Even the worst food plot failure is worthy of redemption
You clicked on this post because your food plot sucks. No judgment here. It happens. Luckily, while not every food plot can be saved, most failed plots that go astray are worthy of salvation. It just takes a little time. And in some cases, a little more money. We have the answers. So, take heed. Bring it home. Your food plots are still destined for greatness.
Failure No. 1: Bare Spots
Bare spots are among the most common food-plot problems. Seeds get planted, but only a fraction of them germinate, leaving gaping holes all over the ground. Luckily, it’s also one of the quickest and simplest problems to fix.
The Fix: In the spring, over-seed with either cowpeas or lablab. In the late summer to early fall, sow winter peas or cereal rye. All of these grow quickly and easily, and provide quality forage.
Failure No. 2: Stunted Growth
Food plots that fail to grow do so for different reasons. Too much seed. Bad soil. Drought. Flooding. Other reasons persist. Solutions to each problem exist, though.
The Fix: Fix bad dirt with a soil test and the right application of fertilizer and/or lime. Consult with an ag extension agency or your local farm and feed store for help on reading soil tests.
Spreading too much seed limits potential and yield, too. This screwup is difficult to undo. However, if this is your cause for stunted growth, time and weather permitting, disc up the soil and reseed it.
Lastly, drought is fixed with water. Wait for rain or haul in tanks of water, and soak the plot. Damage from flooding also is hard to undo. If plots stay flooded for much longer than 24 hours, wait until the soil drains, then rework and re-sow the affected area. If necessary, replace nutrients lost due to soil leaching with fertilizer.
Failure No. 3: Weedy Areas
Weeds suck away nutrients and moisture from the soil that would've gone to your food plot. They take up space food plot species would otherwise inhabit and can even shade out desirable plants.
The Fix: The right herbicide solution depends on what’s planted in the food plot. If for some reason you can’t spray the plot to reduce weeds, mowing can help stave them off and allow fast-growing food plot species to outpace the intrusive plants you don’t want.
In areas that you can spray, remember these chemical options:
Glyphosate: This non-selective herbicide kills pretty much everything it touches. As a systemic chemical, it’s absorbed by the plant and kills it all the way down to the root system. This is best used a few weeks prior to planting. However, some plant varieties labeled “Roundup Ready” can withstand post-emergence spraying.
2-4-D: Another systemic chemical, this option is perfect for killing broadleaf weeds in your grass-based plots, such as oats, rye and wheat. It remains active in the soil for several weeks, though, so don't use it if you plan to plant a broadleaf species soon after spraying.
Clethodim: This is a grass-selective herbicide that shouldn't harm broadleaf plants if used correctly. It works slower than other chemicals, often taking two to three weeks to kill off the grass it comes in contact with.
Failure No. 4: Overgrazing
This is a common issue in areas with higher deer population densities. It’s also a problem in locations lacking in natural food sources. But there are ways to fix this.
The Fix: First, create more food sources. This will decrease stress on your plots. Also, set up a seclusion fence around the overgrazed area. If it isn’t too far gone, oftentimes plants will bounce back with time and a minimal application of fertilizer. If it's beyond saving, re-discing and sowing new seed is the only fix.
Can’t get deer to use your food plot? That’s a fail. Human intrusion, hunting pressure, or the wrong forage planted in the wrong location can all cause it. Deduce the likliest cause and choose a solution accordingly.
The Fix: If human intrusion or hunting pressure are to blame, it’s simple: quit frequenting the area. Deer will resume using it once people get out. Only go in at key times to hunt.
Planting the wrong forage can do it, too. Southern deer tend not to consume brassicas as often, for example, because temperatures rarely dip low enough to activate the glucose increase. If this is the mistake, re-work the plot and sow something that attracts deer in that area. Also, make sure the peak-attraction date is close to the time(s) you plan to hunt.
Lastly, the wrong location is virtually impossible to fix without uprooting and planting in another area. If you're intent on keeping the plot where it is, the only way to increase daylight activity is creating whatever is preventing deer from doing so. That might mean creating bedding cover, adding water, or both.