If you are looking for a tall cover crop that is winter hardy (can grow in temperatures as low as 34°F), establishes in low pH levels with minimal preparation, competes well with weeds, stays green well into the season, and provides early spring forage, then Rye is your answer. Rye grows quickly, is disease resistant, suppresses pests, and also provides a great alternative for deer when they are typically mowing down brassicas, soybeans, and peas. Planting rye will allow those other food plots a greater opportunity to grow.
½ acre: 40-60 lbs
1 acre: 80-120 lbs
(Spring only for weed control) … Fall (August-September)
2 inches maximum
4.5-8.0 is tolerated
1. Check your soil’s pH level with a soil testing kit.
(Kits can be bought at Lowe’s for around $10 or at your local Cooperative Extension office. Visit http://agsci.psu.edu/aasl/soil-testing/soil-fertility-testing for more information).
2. Get rid of weeds. Mowing or weed-whacking the area first may be helpful. Afterwards, kill the weeds by spraying them with an herbicide. Allow about a week for the herbicide to do its job.
(Herbicides are products typically containing glyphosate, a compound used to kill a wide range of weeds including grasses, sedges, broad-leaved and woody plants. Some good examples of herbicides include Butyrac 200, Arrow 2EC, Roundup, Rodeo, Arrest, and Pondmaster.)
3. Once you have received the soil testing results back, apply lime as necessary. You may also choose to do some other enhancements such as fixing the nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus levels as well.
4. Rake off the dead weeds and brush. Till the soil a little bit with the rake. Be sure to note the planting depth…planting the seeds any lower may harm the germination rate.
5. Apply fertilizers, if planned.
6. Broadcast seeds.
You can do this with a hand spreader (approximately $15 at Walmart), tow spreader, truck spreader, etc.
7. Increase your seed-to-soil contact by recovering the seeds with soil.
Suggestions: Walk on it or drive an ATV over it.
8. Leave your new plot alone as much as possible. This will eliminate the possibility of human scent ruining the site.
One good way to establish Rye is by layering the planting. Instead of planting all at once, plant ¼ of the seeds 3 weeks before the typical planting date, ½ of the seeds on the planting date, and the rest (¼ of the seeds) 3 weeks afterwards. This provides a couple of different layers of forage, so that when the deer eat the tops off of the rye that was planted first, there is another level of rye coming up to meet it.