Method: Choose a site that receives a minimum of 8 hours of full sun. Prepare a clean, smooth and firm seedbed by plowing and dragging the soil. Fertilizer and lime can be applied during this step to incorporate it into the soil. Broadcast seed evenly across the soil surface and use a culti-packer or light drag to cover the seed. Making good seed/soil contact is the key to establishing a productive food plot.
Seeding Date: South - Sept. 15 thru Nov. 1 and Jan. 15 thru Mar. 15; Upper South - Sept. 1 thru Oct. 15 and Mar. 15 thru May 1; North - Aug. 15 thru Oct. 1 and Apr. 1 thru May 15.
Seeding Rate: 5 lbs. per one-half acre or 1/4 lb. per 1000 sq. ft.
Depth: 1/4" (stand failures will result from seed planted too shallow or too deep).
Fertilizer: Soil testing is highly recommended. Liming to a pH of 6.0-6.5 and providing adequate levels of potassium and phosphorus are necessary to ensure a productive food plot. See your local county extension office for soil sampling assistance. In the absence of a soil test, apply 400 - 600 lbs. /acre 10-10-10 (10 - 14 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) or equivalent fertilizer and 1 ton/acre ag lime (50 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.). Apply fertilizer just prior to seeding. If practical, apply lime a minimum of 3 months before planting.
Note: To enhance perennial clover establishment and stand life, periodically mow the food plot from late spring through the summer months to keep unwanted weeds and grasses in check.
Fertilization: Annual sampling to determine soil nutrient content is highly recommended. Apply lime to maintain a soil pH of 6.2 to 6.5. Add phosphorous and potassium fertilizer according to soil test recommendations. Only fertilizers containing zero or small percentages of nitrogen (5% or less) should be used on pure stands of clover. Excessive application of nitrogen fertilizer leads to poor nitrogen fixation, increased incidence of clover disease and greater weed competition.
Weed control - Broadleaf weeds including pigweed, ragweed, coffeeweed and others may become problematic in clover food plots as well as weedy grasses such as crabgrass, signalgrass, panicums, johnsongrass, etc. Plots should be mowed periodically to keep unwanted weeds and grasses in check. When mowing, set the mower to remove no more than the top 1/3 of the clover foliage. Note that taller broadleaf weeds may have 50% or more of their foliage removed by the mowing operation. Chemical weed and grass control - If a height differential exists between weeds and the clover, glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) can be applied with a wiper or rope-wick type of device to weeds growing above the clover canopy. Do not allow this herbicide mixture to come into contact with the clover foliage. A selective herbicide that only controls grassy weeds can be broadcast over pure clover stands to kill or suppress annual and perennial grasses. (Consult with the local university extension office for local herbicide recommendations and rates.) To minimize clover injury, herbicides should be applied when clover is free from drought and heat stress.
Tips for Successful Food Plots:
1. Every successful food plot begins with a soil test. Most woodland soils have low pH and low fertility. A soil test will tell you how much fertilizer and lime is needed. Information on taking a soil test can be obtained from your local county extension office.
2. Spend the extra time necessary to properly prepare the soil by plowing, smoothing and firming the ground. Planting on a weed free, smooth and firm seedbed that allows good seed-soil contact is essential for a thick, productive forage stand.
3. Plant seed at the proper seeding depth. Planting too shallow or too deep can result in stand failure. Seed mixes containing small seeded legumes and forbs should not be seeded deeper than 1/4 inch. Use a cultipacker, log or a light drag to firm the soil after planting.
4. When selecting a wildlife food plot site, choose an area that is long and narrow with curves or bends in it. This provides a sense of comfort and safety for wildlife. When developing food plots, a good rule of thumb is to plant 2.5 to 7 acres of food plots for every 100 acres of habitat.
5. Avoid droughty sites such as eroded hillsides or shallow, rocky soils. Southwest facing slopes are hotter in the summer and tend to dry out faster than bottom land.
6. A minimum of 50% full sunshine is essential for a healthy and productive food plot. Morning sun is better than afternoon sun for summer game food plots. The reverse is generally true in the winter.