Better Food Plots – 10 Steps For Success

1. The most important step before planting food plots is to test your soil. Taking a soil test will determine what your pH level is. There are different types of soil samples available. Some samples need to be sent into a lab for analysis and some do not. Antler King Trophy Products offers a test kit that takes less than 20 minutes to perform and do not need to be sent into a lab. This test offers a quick and accurate reading of the pH level in the soil. A pH of 6.5 to 7.0 is preferred and any pH level less than 6.5 should have lime applied to the soil to raise the pH.

2. Once you know the pH, you can determine if and how much lime you will need to add to raise the pH. When applying lime, think of lime in tons rather than in pounds. For example, if your pH is at a 6.0 and you want to change the pH to a 7.0 you will have to add 5-8 tons of lime per acre to change the pH. Lime is available in different forms and some are easier to spread than others. Pelletized lime is in the form of a pellet and is very easy to spread. Most broadcast spread spell lime very well.

3. When determining where to plant food plots do not overlook anything. Ideal spots can be small natural openings or logging roads. Normally the smaller ¼ or ½ acre plots are better than a larger 2 or 3 acre spot. It is important with a food plot location that you put it in an area where wildlife will feel comfortable feeding in it.

4. Before planting a food plot, always make sure the plot will receive adequate sunlight. Lack of sunlight can hurt the success of a food plot. 4-5 hours of direct sunlight per day is required for proper growth of any food plot. If planting on a logging road and the canopy is to heavy to allow the sunlight to penetrate, try cutting back the canopy to all for more sunlight to reach the ground.

5. For the ideal food plot program, try to plant both annuals and perennials. Annuals are plants that need to be planted every year, whereas perennial plants can last multiple years on a single planting. By planting a combination of annuals such as Antler King’s Honey Hole and perennials like Antler King’s Trophy Clover Mix will give the deer a preferred food source for every month of the year.

6. One of the most common mistakes people make when planting food plots is planting the seed too deep. Seeds like clover, chicory, rape, and turnips need to be planted at less than ½ inch deep. Larger seeds like soybeans, peas, rye or oats can be seeded up to 1″ deep. One of the best methods for covering small seeds is to either use a cultipacker or roller on the seed. Otherwise use a light drag such as a chain link fence or an old bed spring to cover the seed.

7. Watch the weather. Moisture is required for seeds to germinate and start growing. Try to avoid planting during dry periods. Normally the spring and/or fall periods are better for planting for proper moisture levels. Planting in the middle of the summer is risky due to lack of rainfall and normally not recommended.

8. Using the right fertilizer on different food plots is very important. Some plants need nitrogen and some do not. For example, when planting a legume, like clover or soybeans it is important to use a lower nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-30 or 9-23-30, or even 0-0-60. On the other hand when planting brassicas (rape, turnips, kale) or cereal grains (rye, wheat, oats) you can use higher nitrogen fertilizers like 19-19-19 or 13-13-13.

9. Build an exclusion cage. An exclusion cage will let you know how much of your food plot is being consumed. Putting an exclusion cage in a food plot is easy to do. You can use chicken wire or something similar. A small 2 foot cage that will not allow animals to eat in that spot is all that is needed. Over time, if the plant growth inside the cage exceeds the growth outside of the cage, then the wildlife is consuming the food plot. That is exactly what you want.

10. Once the plots are established, proper maintenance such as mowing and spraying may be necessary. Occasionally mowing on certain plants is beneficial for a couple reasons. Perennial plants like clover, chicory and alfalfa benefit from being mowed throughout the growing season. Mowing these plants once or twice a summer will help rejuvenate the plants and stimulate new growth. Secondly, mowing will keep weed growth minimized. Most weeds can not recover from being mowed once or twice in the summer and will die off.