La Crosse, Wisconsin

2 Months and Counting

With bow season just around the corner, deer plots will be going in soon as August-September approaches. A few highlights from last month’s issue:

  1. Soil test. This is the easiest way to be certain your soil contains the correct amount of nutrients in order to produce the best result in a food plot. This will also indicate if lime is necessary as it does take time for the lime to react with the acids in the soil.
  2. Select a mixture that is to your liking and needs. Be aware that some options are perennial, which will grow for years beyond the establishment year, but will require maintenance in order for optimal survival and persistence. Annual plots will only last one year and my advice is to decide what you will be planting next year as it is always beneficial to plan ahead. If you are planting, or have planted a hybrid (perennial/annual) mixture, now is the time to possibly spruce up your plot with some brassicas like radish, or even turnips. Each of these, while only lasting through fall, are great options to add some forage that will potentially be available to the animals into the later fall, early winter months.
  3. Spray for weeds in advance before tilling the soil, usually 4-6 weeks. However, some herbicides will have a pre-plant interval less than that. Read the label on the herbicide, as it is the law and will give you the best advice. If weeds are out of control, cut them back to about 4”-6” prior to herbicide application. One might ask why not mow them all the way down to the soil, but in most cases the herbicide must contact the vegetative portion of the plant in order to work proficiently. While applying to over grown weeds will work, it is sometimes difficult to penetrate the canopy and get good coverage on the plant. Mowing them down a little will aid with this.
  4. The next step is to till the soil. It most cases the food plot seed does not need to be planted deep in the soil (1/8”-1/4” depending on the seed). That being said it is not necessary to till to 4 inches in depth. The goal here is to till the soil enough to loosen it up, but to also provide a smooth, firm seed bed. Seed bed preparation is an important step to provide the seed with the best chance to create good soil to seed contact in order to germinate.
  5. In order to maximize plot development, a starter fertilizer is always recommended congruent with soil test results. Different plant species require different fertilizer needs. Legumes such as clovers will require more potash so an 8-10-30 or a 12-22-10 would suffice. Other species such as grasses and brassicas will require a balanced blend similar to a 10-10-10 or a 13-13-13. Whichever the case, a little sulfur will never hurt as sulfur stores from the atmosphere have been depleted and reduced.
  6. For plots only containing a clover, chicory, and grass mixture, a mow to 4”-8”, will be necessary if weed pressure persists, or if plants are beginning to flower. The goal here is to mow weed pressure down prior to seed formation in order to reduce competition for the desired plant. One may ask why you would mow the clover, chicory, and grass. This simply has to do with the ultimate task of the plant, which is to survive and reproduce. In some cases if we let the desired plant species go to seed, while this might sound great, the seed produced may be hard, or have poor germination and will not become a plant again. By mowing the plot down, it constantly forces the plant to regenerate, allowing it to prolong its life, and provide a lush food plot.
  7. For subsequent years for perennial plots, a fertilizer application will help boost growth from year to year. 200-300 lbs/acre should suffice for a fertilizer application.

As for planting times for early fall, please refer to our website for specific times in different zones of the U.S. This will be advantageous to getting the plot out when timely rains are in need and to allow enough time for establishment. In most cases the planting times will fall between August 1st and September 15th. These aren’t necessarily hard dates, however following this guideline will give you the best potential results.