Food plots don’t have to be big, but it’s important to plant even small ones properly.
QUESTION: I live in southeast Illinois and want to create a small food plot, about 50x50 feet. It will be in the shade and in a flat creek bottom. The soil is yellow clay with fescue grass growing on it. Can you tell me what type of seeds I should plant? I thought about mowing it real short this spring and going over it with an aerator and using some type of throw-and-grow. What do you recommend? — Russ R.
ANSWER: You have several options, but I’ll tell you what worked well for me in a very similar scenario. First and foremost, take a soil sample and send it to the local extension service or county agent to be tested. They’ll be able to tell you what minerals and fertilizer to add.
I would agree that you should mow it very short as soon as the grass really starts growing. Then I’d recommend spraying it with Roundup or a similar herbicide. Give it a couple weeks, and then disc it. As you’re turning over the soil, you can also turn in the minerals and fertilizer recommended by your soil test results. Then plant it, roll it and pray for rain.
As for what to plant, a throw-and-grow mix will work. Bear in mind that most such seeds consist of fast-growing annual plants, so you’ll have to re-plant every year, and you won’t want to plant until about a month before you plan to hunt (depending on your growing season, climate and temperature).
I took a different approach and planted a perennial clover mix. It did better in moist soils and persisted for several seasons. Furthermore, I was able to plant in the spring, which gave the deer plenty of time to find and get accustomed to it. I had pictures of four different racked bucks using the plot before hunting season, and my son and I were able to take two deer off our tiny plot.
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