By Don Higgins
As co-owner of Real World Wildlife Seed Company, it seems that I am answering questions on a daily basis from hunters who are trying their hand at planting foodplots and looking for advice to make their efforts successful. This experience has given me a clear insight into the most common questions hunters have regarding foodplots as well as the most common mistakes made by beginning foodplotters. With that in mind, here are my top six tips for getting the most from your foodplots.
1. Location, Location, Location! Where you locate your foodplots will be the biggest factor regarding their success. A foodplot needs to be located in an area with lots of sunlight, fertile soil and as flat as possible. You will have to determine where that is on your property. If you try to squeeze your plots into areas with little sunlight, steeply sloping ground or less than fertile soils, your results will show it. If you are going to spend the cash and effort to plant a plot, you might as well do it right to get something back for your time and money invested. Start with the very best site possible on your property.
2. Test the soil. I cannot tell you how many calls and emails we get regarding fertilizer needs for our various seed products. There simply is no blanket answer to that question. Do a soil test and then consult with the business doing your soil testing about the fertilizer needs and pH parameters for the crop you wish to grow. There is no alternative or shortcut to this step. To neglect it is simply taking a gamble with the seed you buy and the labor you put forth. You might get by without a soil test and do fine but you also might do everything else right and fail because of soil deficiencies.
3. Properly prepare the soil. Those “toss and grow” seed products are made for one thing; separating hunters from their money. Think about it, does a farmer just throw out seed and later harvest a crop? How about when you plant a garden? The idea of just throwing out seed and expecting it to grow into a good crop just goes against common sense and reasonable thinking and almost always results in failure. Preparing the soil starts with killing any existing weeds or vegetation before working the ground. A deeply and properly worked seedbed gives your seed the best possible chance to grow a strong set of roots to support a healthy and thriving plant.
4. Select your seed wisely. Every year I see hordes of hunters fall for the latest and greatest foodplot seed hyped by various media such as hunting magazines or TV shows. The fact is, a good foodplot is achieved by planting species which have been proven to succeed in your climate and soil type. Once you have selected the plant species for your foodplot, start reading the labels of various companies’ seed products. Be sure to educate yourself about germination rates, inert matter, seeding rates, etc.
5. Plant your seed at the proper depth. As a general rule, smaller seeds should not be planted as deeply as larger seeds. Planting any seed too deep will result in failure but what is “too deep” for one seed species might not be too deep for another. I have seen too many instances of someone doing everything right except following the proper planting depth required for the seed they are planting. This one mistake can doom a foodplot.
6. Practice proper weed control. Weeds are a foodplotters biggest enemy and can turn an otherwise awesome foodplot into a worthless weed patch. For crops such as clover or alfalfa, weed control might be as simple as regular mowings. Other crops such as soybeans might require chemical weed control. No matter what is required for the crop that you plant, ignoring proper weed control will seriously affect the quality of your plot.
For more from Don, visit HigginsOutdoors.com