Planting food plots is a fun and engaging activity that most deer hunters enjoy. It gets you afield, benefits the deer population, and can even enhance your hunting efforts if done strategically. Here are five steps to planting a food plot, and then another video that explains proximity and how to take your micro plots to the next level.
Step 1: Soil Sampling
It’s extremely important to take a soil sample prior to planting your food plots. Doing so provides accurate data and an instruction manual for how much fertilizer and lime the area needs. Take a few samples from different areas of the planting area to get the most accurate reading. It can take some time to get the results of your soil sample. So complete this step just prior to spraying.
Step 2: Spraying
Spraying is another important pre-planting task. By spraying the weeds in the designated food plot area with a thoughtfully selected herbicide, you remove unwanted vegetation that can outcompete your food plot seed.
Step 3: Fertilizing
As previously mentioned, fertilizer is key. Now that you have your test results, apply the necessary fertilizer and lime. Make sure you spread out the fertilizer evenly throughout the food plot.
Step 4: Seed Bed Prep
Preparing the seed bed is crucial. Seeds — regardless of the plant species — must have quality contact with the soil. Germination will be nonexistent and extremely limited at best if you don’t prep the seed bed.
Step 5: Planting, Covering the Seed and Maintenance
Now broadcast (or drill in) your seed of choice. For smaller seeds, and if planting an area less than 1 acre, I prefer to use a hand-crank seed spreader. This allows you to have more control over the speed at which the seed is spread. It can be more difficult to control the seeding rate on tractor and ATV implements. Once planted, ensure good seed-to-soil contact by dragging, disking, cultipacking or simply driving over the planted area. Which of these methods you choose will depend on the seed you planted. Most seeds range from a planting depth of ¼-inch to 2 inches.
There are a lot of things you can do to improve the success of your food plots. Positioning them close to daytime bedding areas. Providing a food source uncommon to the area. Planting food plot screens. Designing food plots in Y, U, L, or V shapes. Applying another round of fertilizer. The list goes on. And remember, always make safety a priority, especially when using heavy equipment and implements.