Plants on the Ground, Plants on the Ground By Wade Nolan - Bowhunting Biologist
Jul 12, 2010 - 1:16:39 PM
This is a good week to get your food plot prepped for this fall. We won't be planting this week but there are a lot of steps to address prior to "plants on the ground". Here's what to do this week in your whitetail woods.
Choosing a good local with good soil qualities and plenty of sunshine can contribute to a plot like these outdoor writers are admiring.
Do the clump test and see if your soil is adequate for planting a food plot.
Extremely sandy soils are poor for water retention so if possible avoid these locations. Wet conditions are another soil indicator that should chase you away. If there is pooling 2 days after a rain event then the location probably has poor drainage and should be avoided. These soils are often times dark gray and hold anaerobic bacteria that smells if you get your nose up close. Good soil will clump together and stay together if you squeeze a fist full of dirt and toss it up in the air a foot or so then catch it. These soils have some loam , some organics and only a tiny bit of clay. If you can mold a Gumby figure out of your soil you have discovered clay and it is rotten for food plots....move to a new location.
Plot orientation may be the most overlooked factor by food plotters. No sun - No win.
Sunshine is another critical element for a plot. Think about shading from nearby trees. Also take into account the path of the sun through the sky. It will be rising in the SE and setting in the SW. That means a rectangular plot ringed by tall trees whose long sides are orientated N & S would get great sun. On the other hand a narrow E & W plot may be shaded all day and never get sun.
Now you should scorch the plot with Round-up and wait two weeks before brush hogging it. Next you will have to break the sod. If this is a new area this next process probably won't be done with a quad. You'll need a tractor. If your soil test said to add lime to get the Ph up into the sixes, then add the lime. This is also when you add the minerals recommended by the soil test report.
Here is a question I often get. Can I skip the soil test and the expense of adding minerals? The answer is yes. But there is a cost.
Liming with a quad can be effective if you use a quality spreader like this Ground Buster limer.
If you have really low Ph then the plants won't be able take up the minerals they need. That means that when you put down the expensive fertilizer a large percentage will be wasted. You're throwing money away and your plot will look like a knuckle dragger put it in. Think about this illustration...Can you live on Twinkies and Coke? Yes, for a while, but you will be a sickly specimen. But what happens if you eat venison, veggies, fruit, beans, salad, potatoes and drink water. Now you're a healthy bowhunter. Same goes for the plants on the ground.
A set of big disks like these will rip up any field after it has been plowed but a chisel plow may be needed to bread up sod the first time.
A cultivator bulled behind a real tractor is the one stop shop for plot prep.
Next rip it up with a chisel plow followed by serious disking. After this first plowing you won't need to plow again if you use the plot annually. Another method of prepping a plot is to get a cultivator and pull it behind a tractor. A 5-foot cultivator requires a 40hp tractor. A cultivator is a one stop shop for food plotting. It has rotating teeth driven by your PTO. It drives and it grinds up the soil as it passes over. It may reach down 10-inches and go slow but it's a one pass fix. They make a beautiful plot. Watch out for rocks.
This quad capable limer will spread either bagged lime of screened AG lime.
AG lime doesn't work overnight. It takes a season for AG lime to affect the soil Ph. But bagged lime can have a positive influence on Ph within weeks.
Now you have churned in some of the brush hogged weed which will add organics to the soil plus you have blended the fertilizer and lime in. Now is time to add the seed. This step is really critical and risky because of all of the heavy marketing out there. If you live in the north I strongly recommend you choose seed developed to grow where it gets cold. Just like you wouldn't buy winter clothes from a shop in Southern Mississippi for use in the north country, you can't expect seed developed for the south to work well in the north.
At my seminars I talk to thousand of hunters and food plotters each year who live up north where it snows. They have a uniform answer when I ask them about success with food plots. Because of great marketing many hunters plant an expensive clover "developed" for whitetails. Failure is the norm in my surveys. It's because they are planting a southern seed in the north. Seed companies have known forever that northern seed has to have special qualities to perform up north. The seed has to be hardy and weather tolerant to produce quality forage. The winters and even falls are frigid.
Planting a food plot moves you as a hunter into a role as a conservationist. A great variety of wildlife will benefit from the Frigid Forage in your plot, bucks are a bonus.
Big-N-Beasty Brassica is my favorite food plot strategy for the fall planting. It comes on like a race horse and stays till the job is done.
Big-N-Beasty will generate bulb vegetables including purple top turnips, forage turnips and carrots.
The most impressive characteristic of Big-N-Beasty is that it is tolerant of poor plot prep. It even produces if the Ph is really low...like in the high fives. Another factor is that it becomes ready for eating about November 1. Right when the bucks start chasing does and the rut is getting momentum. If your food plots holds the does the bucks will come. After the first frost the tops become sweeter and the deer hammer it. Later deer will paw the bulbs out of the soil and crunch them up.
Winter Oats are a real bonus in a plot because often they are targeted early and the deer leave the Brassicas until later. It's a one-two punch.
Wall Hanger blend is a two season solution to whitetail nutrition. The Annuals work best during the first fall and the perennials including the clovers and chicory are at work feeding whitetails in the spring.
Next Spring the Wall Hanger blend will produce a great stand of clover that will give you a two season win.
If you like variety in your life and in your whitetail woods then you may consider a blend called, "Wall Hanger". This pack of seed is a blend of perennials and biennials. Here you have the quick popping annuals like Purple Top Turnips, Dwarf Essex Rape, Sugar Beets and Carrots but you also get the long term advantage of the perennials like White Ladino Clover, Vernal Alfalfa, Chicory and Red Clover that will grow under the cover of the annuals and get established this fall. Next spring your clovers, chicory and alfalfa will be producing protein to pull the deer out of winter and get them ready to grow antlers and drop fawns.
Now is when you need to begin thinking about seeds on the ground. Get that fall food plot in between August 1 and September 15 for the best result.
Do a good job now getting "plants on the ground" and your food plot may look like this in November
All that said to assure you that if your goal is "Plants on the Ground", Frigid Forage will make you proud of your plot this fall. That's this week in the whitetail woods. Go plant.
For more go to Frigid Forage and get ready. For less than a tank of gas you can become a food plotter.