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Food plots are sections of land rich with food that animals enjoy. Many people use food plots to engage in hunting or watching wildlife on their property. A well-maintained food plot can bring more, healthier game to your land. However, prepping your land, planting, and maintaining your food plot requires intentional work and attention. If you’re starting a food plot for the first time, following these food plot steps can lead you toward a successful year of growth and wildlife attraction.
Different plants thrive in specific soil types. Understanding your soil can give you insights on what will grow best on your plot. Additionally, a soil test can tell you whether you should add lime or fertilizer to your land to enhance growth. While getting your soil tested is beneficial, it’s not required, and you can develop a solid food plot that attracts game by preparing your soil well, which we’ll get to later.
Your seed selection process is determined by the animals you want to attract, as each type of game enjoys different diets. Remember that while a single food might be an animal’s favorite, all animals need varied diets. Corn is the favorite crop of deer herds, but it also can be expensive, and some modern corns aren’t fully digestible for deer. Soybeans, alfalfa, and bulbs (turnips, rutabaga, radishes, etc.) offer leafy vegetation during plentiful growing months and energy rich bulbs that deer access in winter. Soybeans and corn provide food for turkeys in winter.
Since most animals prefer food plots that are planted near the shelter of a patch of woods, consider adding nut and fruit-bearing trees and bushes to the edges of the woods to attract more wildlife, especially turkeys and other birds. You can speak with local seed professionals to discuss what options are available in your state, which foods are best for local game, and which are optimal for your climate and soil type.
Ground prep is essential for healthy food plot production. From tilling and seeding to watering and controlled burns, there’s plenty to do to promote healthy crop growth. Equipment wise, you’ll want a tool with tilling capabilities on hand, as well as a mower, and a cultipacker. Having food plot equipment that can act as a seed spreader or chain harrow is a handy way to speed up your work and optimize your food plot’s performance.
Food plots near wooded areas tend to be best at attracting wildlife, but no matter where your food plot resides, make sure it’s obstruction free and ready for groundwork. Clear out your space, by removing unnecessary brush, stumps, and large rocks. You’ll also want to do some weed removal before you go through with a tool that can till your foot plot.
If you want to add fertilizer or lime to the plot to promote soil development, go ahead and run over the land with a towable broadcast spreader. Our ground drive spreaders are useful for ATVs, UTVs, and small tractors. They’re built tough to prevent corrosion commonly caused by fertilizer and salts. And for more ease of use, the spreader includes levers on the unit that allow for adjustments to vary application rates based on material you’re spreading. The best part is, you can use the same tool for seed spreading later.
With the ground fertilized, it’s time to dig into the soil so it’s ripped up, softened, and ready for seed. The goal is to dig deep to get rid of roots and weeds, but you also aim to turn over the land as few times as possible to avoid drying it out. Achieving this typically requires a whole host of tools, but ABI’s goal is always to speed up the process and achieve better results, which is why we created options for our groundwork implements like the TR3-E Property Edition with a food plot disc option.
The TR3-E Property Edition is a multifaceted implement with teeth for tough dirt. It combines the function of a box blade, landscape rake, grader blade, land plane, chain harrow, and pulverizer all into one patented tractor attachment. When paired with the optional disc system, it also has the capabilities of a disc harrow, rotary tiller, and plow.
The food plot disc add-on is ready to rip up your ground without any spraying, mowing, or other prep work. It’s built to complete excellent work as an ATV or UTV pull-behind or tractor attachment. When digging into your foot plot, you’ll start with the disks to rip up the initial grass and roots, then use the scarifiers to break remaining chunks up at your ideal depth for seed planting.
A cultipacker is indispensable in achieving quick germination and growth with your broadcast seeding projects. Ensuring proper seed-to-soil contact, moisture absorption, and germination, a cultipacker is a critical part of the seeding process. The cultipacker firms up and dimples the soil, making the ideal environment for seeds.
That same ground drive spreader used for fertilizing can be used again when it’s time to spread the seed. And that’s the thing about seed spreading–timing is everything. Because food plots become the sustaining part of the area wildlife’s diet, the ideal food plot will have something for the animals all year long.
Clover, a weather hardy and popular food plot plant, can be planted in cold-to-cool temperatures. Many popular plants, like corn, are grown during the milder middle of spring when temperatures are cool to warm. Soybeans and alfalfa are great for planting during the warmer and hotter months. Cereal rye, wheat, and many of the bulbs we mentioned before are good for cool-weather planting. The bulbs are especially helpful to have on your fall plot as the animals can munch on the leafy green tops and get the carb-filled bulbs during winter when food is most scarce. These plants thrive in cool conditions, but need to be seeded 30-45 days before the first frost, so if you live in an area that experiences a winter, keep that in mind.
Yep, we’re back to the cultipacker. After seeding, you can re-cultipack to press the seed deeper into the ground, enriching the seed-to-soil connection and creating moisture holding pockets that optimize growth.
One of the best things about food plots is that once they’re up and running, they’re fairly low maintenance. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to mow food plots often at all. You can mow your annual food plot once a year and go without mowing a perennial (year round) food plot.
There are many drought-resistant crops that also require less watering and maintenance to thrive. But if you choose varieties that do require watering, we got you covered with a hassle-free way to get water out to your food plots, a towable water trailer. And you’ll want to keep that water trailer close if you decide to do controlled burns. Some choose to do this a few weeks before planting to reduce harmful insect populations, eliminate invasive species in the plot, and allow nutrients from former plants to decompose and enrich the soil before seeding.
With the right steps to planning and equipment, planting a food plot can be a fun process that makes the reward of a hunt or a wildlife experience even more enjoyable. At ABI, we have products for every step of ground prep required to start your successful foot plot. Talk to a product specialist at (877) 788-7253 to find the best equipment for your application.