It was around this time last year when we got the green-light and started the Tecomate Seed Food Plot Journey. The first blog entry aired last January and I didn't know what to expect, but I knew I had a lot to learn. Around 25 blog entries and a year later, we've had some successes, some failures, some lessons learned, some memorable hunts, and some really good looking food plots.
I?ve posted some pictures below of the spring/summer and fall/winter food plots.
I'm no guru by far, but even from my little bit of experience over the last year I can tell you that the soil was one of the most important factors in our Food Plot Journey mix. We planted food plots in several different areas and the areas where the soil was best fit for the food plot were the areas where we had the best food plots. Of course rain is crucial, but rainfall is something we can't control. Essentially the soil acts as the "transfer agent" through which your plants will get the nutrients they need to thrive. One of my takeaways will be the quality of the soil. You can get a high quality seed or a low quality seed, but it's all moot if you don't have fertile soil.
If you've been following along then you've seen everything that we've done via video, pictures, and the text in blog entries. I created one last video of some of the before/after shots that happened along the way.
I've had a great time learning, creating, and documenting the food plots in our Food Plot Journey and hopefully I haven?t bored you with it all. A big thanks to Tecomate Seed & the GroundHog MAX for working with us to sponsor the Food Plot Journey.
And if you are on your own "Food Plot Journey" then it won't be long before it's time to start the soil samples again. I know that we're already making plans for the upcoming spring/summer and next fall/winter plots?
As turkey season draws to an end, we?re just about ready to put some seed down and it?s not just any seed, its Tecomate Seed?you know, the good stuff! You may think that we?re busy turkey hunting every weekend, but don?t forget that we?re also preparing some food plots for next deer season. Yes it?s that time of year! I encourage you to look at the ?Show Us Your Food Plots? page to see some of the user posted images of food plots on which site visitors around the state are working. Feel free to post yours too! You can even film a YouTube video of yourself and tell us what you?re doing/planting/anticipating. We like to see what?s going on around the state and hope to create a food plot synergy if you will! Though, I know some of you like to keep your ?best kept secrets? and food plots to yourself.
It seems hunting can be a year round task, which is a good thing if you ask me! It kind of reminds me of my football days in college. Many think that you just play during the season and come back next year at about the same time of year and play again, but its oooh so different when you?re inside the system. There was always something to do, film to watch, weights to lift, miles to run, practices to attend, meetings etc. Of course we only did that kind of stuff because we wanted to be successful. So I?ll draw the same analogy to hunting. We work hard in the off season running soil samples, clearing woods, and planting food plots in hopes of being successful. Optimistically we?ll be able to get some good deer walking around these food plots to share with you via photo or video. And as our coach would tell us, what you do in the off-season will directly affect what happens during the regular season.
With that said, what exactly do we need to do to prepare to put seed down? Well, there?s really not that much that needs to take place. We should already have our soil samples analyzed, lime down, and the soil should be ready to be seeded. As you can see in the pictures of this blog, we?ve cut the field again to knock down some of the previous year?s growth mixed with some volunteer plants that have come up. We should be ready to seed.
Just before we plant our seed we will broadcast the recommended rate of fertilizer and light disc & drag it into the soil. In doing so, we will reduce the chance of the fertilizer burning the new seedlings after they germinate. Now we are ready to plant our seed. In the larger areas where we?ll be planting, we?ll use a tractor to broadcast the seed. For the remote food plot area, where we used the GroundHog Max, we?ll spread seed with a spreader and an ATV/4-wheeler.
From my perspective, I?m excited (and a little nervous) to see what?s going to happen with all of this. I don?t think I?ve ever actually planted something like this in my life. We?ve had something similar to a garden at my house before, but for me this is a different adventure. Remember, I?m a web guy and my farming skills are little at best. I?m eager to see what will happen and to see if we can get some deer out of these locations. Even if we don?t harvest any of the deer though, at least I?ll know that the deer are eating something that will help them be healthier and help them reach their potential when they get to be mature bucks.
More to come at the seeding!
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.
The WeHuntSC.com team headed back out to do some more work on a remote food plot that we?re installing as part of our Food Plot Journey. It has finally started warming back up in our neck of the woods and I?m glad it has. In between wedding showers, parties, the weekends of honey-do?s + flower/tuxedo/ring/invitation/ selections, birthday celebrations, and all the recent snow, getting a weekend to work has been some slim pickings. With all of the business, it was good to get out and do some work and try to be productive again.
As part of our Food Plot Journey, we are planting several food plots for the upcoming deer season. Most of these food plots are located in fields that tractors can easily access. With this easy tractor access to the food plot areas, it?s not hard to plow the dirt up, spread lime, or get the seed out. Though, with a remote food plot, we specifically place smaller food plots in thicker, denser areas where tractors could never reach. Just to get to these locations is difficult sometimes. For this particular food plot, we had to cross a creek, a few mud holes, and ride through the woods for a good ways just to reach the stand location. As you are probably aware, deer like cover and so placing food plots deep in the woods is just fine by them. In some ways we are taking a food source to them instead of trying to get them to come to our food source.
Taking the food source to the deer incurs a little work on the hunter?s part though. I guess there are some prices to pay in order install a food plot back deep in the woods. Though, the prices you pay mostly come at the expense of your physical labor. Some areas are more open and naturally lend themselves to having a food plot installed in their locations whereas other areas may require a little more work. In our case, this area required some work. We spent a total of three days working on this remote food plot. This area is situated in some planted pines where a lumber crew had previously come in and thinned out the pines a few years back. The part that took the longest was cutting down the volunteer saplings that had taken up where the pines use to be. We cut these down and eventually had to get their root systems out as well because the pointed stubs in the ground are prime suspects for puncturing the tires of a 4-wheeler. Rakes, axes, bush-axes, sheers, clippers, shovels, chainsaws, you name it we used them all. Over the course of working out there I caught poison ivy once, dulled a chainsaw blade twice, and had several blisters on my hands. I think Will may have pulled an ab when he bent over once as well! Though, I guess typing on a computer every day at work doesn?t really prepare my hands for this kind of labor either! All in all, we had to put in some hours of work to get ground ready to be disked and I?m not sure if we could have done it without Sam Mungo in the previous week.
Since we had cleared the ground, it was time for Adam to come in with the GroundHog MAX and throw some dirt around. As we?ve mentioned before, the GroundHog MAX is an attachment (not a pull behind) that attaches directly beneath an ATV. People have asked me ?How well does that thing really work? (with an emphasis on the word ?REALLLY?) and after today, I can confidently tell you that it works very well. You?ll see the video of it in action below.
The area where we are installing this food plot has some thick clay beneath the surface and I was interested to see how the GroundHog MAX would handle the clay land. Another note that I mentioned in the video and will mention here is that Adam?s 4-wheeler is a 2-wheel drive. The GroundHog MAX would probably do even better with a 4-wheel drive, but regardless we were still able to get the job done with the 2-wheel drive ATV. We ran the GroundHog MAX lightly for a good while to get the top-soil broken up some and then later we dropped it down lower to get more traction with the soil. As you?ll see in the below video, we were able to get the dirt turned up well, plenty well enough to get some seed in the ground.
Apologies... for some reason I was shouting into the Flip Video Recorder - I'll try not to shout at you in future videos
With the ground now disked up and soil overturned, we are now ready to come back in and put some lime down. (NOTE: We know the ratio of pounds per acre of lime to put down based off the soil sample result that we previously had returned to us from our local Clemson agricultural extension.) Due to the snow and the aforementioned factors of a busy life, we are probably a little late getting the lime down as the soil sample reports indicated that the lime needs to be in place 3 ? 6 months before planting. Lime needs time to work and in this case of our remote food plot, we?re a little late getting it down. The pH in this specific location is 5.4 and (as previously mentioned in the soil sample blog) we are shooting for a pH of 7. Thus, we need to get some lime down and some fertilizer in hopes of getting the soil as close to 7 as possible. We may not get it to 7 quickly, but as we keep working this food plot the pH will get closer and closer to 7 every time we put down more lime. So, this will be a work in progress and a continued learning experience. Thanks to the guys for coming out and helping get this accomplished.
Next up will be a blog entry about putting some lime down. I continue to learn more about food plot installation, management, and Mother Nature in general. This time I also learned a little more about the GroundHog MAX.
*** Be sure to check out our Hunter?s Night Out that will take place on May 1st, 2010 where the inventor of the GroundHog MAX will be on hand speaking along with representatives from Tecomate Seed & QDMA.
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.
As we start the food plot journey I want to prepare you for what you will be reading in the coming year. You will be reading a web developer?s perspective on food plot creation and maintenance. I make no apologies for my elementary level of knowledge of food plots, soil samples, and everything else that goes along with it. The only kind of farms most computer guys get involved with are server farms. My adventure outside the box and into some level of ?farming? (because there will be tractors involved) will hopefully be a unique one for everyone.
Though, my inexperience and low level of understanding (of all things food plot creation) may benefit some younger readers or some of you macho guys out there who won?t admit that you don?t know something! I?ll gladly be your guinea pig and hopefully everyone can learn something from this? even if it is learning what not to do! For all I know, we may not even get the stuff to grow properly and we may post pictures of dirt where the food plot was supposed to grow. Though, with insight from Tecomate Seed?s Mike Lee and some others around town, I think we can get at least some roots to show through. I?ll keep my fingers crossed in the mean time.
Feel free to laugh, joke about my lack of awareness, and take shots at me on the message board or in responses to the blog entries. I?ll probably join you in mocking myself! So now that I?ve raised the bar to a new low, let?s get started with all of this.
We plan to have 3 different food plots in 3 different locations. Each food plot will feature a different Tecomate Seed product. We will monitor each food plot and have game cameras set up to get any images of activity that these food plots receive. Throughout the year we will post blog entries about these food plots and hope to include images along with them. We are also going to try to set up and "exclusion fence" which will keep a small area of the food plot from being touched by the deer so that we can compare and contrast what the plants would look like if the deer weren't eating them.
That is the general gist of it all. When the time comes to actually put the seed down, Mike Lee from Tecomate Seed is going to come to assist us in this process. As we mentioned in the initial blog post, Mike has agreed to host a session on Food Plot creation when he comes to Pageland. We are going to host this seminar and will provide more details as the time draws near. For more info on the seminar and session, contact Adam Smith
Now it's time to stop typing and get to working. More to come...