Fire up those tractors Bone Collectors! We are at the point in the food plot process where we get to tear up some ground to prepare the site we selected in part II. Now, I am no farmer and I know a lot of you aren’t either, but preparing the land for a food plot hinges on your intensity and the resources you have available to you. If you can’t beg or borrow some of the equipment needed, you can still get by with some good old fashioned manual labor. Look, you are planting for deer, not the King of England. This ain’t a 4-H contest either. Your plots may not win beauty contests, but they can still achieve their goal – attracting and feeding wildlife.
Ideally, you have at least a small garden tractor, Bad Boy Buggy or ATV with a small disc. If not, and you are planting a large area, look for a tractor for hire. If you are only planting mini-plots, you can probably get the job done with some sweat and a garden hoe. If you do not any equipment and do not want to work hard, take a look at Evolved Harvest Throw & Gro. I use this no-till forage in areas I cannot get my equipment to.
Alright, so here is the process I go through before planting a food plot. It may vary based on your soil, what you are planting and where you are planting, but it is a pretty solid foundation that will do the job in most cases:
1. The first thing I do is look at what is growing now. There may be some vegetation that needs to be mowed as short as possible. Knock it down as best you can.
2. Broadcast lime and fertilizer. Your soil sample results should have recommendations on the amount of lime you need to get the pH in the proper zone of 6.5 to 6.8, or at least above 5.8. If you are lucky, your pH Levels may be fine and you can skip the lime. The same goes for fertilizer. The difference in a non-fertilized plot and fertilized plot is pretty obvious. Follow the recommendations on the report for best results.
3. Disk the area. We want to get the lime and fertilizers incorporated into soil and kill whatever weeds and other vegetation is currently growing there. A thorough disking will cultivate the soil.
4. Smooth the area. A portion of some chain-linked fence with some cinder blocks on top pulled behind your tractor or ATV will do a good job of breaking up the clumps on the surface of the soil
5. Spray herbicide. Once the soil is cultivated and smoothed, wait until the first new weeds and vegetation are sprouting from the soil. Spray with an herbicide to kill whatever is growing since you cultivated. Most herbicides recommend waiting 7-10 days after spraying before planting. Read those labels and follow the instructions!
After waiting for the herbicide to do its work and become unthreatening to the seeds you will be planting, it is time to plant. We will cover this next. I know this can be hard work, but trust me when I tell you it will all be worth it in the fall. I feel downright giddy when I am in a treestand overlooking a field I planted and watching deer eating from it. Then it is just a matter of waiting for ol’ Freak Nasty to show up!