let you know amounts and types of fertilizer to apply.  Keep in mind, nitrogen can evaporate quickly if just broadcast onto the ground, so it is best to use a drag to cover the fertilizer, or spread immediately before a good rain.  I will typically apply 100lbs of 0/20/20 to my chicory plots, and then add in 50lbs per acre of the 46/0/9 urea. 

Brassicas such as Biologic Maximum, Biologic Full Draw, and Tecomate Ultra Forage all have high requirements for Nitrogen.  I tend to spread 100lbs per acre of 10/10/10 fertilizer, and then 150lbs an acre of Urea (46/0/0) to supply good Nitrogen.  Again, make sure you get your soil tested as this will let you know what you should apply in your area based on what you want to grow.

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Biologic Full Draw – this is full of turnips that the deer eat all through the winter!

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This is what a Full Draw plot looks like in the late season when the tops are all eaten, and they start eating the actual turnips.  This is a magnet for deer when the corn and acorns are all gone! 

Seeding 

The most important thing to remember when seeding is that proper seed depth is critical.  You cannot just disc seed in.  Most food plot seeds do best when barely covered at all.  The best thing to do is spread before a rain storm, and allow the rain to drive the seed into the soil.  You can also lightly cover your seed with a drag, or if you have the money, you can also use a cultipacker.  I use a drag that I have made out of chain link fence with a heavy pipe zip tied to the back of it for weight.  I will typically spread seed with a hand broadcast spreader, and then use my drop spreader to apply fertilizer with a drag attached behind the spreader to lightly cover everything.

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Homemade drag attached to spreader.  This is a very high tech piece of equipment!

With a little luck with the weather, and a lot of hard work, you can end up with some great results and drastically improve the drawing power of your property with some food plots. 

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Tecomate Ultra Forage – Another of my favorite brassica seeds.  This is a great fall food source after the first hard frost.

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11 Comments on "Food Plots - Plot Journal"

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

I am hunting in southeast wisconsin and plan on planting my food plot tomorrow. Would you recommend full draw or maximum? Thanks

Posted by jeff on 8/5/2009 10:17:33 PM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

Im not sure if he will answer you or not, but im also in your area, and i would recommend the maximum, i just bought a 9 lb. bag yesterday, full draw has wheat and stuff in it, which is ok. but ive found out that they skip that stuff and go right for the brassicas. but they are both good options. another option is Shotplot

Posted by Joe on 8/8/2009 10:25:10 PM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

Thanks for the advice. I ended up planting Full Draw and with all this rain we just had hopefully it will grow pretty well. Where do you hunt?

Posted by jeff on 8/10/2009 5:15:56 PM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

I have a ranch in south texas and the soil seems pretty soft but i was wondering would i need to fertilize it? Also what would be good to grow down there?

Posted by Garret on 12/17/2009 11:23:17 AM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

i was going to do a small small food plot just to see if the deer would come im here in kentucky is this a good idea

Posted by ryan on 12/30/2009 9:39:33 AM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

i'm just beginin and don't know when exactly to add lime.do i do it before i mow & round up or after when i start my seed bed?i tell u this i've got a lot of good info. from this site.one other question i've recently seen biologic ph fertilizer if i where to ad that as well as lime with delta ag seed coat do u think that's over shootin' or do u think it'll work out it's rainy season here in s.e. texas near Houston hunt.pine farm soil ph is 4.8

Posted by rodney fernandez on 2/23/2010 10:34:51 PM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

north eastern indiana weather has been great for the food plots this year! trail cams have some great pics ans cant wat to share! just request from my bowhuting.com member page

Posted by twofaceempire@hotmail.com on 6/22/2010 11:52:56 PM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

in the past month i i have officially decided to never plant a mineral source next to a small food plot! the heards for my trail cam have exploded in gerth AND antler size from the minerals,clover and rye grass this spring! ive had to fertalize three times with a 0-20-20fert. the mineral lick is set up to last until next spring but the plot it self is allmost in ruines!!! FOR THE LOVE OF YOU WALLET!!! do not place a lick in your plot. and do not plant around your lick. i would recomend having a plot no less than 50 yards by 30 yards with a mineral lick placed about 20 yards down there main trail in a little clearing prime for making some "mock" scraps for the yearly season opening day! GOOD LUCK AND PLEASE TAKE MY ADVICE!!! i wish i would have taken someones advice about the subject.

Posted by kenneth on 7/26/2010 12:43:52 AM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

What do recommend most for food plots in the North?

Posted by Logan on 11/9/2010 2:01:03 PM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

What can I plant in Elbert county Georgia? Just bought some land and biologics perfect plot and biomass. Is there a good time to plant each? Also have 2 protein feeders with a ton of protein. Do I place those near the food plots?

Posted by Kepp on 3/3/2011 1:39:59 PM

Re: Food Plots - Plot Journal

I was just wondering how long you have to wait to plant clover seed after spraying Round Up?

Posted by Ryan Swig on 5/15/2011 8:20:38 PM

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