Cold temperatures and ample rain throughout the months of spring have left many hunters with unplanted food plots on the properties they’ll be hunting this fall. Many are scrambling to gather tools and equipment to get seed in the ground before their window of opportunity closes.
In hopes of helping hunters make the best of the opportunity, we checked in with Grant Woods of Growing Deer TV for a look at what hunters need to know to prepare their last minute spring food plots with minimal tools. Here’s a look at what he had to say.
What's the Best Spring Food Plot?
“I decide what to plant based on my mission,” says Woods. “Often I wish to provide some forage to attract and condition deer to use the area. Buckwheat is a good option if the growing season is relatively short as it matures in about 75 days. If the growing season is much longer than 75 days I’d want a different species or blend of species to provide quality forage and weed suppression during the early, mid, and late summer.”
Woods has used the Summer Release blend with great success in recent years. This blend is designed to be planted during the late spring to produce high quality forage for whitetails and other critters while it improves the soil’s health. It includes nine different species that work in combination to produce significantly more tons of forage than a single species and provides the diversity of nutrients that whitetails need to express their full potential.
“Late spring/early summer is a tough time to establish clover,” says Woods. “Clovers tend to do best when there’s ample moisture and not excessive heat. Clovers tend to be expensive and given they are best suited to be planted during the late summer/fall or frost seeded, I don’t recommend planting them during the late spring.”
The key is to have a variety of options in the groceries you plant. Give the deer herd ample options, and they’ll continue to frequent the plot.
The Stealth Cam video below is a good example of the big impact a small food plot can make to maximize deer activity.
Best Approach for Last Minute Planting
Woods says he plants and maintains a lot of food plots with hand tools. “It seems I’m most successful when I follow basic planting principles,” says Woods. “The first is that the seed must make good contact with the soil. Seeds that land on leaves, etc., will likely germinate if they become wet and warm. But if their root isn’t in the soil, the seedling will starve and die soon. Hence, when broadcasting seed, the primary objective is to ensure a high percentage of seeds reach the soil.
How do you make it happen?
Several techniques can be used to accomplish this. First, the seed can be broadcast just before a heavy rain. “Rain drops fall about about 30 miles per hour and a good rain of a half inch or more will help push the seed to the soil,” says Woods. “In addition, spreading seed just before a rain ensures there’s ample soil moisture for germination and growth.”
“If you don’t live close enough to the food plot to be available to plant it just before a rain, you may need to reduce or remove some of the vegetation to ensure seed reaches the soil. Herbicides, the most common one used is glyphosate, can be applied to the standing crop and/or weeds to terminate them. Even though they will stand for a while, once dead most of the water will leave the plant and allow sun and seeds to penetrate the canopy and reach the soil.”
Often leaves seem to collect in small plots that are surrounded by timber. These can be great stand or blind locations but a bit more difficult to establish a new crop due to the leaf litter that builds up. Woods says a simple, natural, and very inexpensive way to create a seedbed in plots that are covered with leaves is to simply create a fire break using a leaf blower, rake, etc., .and then use prescribed fire to remove the leaves and much of the weeds/existing vegetation and then broadcast the seed. Of the many advantages of this system, one is that fire makes almost all of the nutrients in the leaves and plants available to the new crop.
The techniques Woods described are easy to use with nothing more than a broadcaster that’s hand carried or an over the shoulder model. “If a herbicide application is needed, there are a bunch of one and four gallon models that are effective and inexpensive,” says Woods. “If fire is used, a rake or blower can be used to remove leaves and create a fire break. There’s really nothing fancy needed to make it happen.”
As mentioned above, you can get a lot of work done with minimal tools, like a rake, blower, and hand spreader or sprayer. Here’s a few of our favorite tools when it comes to prep and planting food plots with minimal equipment.
Don’t give up on your goal of getting a spring plot in the ground this season. There’s still time! Keep the words of Grant Woods, mentioned above, in mind as you get seed in the ground in preparation for another season of deer hunting in the fall.
Also, be sure to keep up with all the latest from Dr. Grant Woods at www.growingdeer.tv.