Tips For Successful Deer Food Plots
The pictures below represent before and after planting a lush Rough Ridge Big Buck Binge Deer Food Plot. All the nutrients in this lush field of Big Buck Binge are ready to fuel the antler growth of your resident dominate buck...
The first step in establishing successful deer food plots on any parcel of ground is understanding what kind of ground and soil you are working with, and why we recommend tilling your ground over non-tilling (Till or No-Till.)
Before: Planting Deer Food Plot
After: Lush Big Buck Binge Food Plot
Tilling Your Soil for Successful Deer Food Plots:
Depending on your chosen deer food plot site conditions, your first step is to remove the large pieces of debris from the site and then till the soil. Tilling the soil has many favorable impacts on your site’s performance.
First, you are able to incorporate the existing biomass into the soil. As it decays, it will provide more nutrients to your next crop. Tilling the soil increases the water infiltration by loosening the soil and promoting better and deeper root growth. As the soil is tilled, all of the biomass - including the weeds and weed seeds are also incorporated into the soil.
This incorporation is the first step to eliminating the next crop of weeds. If you turn the undesirable biomass and more importantly the seeds deep enough into the soil you will discourage the next crop of weeds. We recommend incorporating a cover crop as the next step in controlling these weeds.
If the weed seed is turned deep enough into the soil, it will decompose deep in the earth and not successfully germinate. Not only does this practice aid in controlling weeds, it also adds more valuable organics to the soil.
The Use of Lime in Deer Food Plots:
Proper pH is important for a successful cover crop, the more successfully your cover crop, the better your chances of having successful deer food plots. These steps are important in developing the best deer attractant in your deer food plots.
If you do not adjust your pH before planting your cover crop or deer food plots, you run the risk of poor plant performance and mediocre results. Spending the time here to perform all of these steps will help you see more deer at your food plots in the long run: the true fruit of your labor.
Although this task seems trivial and not as important as broadcasting your seed or tilling your soil, this one step may be the most important and far-reaching when examining the success of your deer food plots. Introducing lime accentuates the advantages of cover cropping by adding minerals and regulating pH into the most beneficial range for plants and soil organisms. Most nutrients become available at pH range of 6.2 to 7.0 with the most desirable at neutral.
Soil organisms such as earth worms desire pH levels near neutral. Even some beneficial fungi and bacteria that promote decomposition and release nutrients to the soil flourish in a near neutral pH. Stabilizing your pH near the neutral point will set the foundation for a strong and healthy plot Lime or calcium carbonate is an alkaline material.
The basic (>7) pH of the lime is what is responsible for increasing the pH levels in your soil. The calcium that is present in the lime becomes available as the lime buffers the soil. Calcium is an important mineral that helps most plant species flourish and will help your plot to become the best deer attractant.
Cover Crops for Deer Food Plots:
The use of a cover crop will aid in preparing the soil, eliminating weed competition, providing additional nutrients, and adding nitrogen to the soil. Cover crops are also referred to as green manures. Basically this cover crop will be incorporated into the soil to provide compost-like effects to further improve the soil condition for the next crop.
We recommend oats as the cover crop for several reasons. First, oats are inexpensive and fast growing, two attributes that you should be looking for to establish a healthy food plot site. Oats are a non-legume cover crop, which do not fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, but instead recycles the nitrogen to help reduce leaching losses. This will aid the health of the crop that takes the place of the cover crop later in the spring or early summer. Oats grow fast and quickly establish a thick mat that serves several purposes.
First, the portion of the plant above the soil quickly blocks out sunlight from the soil that inhibits the growth of competing weeds. If a weed is able to germinate, it may be choked out by the oats and never given the opportunity to produce seeds.
Secondly, this fast growing plant creates a good amount of biomass that will later be incorporated into the soil and return more nitrogen and nutrients back to the soil. The root mass will provide additional organic matter to increase nutrients as it decomposes in the soil. The remaining root mass also aids in conditioning the site for future crops.
The root system will drive these nutrients deep into the ground. Oats can generate roots that reach 30 inches or more into the soil, plus additional inches at maturity depending on the soil type and conditions. The root system will also increase water infiltration and attract beneficial worms and insects which will aid in further enhancing the site for our future food plot. Reductions in soil erosion due to wind and water are also great benefits of the cover crop and thereby increase the overall success of your deer food plots.