The time has arrived to consider planting your winter food plot. Several options are available out there with just about every variety of mixture you can think of.
When purchasing brand name seed blends it is important to read which varieties are in the mix to make sure they will grow well in your area. One other consideration is the growth period and germination period of the seed in the mix. Some blends are engineered to have one type germinate early fall while others germinate later. This approach gives the deer forage for a longer period of time.
Timing of planting can also affect the success of establishment, so you need to make sure you are planting within the correct timeframe. Some companies have taken this into account and have seed mixes that work well being planted at any time in the fall. But as a general rule Oc-tober is the month to plant most varieties.
A second option is to put together your own blend of seed using anything from oats, Austrian winter peas, turnip, sugar beets, rye, clover and several others. This option can be more benefi-cial because it allows you to tailor the forage to your particular area and growing period.
With rising seed prices, it is more crucial now to optimize the percentage of seed that germi-nates and establishes for a strong food plot. There are a few things that can aid in this.
The first is to know how healthy your soil is. To find out you must get a soil sample. Our soils around here tend to be on the acidic side. Most of the forages that are in food plots prefer a more neutral soil. Keeping the soil ph as close to neutral as possible will allow the nutrients in the soil to be available to the forage. If the soil is lacking in any of the key nutrients the soil sample will tell you and allow you to make amendments to optimize growth and establish-ment.
A prepared seed bed is also very important for optimizing the rate of germination. Broadcast-ing over an unprepared seed bed will have far less germination than if you were to till or disc it first and then broadcast. You may also want to consider using a seed drill for planting rather than broadcasting.
Different seeds need different planting depths to establish well. Planting at the proper depth will allow for a better root system and allow the plot to be established quicker and stronger. With any of the planting methods you will also have different planting rates. For instance, broadcasting will require a higher rate per acre versus drilling the seed in order to achieve the same germination rate.
However, if you’re like me you don’t have an expensive disc, or a seed drill to plant your seed. You can still be successful in establishing your plot. Seed germinates best and most complete with optimal soil contact. This is why a drill is preferred. If you do broadcast the seed, use some type of drag like a section of chain link fence and drag over the seed. Then follow that up by rolling it. Rolling it can be as simple as just driving over the bed with your ATV or 4-wheeler. This will help more soil come into contact with the seed.
And remember that food plots need nutrients throughout the season just like any other crop or a hay field. The soil sample will help you determine what you need to add and when.
For more information on establishing food plots or any other topic, please contact the AgriLife Extension office at (936) 348-2234.
Chadd Caperton is Extension officer for Madison County.