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. Plant with a drill or broadcast seed evenly across the soil surface and incorporate it using a culti-packer or by shallow (1" to 3" deep) disking. Care should be taken to ensure seed are planted at the proper depth. If seed are disked in, the use of a culti-packer or roller after seeding ensures good seed/soil contact and improves stand emergence.
Seeding Date: South - Sept. 15 thru Nov. 1; Upper South - Sept. 1 thru Oct. 15; North - Aug. 15 thru Oct. 1
Seeding Rate: 100 lbs. /acre (2 1/4 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) when planted alone or 30-50 lbs. /acre 3/4 -1 1/4 lbs./1000 sq. ft.) when used in mixes.
Seeding Depth: 3/4- 1 1/2" when planted alone or in mixes with other small grains; 1/2" when planted in mixes with annual legumes and/or brassica.
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 an 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.
Fertilizer: To boost forage production, apply a second application of 400 lbs. /acre 10-10-10 (10 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) or an equivalent fertilizer in late winter just prior to the spring growth flush of the rye. Or, if a soil test from the plot area indicates soil potassium and phosphorus levels are adequate, a sidedress application of 34-0-0 at 125 - 150 lbs. /acre (3 - 3.5 lbs. /1000 sq. ft.) or an equivalent nitrogen fertilizer product is sufficient.
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.