Planting Food Plots for Deer: A How-To Guide
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Planting food plots is the single most effective way of attracting, growing, and keeping deer on your property. When thinking about what and where to plant, you should strive to plant between five and ten percent of your total acreage with as much variety in plant species as possible. Also strive to have a spring, summer, fall, and winter food source on your property to keep your herd coming to your property year round.
Although 5-10% of your property in food plots should be your goal, keep in mind that any amount of land you set aside for food plots will have a positive impact on your deer herd.
Whether you have been planting for years or it is your first time, following these seven easy steps will ensure that you maximize your food plot potential.
Helpful Hints: Fall Planting
In the Midwest, the best time to plant a fall food plot consisting of Brassicas usually would be during the months of July and August. This ensures that the plants can become established and achieve their full potential before a killing frost. If you are looking to plant a clover, rye, chicory, alfalfa, wheat, or winter pea plot, the months of August and September would be an excellent time to plant. These plants will grow very fast and will be able to establish themselves before a frost.
Keep in mind when planting in the fall, it is usually pretty dry. Try to keep an eye on weather and time planting right before a rain.
If you are planting a fall food plot, you will want to spread the necessary amount of lime prior to tilling. This is not only beneficial to your fall food plot, but it is also very beneficial to your spring food plot as well. Raising your pH is not an overnight process. Lime takes a variable amount of time to break down and react in the soil. The amount of time depends on how much rain you get and what type of lime you use. As a general rule of thumb, pelletized lime will break down faster, but you will have to lime more often than you would if you use an agricultural lime. By spreading lime in the fall, you give your soil all winter to break down the lime.
If you are not planning on putting in a fall plot, but would like to use the same area to create a spring plot, it would be beneficial to spray with RoundUp in the fall. This kills everything off and lets the plant matter break down in to usable organic material over the winter. Come spring, your soil will be easier to till up and be much more fertile. Good luck!
Food Plots: Questions & Answers
Why do I need to take a soil test and what is the most important part of the soil test?
A soil test will give you the current state of nutrients in the soil that you plan on using for a food plot. The most important component of the soil test is the pH level. The pH level in the soil will indicate the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. For the most part, everything that we want to plant for deer will grow the best at a neutral pH of 7.0, so that should be your goal when testing your soil. Many of the plants we want to grow for deer simply cannot germinate and thrive in low pH soils. If pH testing is ignored before planting and you see poor-to-no results, it could certainly be that the pH is too low for these plants.
How often do I need to spread lime? Can I just spread it on top of the soil without tilling it into the ground?
Your pH test will tell you how much lime to add. Be prepared to add several tons of lime. Generally, it will take several tons per acre of lime to raise the pH and once you spread the proper amount of lime to raise the pH to a 7.0, you may not have to add lime again for 5 years or more. When the time comes for more lime to be added, it probably won't be as much as the initial amount. Lime needs to be tilled into the ground. Lime sitting on top of the ground can blow away or take virtually forever to wash into the soil and raise the pH.
How soon in the spring can I spray RoundUp and how long do I have to wait after I spray RoundUp before I can start tilling the soil?
The #1 thing to remember and consider when applying RoundUp is that it is a "contact killer." In theory, it will kill all plants that it is sprayed on. It is important to make sure you wait until all of the weeds have emerged in the spring before your spray RoundUp or other "contact killers." If you get anxious and spray before many weeds have emerged, you will not kill those weeds that are still growing below ground, and you will have to deal with them later in your plots. Make sure to wait 5 to 7 days after spraying RoundUp before starting to till the plots.
WARNING: The feeding and baiting of wild deer is prohibited in some regions. Consult local laws and regulations before creating a food plot.
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