In case you haven?t been following along or are new to the site, I?d like to catch you up to speed. We are in the early stages of our ?Food Plot Journey?. Up until now we have selected our areas where we are going to plant food plots and collected our soil samples. The WeHuntSC.com Team is going to plant several Tecomate Seed Food Plot products in various locations. Some of these locations will be remote locations where we install the food plots with a GroundHog MAX and others are tractor accessible.
It didn?t take long for our soil samples to return back from the Agricultural Service Laboratory at Clemson. The data on the soil sample readout was very detailed and informative. We received a general information sheet that helped us to understand what the data in our readouts meant. There were summary sections for ?Soil Test Results?, ?Understanding Your Soil Sample?, ?Nutrients? etc. So even a web guy can make sense of what is going on with this readout (kind of!). Along with the general ?help you understand the readout? sheet was another sheet titled the ?Soil Report? which contained the actual results from our soil.
When we sent the soil samples in, we had to tell them what we were going to be planting so that they would best know what to recommend. The information section is structured in tables and has 2 columns denoting the specific analysis and the result of the analysis. The current pH and levels of Phosphorous, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Boron, Copper, Sodium, Sulfur, Soluble Salts, Nitrate Nitrogen, & Organic Matter were all shown in this table. Below this section was a section of calculations which discussed the acidity of the soil, the base saturation, and more scientific stuff that I can?t really spell correctly even with spell-check! Then followed the recommended amount of lime (in pounds) that need to be added to the soil with other nutrient information recommendations based off our proposed type of plant that we?re planting?in this case, a legume.
The top-most category on the sheet was the Soil Ph. With pH, the magic # is 7. The goal is to try to be as close to 7 as you can because a pH of 7 offers the best growing environments for plants. In the first readout, the pH of the soil was 7.0 so we are right on track with it. This soil in the area of this specific food plot has been managed along with having been farmed before. Some of the other readouts on the property were not as close and a lime application was recommended.
Since we are planting legumes there was no recommendation for nitrogen because the plants will produce their own once the root system is established. This nitrogen balancing act is unique to legumes. In order for the plants to produce their own nitrogen they must be properly inoculated, especially in areas where they have not been grown before. If inoculants are not used, the plants may not properly develop a root system and a poor stand may result. Check with your local feed and seed store to get the correct inoculants. Make sure to check the expiration date and use more than what the minimum recommendation is on the package to make sure you get enough. For more information on inoculants, see The inoculants .PDF
Now that we know what we need to add to the soil, we?ll probably bush-hog the field and get it ready to be limed. When we take more steps?we?ll document them here!
I?ve learned that the first step in the creation of a food plot is to get what is called a ?soil sample?. This soil sample is nothing more than a zip-lock bag of dirt that is collected from the acreage where the envisioned food plot is going. Once the food plot acreage is selected, a soil sample must be collected from it in order to determine the PH levels in the soil. Since the land area will most likely be of decent size, it?s best to get a balanced soil sample. By balanced I mean that it?s best to get soil from the 4 corners of the food plot acreage + some from the middle. Once you collect all the soil, you mix it in the zip-lock bag. This way you are getting a uniform blend of soil over your intended food plot acreage.
This week has been very busy with all that we?ve got going on, but that is fine by me. As we continue to monitor the food plots, we have to get ready to plant the fall plots as well. So, when we got back from the Pee Dee Deer Classic, we journeyed out to the woods to check up on the remote food plot. We also went and took a new soil sample at a location where we?re going to try to plant a different fall plot to get an idea of the composition of the soil. Since this will be the first time we?re planting a food plot in this location it will take us some time to get the soil in the best conditions possible, but you have to start somewhere.
Earlier in this series, I covered the reasons why one needs to take a soil sample. You can see that blog entry here: Collecting a Soil Sample in case you haven?t been following along. Even at the Pee Dee Deer Classic, the Tecomate Seed representatives and other food plot experts presented and spoke about the importance of the soil and how the composition of the soil directly affects your food plot?s success. They talked about the ?pieces of the puzzle? necessary for a successful food plot. I may be leaving some pieces out, but what stuck with me were three main pieces: the soil, the seed, and the knowledge. In order to have success with a food plot you?ve got to have soil that is ready and conditioned to foment the growth of plants, good quality seed, and most importantly?you?ve got to know what to do! (That last part is what I?ve been working on for some time now). So it?s the week of August 1st and we?re taking a soil sample and intend to plant a fall food plot in late September to early October.
If you?re in South Carolina and want to know where you can get a soil sample analyzed, just find your local Clemson Cooperative Extension by clicking here. For a small fee, you can send off your soil sample and they will return you a read out with detailed information about the makeup of your soil. If you have trouble understanding the pH and all that, then you can take it to a seed and feed store and they can assist you with interpreting the results. The staff at the local coop can also help you with that as well.
Remote Food Plot Update
The remote food plot continues to grow well. As I continue to be clueless about this all, I was wondering why all of this stuff wasn?t eaten already. I know there are deer out there, but yet some plants continue to grow untouched by the deer. I knew that the seed was a mixture of plants (milo, clover, peas, etc), but I didn?t know that the deer would be eating them at different times of the summer/fall. The deer are being selective about what they eat as they walk through the food plot. That is, they are eating some specific types of plants and not the others. You can plainly see where they are passing through the plot and also which plants they are eating. It appears that they are eating the peas and the lab lab and leaving a lot of milo untouched. I spoke with the Tecomate rep and he said that after the first frost comes the starches in some of the plants will turn to sugar. After that happens then the deer will really get in there and eat the remaining plants. I hope this is right! He also mentioned that the first time you plant a plot it kind of takes the deer a little while to figure out that they can get in there and eat the plants.
Another note to mention is that I have not been getting many game-camera pics. I thought something was wrong and it turns out that when you have dead batteries the camera won?t take pictures! So we have put new batteries in the camera and hope to have some good pictures in upcoming blog entries.
The below video is of us getting a new soil sample where we?re going to start the process of conditioning the soil and attempt a fall food plot install + a current view of the remote food plot. Sorry to spin so fast out there?it made the video a little blurry. Maybe one day I?ll upgrade cameras and get better footage.
This past Saturday Adam and I spent a great deal of time working in the heat and boy was it hot! We are preparing to put in some of our Tecomate Seed fall food plots. We went out collected a few soil samples and sprayed some round-up. At this location we're going to put in two food plots. One will be a half acre plot where we will plant Monster Mix. The other will be around 3 acres located on an old power line where we will plant Max-Attract and Ultraforage in alternating sections. The smaller plot has had crops on it before so conditioning the soil won't be too bad in that location. There are some weeds there, but not too many. The old power line, however, is slam full of grass and weeds so we've got our work cut out for us to be able to have a successful plot in this area.
While we were there, we also spent a good deal of time scouting and walking the land. We found some rubs, saw some sign, and even saw a deer as we scouted. We feel these are good signs, but we shall see as the season goes on. Our goal was to find areas where we wanted to put our food plots at this location and get the soil samples + start spraying and that's exactly what we did. I think I soaked 2 shirts with sweat and I got really dirty by the end of it all. I wore pants out this time since last time we did this I caught poison ivy. I also wore boots since I've been seeing a lot of pics of snakes lately. I had the perfect combination for being protected from the elements and also being hot and sweaty.
The Small Plot
The smaller location is at the back end of the property and it looks to be a good location. Our area of SC has parts of town that are all clay, some are all sand, and then there are areas that are mixtures of both. The area of this plot is made up more of clay than dirt. The small plot is probably about 100 - 120 yards long and 25 yards wide. This should turn out to be a nice food plot and it also has a few oaks on the edge with a good crop of acorns. We'll need to trim back some of the other trees to improve the vision to all end s of the plot. This location will be the easier of the two to plant. As you'll see in the below video, Adam took the soil sample and then sprayed the field with Round-up to kill the weeds while I documented everything.
In hopes of not getting our plot overtaken with weeds (as we did in the summer at the one location), we're going to spray it with Round-up, then come back in with the GroundHog MAX to disk it up, then return a few days later to spray it again. The reason we'll spray it the second time is to kill any dormant seed that we may have turned up while disking. After we spray again, we'll give it a few days before we go back in to plant the seed.
The Large Plot
The larger plot is the one that's located on an old power line. The power company use to have poles run through this section of woods, but in recent years they have removed the poles. This left a great place to put in a food plot. The only problem we have is the weeds and grass that now resides in the area. There are a ton of weeds currently in the area and so we've got our work cut out for us to get an effective food plot installed.
We are going to try to put another long and narrow plot in this location. Here again we collected another soil sample and sprayed Round-up heavily. We're going to let it sit for a few days and hopefully get a good portion of the grass and weeds killed. The weeds are so tall that I may even go back in and mow it down some. Then we'll go back in, with a tractor and the GroundHog Max, and disk. Following suit, we'll let it sit for a few days then return to spray again as we want to kill off any dormant seeds turned up while disking.
You can see the video of all this below to get a visual for what we?re talking about and attempting to do.
So you've seen the hopeful locations of 2 of our fall plots. We're optimistic that we can pull it off, but again only time will tell. In the mean time, we've got a lot of work to do. More to come.
If you've been reading along, then you know we are on the second half of our year-long, Tecomate Seed, Food Plot Journey. We learned a lot during the past summer about food plots and even had some food plots that came up pretty well. Though, we did have one weed infested food plot that didn't turn out as well as we hoped, but it served as a good learning experience for us. We've been getting some good game cam pics of deer in the plots (mostly does on camera though) and for the past few weeks we've been working on our fall plots.
We're putting our fall plots in some different locations and we are carrying out the same processes of taking a soil sample, preparing the soil, liming, planting, and adding fertilizer (if needed) in all these locations. The main difference between the summer and fall plots is that we're planting plants that can grow in cold weather for our fall plots. Over time the frost and cold will end up killing what we planted for our summer plots. I will note that so far throughout the process with the fall plots everything has been really dry. I mean every time we do anything there is dust flying everywhere. After riding the GroundHog MAX last weekend for a few hours I was covered in dirt and my eyes were burning. I looked in the mirror and my whole face was covered in orange dust. I say all that to say if we don't get some rain soon, I'm not sure what is going to grow in such dry soil. Again, I'm a web guy and don't claim to know much about farming and/or food plots so I may be surprised, but for now I?m still hoping we get some rain to have some kind of moisture in the soil.
At this point we've taken the soil samples and are now preparing the soil. By preparing the soil I mean we have sprayed the envisioned plot with RoundUp to get the weeds out and gave them time to die. The weeds died and the video will demonstrate this as you can easily see the stark contrast between the dead brown weeds and the dark green weeds on the other side of the hill. I was actually surprised at how well the RoundUp did with only spraying it once. Initially I thought we'd have to spray it a little bit more to get it all to die since there were a ton of weeds, but I was wrong in that assumption. We waited about a week and a half and then came back to get the weeds out by disking up the soil. Thus far, we have been disking up the soil by using the GroundHog MAX, but for this large area we brought in a tractor to assist.
We're trying to put in this particular plot in an area that was an old power line. The power line is long and narrow and we're trying to install the plot at the lower end that leads down to a creek. This place hasn't been touched in about 2 - 3 years so the dirt there is hard and dry. The lower area of the power line has steep hills and rough terrain. These hills, rough terrain, and narrowness of the old power line combine to present a difficult situation for the tractor with regards to plowing. Parts of the power line are more flat and in those areas the tractor did well, but the other areas near the bottom presented more of a challenge for the tractor. So, as you would imagine, we brought in the GroundHog MAX and it got the job done again! The GroundHog MAX greatly helped us out in those hard to plow locations. Ultimately the soil in this plot was plowed by a combination of the tractor and GroundHog MAX with the tractor handling the flatter, upper end and the GroundHog MAX on the more rugged, lower end.
Before/After Pic of the Remote Food Plot on the Powerline
It took a lot of time to get the soil the way we wanted, but in the end I think it looks pretty good given what we started out with. Again, this dirt was very hard and very dry so I think we made some good progress. We'll try to continue to install food plots in these areas year after year and over time we think it will get a little easier if we stay on top of it.
I'm praying for some rain so keep your fingers crossed. Now we'll give the power line food plot a week or two to see if anything germinates, that is we'll wait to see if any more weeds start growing back. In our first go round with our summer plots, we sprayed a field and got a good kill on the weeds then we disked the field up and planted. The field ended up being full of weeds because the plowing covered some of the dormant seeds with dirt and moisture and then they germinated which lead to a mess by the time it was all said and done. So we'll see if any weeds start to come up and if they do, then we'll spray it again to kill them, then we'll wait a little while and put the seed out. We'll probably also put down some lime and fertilizer, but we're still waiting to get the soil samples back before we assess that situation.
I made the below video to show you what the area looked like after the spray and to give you an idea of how we worked both the tractor and the GroundHog MAX together to get the soil the way we wanted it.
And the journey continues...
As mentioned in the summary, this is a guest blog entry written by Jon Charles of of River Oaks Wildlife Management
Fall planting season is here!! I know some of us are a little late on planting certain types of plants, but we all know it?s been hot and dry in parts of the south. It?s time to get started. One of the most frequent questions that I get asked is ?I planted a food plot and the seed did not come up...Why? That seed must not be any good.? There are a few simple reasons it did not come up:
1. Soil Analysis The first step anyone needs to do before planting any type of seed is have a complete soil test done. Not just test for pH but also check levels of micro and macro nutrients. If your soil is void of the right balance of these minerals it can have a negative effect and you will not see the results you?re looking for. Please get this done first and save yourself the headaches, money, time and labor you went through and take $20 to $ 30 dollars and do this first. Missing minerals can be added into your fertilizer for as little as $6.00 per acre. There are also several types of managers you can add into your fertilizer like Nutrisphere N, Avail, and Wolf tracks. These products can save you money and produce higher amounts and higher yields in your field or plot. Use the right type of lime and remember ag lime takes 4 to 6 months to correct the PH in your soil so if you planting in the spring you need to have added lime the previous fall. Another great product we use at River Oaks Wildlife Mgt is a product called Solu-Cal. A 50 lb bag of solu-cal is equal to 300 lbs of lime and starts correcting soil in weeks not months and will last a lot longer. You should check it out.
Next avoid the ?Farmer Brown? syndrome. What is the ?Farmer Brown? syndrome you ask? It?s the guy down the road that is Mr. Know It All. They use outdated methods, the same methods their dad and granddad before them did. All they know is 400 lbs of 10-10-10 per acre and 2,000 lbs of lime and that?s all you need to plant any seed you want. WRONG!!! Farmer Brown will get you in trouble and will cause you a great waste in your time and planting. Stay away from Farmer Brown folks!!! Listen to qualified wildlife mgt consultants or agronomists, not the guy working in the back of local feed store or the farmer down the road that has not evolved or is not practicing modern productive methods of planting. Remember we are planting for wildlife.
2. Time Make sure you read the seed bag and recommended planting times for your zone.
3. Soil Amendment Please after getting your soil test back amend your soil correctly using the right type of fertilizer and add in the correct fertilizer mgrs to assure you positive results.
4. Depth When planting make sure when getting the seed in the ground by either broadcasting, using a plotmaster, or drilling, make sure you plant your seed at the right depth. Small seeds like clovers, alfalfa, and brassicas (like any seed) need good seed to soil contact.
5. Packing Your Soil If you?re broadcasting, drag your seed over lightly and compact your soil lightly. Do not get out and take the truck or tractor and drive over the plot as a lot of times this compacts the soil to tight?especially in clay soils! If you get a rain and the water runs off the top it can crust over and harden up. These small seeds need a lot of energy to push through the soil and reach the surface. With small seeds only cover over lightly or plant about ¼ inch deep. Larger seed like Lab Lab, soy beans, peas should be planted about ½ to 1 inch deep and NO deeper .
6. Herbicide Residue Make sure your soil has had time to deplete itself of chemical agents (Roundup etc.) I have seen guys plant too early after spraying and till in grasses and weeds before a complete burn down only to have the seed get contaminated with herbicide residue and not come up at all. Believe me, I have seen a few properties that were hit with ?Farmer Brown? syndrome or just too anxious to hurry up and get it planted. So, please, if you spray for invasive grass or weeds, give the area time to dry out and burn down. This is usually at least 14 days minimum.
7. Inoculants This is something that most frequently gets overlooked. Please take the time and inoculate your seed with the right type of Rhizobium bacteria. Check your seed labels and see if it was pre inoculated and always plant before the expiration date.
Blow is a list of the different types of Inoculants needed for different seed types.
This should get you going for now. Make sure when inoculating your seed that you follow the directions. It?s a living bacteria and you should keep it in the fridge or in a cool place until it?s time to apply. You can add water and make a slurry and wash your seed in it and then spread your seed out on a tarp to dry, but not in direct sunlight or you can dry mix it in a bucket and coat your seed this way, but please follow the directions.
If you go down the check list above you should eliminate most of your concerns about getting a good food plot started. Remember it all starts with your soil. Your plants act as transfer agents that transfer the nutrients in the soil to the deer that you are trying to reach. Treat your soil right and it will treat your deer right allowing them to get the best nutrition possible.
In the next blog entry, we will discuss the different soil types and talk about supplemental feeding and minerals. Also stay tuned in for The Real Deal On Seed For Wildlife coming next month.
If you have mgt questions or need professional consultation we can be reached at email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 919-341-9659.
For question on Solu-cal go to www.solu-cal.com or call 508-295-1533 and ask for Craig Canning at ext 230. Let him know how you heard about the product!
Thanks again folks and remember to use best management practices and introduce a kid to the outdoors any chance you get.
Jon Charles, River Oaks Wildlife Mgt
As you can see, this past weekend was a full weekend for me. By the time Sunday got here I was dragging pretty good. Though, we still had some work to do. We returned back out to the remote food plot to put down some lime.
To recap a little in case you are unaware of what?s going on? We are about mid-way through our Tecomate Seed online ?Food Plot Journey?. Tecomate Seed and GroundHog MAX are sponsoring this online documentary. The blog series consists of a yearlong blog where we take someone who is totally clueless about food plots (me) and document an installation of a food plot. To this point we have collected our soil samples, had the readouts returned, cleared the land, and disked it up with the GroundHog MAX. It is now ready to be limed.
As a web developer, I started out totally uninformed about this whole process, but I have been learning a little. It turns out that the soil preparation step of the food plot creation process is a critical step in the journey. For a remote food plot, installation and soil preparation can be labor intensive. We took soil samples back in January and sent them off to the Clemson Agricultural extension. One of our locations came back with a pH of 7.0 because it had been prepped last year. So with that one area, we are right on track. Though, with other areas we are not as on target. The pH in this specific location for this blog entry ended up being 5.2. This is not a terrible pH, but the closer we can get the pH to 7.0, the more fertile the environment will be for our food plot products.
This is where lime comes in. Lime helps reduce the acidity in the soil. So if you have a low pH, then you?ll need to add some lime to raise the pH level. How much lime should you add? The result returned to you by the agricultural extension has the recommendations of lime and other minerals you may need. Keep in mind that lime needs some time to go to work in the soil. It?s not like you just put out lime and overnight the pH in the soil is adjusted. Successfully changing the pH in the soil is comparable to making a u-turn in the Titanic?it?s not going to be quickly done. It may even take us putting the lime out a few times over a few seasons to get the pH to reach our goal of 7.0. In our specific case with this location, we are actually somewhat late in putting the lime out. Many factors contribute to our lateness such as me being slack, a long cold and snowy winter, wedding planning, etc. So because of our timing, we have kind of put ourselves in a tight spot with regards to giving the lime time to go to work.
Lime is fairly cheap. We got our lime from Lowes and it was pelletized lime. Initially in my mind I had pictured lime being a grayish powder. I?m not really sure why, but I had this image in my mind. The pelletized lime we got was actually darker in color and it had a unique smell to it. It didn?t smell bad, but it was unlike anything I?ve smelled before. I think you can actually get the powder looking kind, or pelletized like we got, or even liquid lime. I believe I?m accurate in that?if not, just respond to this blog and let me know.
Actually dispersing this lime was a quick and easy task in comparison to clearing out the land and running the GroundHog MAX over the dirt. We had a spreader attachment that we hooked up to the 4-wheeler and all we had to do was drive. The spreader had a gap in the bottom of it where the operator can control the rate at which the seed was dispersed. Essentially, if you left a big gap in the bottom, then more seed would come out and if you adjust the gap to be narrower, then less seed would hit the spinning metal piece below and get spread in the area.
This whole process only took about 20 minutes to do. I think it took us just as long to unload and get everything out there as it did to actually spread the lime. I will also add that when we got out to the remote food plot area, we saw a lot of deer tracks in the mud where we had previously cleared the land. It had to be recent due to all the rain that we?ve been having. Either way, I believe the deer are a little curious as to what is going on out in the middle of the woods. Hopefully they?ll walk back through there next deer season and stop in order to eat some Tecomate Seed food plot product! Though, we have to get something to grow in there first! While riding the 4-wheeler, I stopped and took a picture of one of the freshest deer tracks. I wish I would have put a quarter down beside the track in order to give you some perception of how big it was in comparison to the relative size of the quarter. I?ll just tell you that it was a good sized track.
So now that the lime is down, the next step will be to actually spread the seed. The goal is to spread the seed after the last frost of the winter. This is usually around the end of April to early May. So in a month or so, we will return to spread the seed. We will also take another soil sample in the fall to see where our pH levels are and to get lime and fertilizer recommendations for our fall food plots.