Guns for Sale
Food Plots for Deer Herds
Any manager of a hunting club knows deer need quality food to be healthier and grow larger antlers. Food plots for deer herds therefore needs high quality soil to provide not only a high yield but also more nutritious plants. Fertilizer is the typical means of boosting plant growth and nutrition, so how do choose a fertilizer?
Fertilizer always displays three numbers, such as 13-13-13. These numbers represent the percentage of each element and they are always in the same order. The first number is always nitrogen (N), the second number is phosphorous (P) and the last number is potassium (K). These numbers mean the remaining balance is filler to help spread the fertilizer more evenly. In the case of 13-13-13 or triple thirteen, the filler is 61% of the product. Some products filler may contain trace minerals and other nutrients to benefit the soil.
First of all, you need an analysis of the soil to determine its needs. Without soil analysis you may over fertilizing soil or under fertilizing soil. Over fertilizing soil can lead to crop damage, whereas under fertilizing soil leads to poor growth and a crop of less than desired nutrition. Over fertilizing also leads to pollution of water as the unused nutrients end up in streams, rivers and underground water sources. Excess fertilizer will also promote algae blooms which deplete the water of oxygen often resulting in fish kills.
Soil tests aren’t expensive and will prevent the problems related to using too much or too little fertilizer. Check with your state cooperative extension or agricultural department for information on conducting a test. Agricultural universities are also a potential source of testing. The facility you choose will provide a soil test kit for which you will collect a small sample of soil with a form and you will receive the recommendation for application of fertilizer and lime or any other necessary nutrient. It typically tells you how many pounds to apply per acre. Some crops like alfalfa, beans and clover benefit from higher phosphorus by protecting these crops from disease and cold or heat stress.
A soil analysis will not only tell you the type of fertilizer you need and how much, it will also reveal your soils pH level, which is the level of acidity in the soil. A pH level of 7 is neutral, anything below 7 is acidic, and anything above 7 is basic.
For most crops a pH level between 6 and 7 is ideal. Without the proper pH plants won’t be able to absorb nutrients, and regardless to how much fertilizer you apply plant quality will be negatively impacted.
The application of pelleted lime takes about 6 months to effectively alter a soils pH and will require its application well ahead of planting. If planting can’t wait this long you can use hydrated lime which works almost immediately but does cost more. If you haven’t yet planted a crop, disc the lime into the soil for the optimum benefit. Spreading lime in established plots already planted will still benefit plants already in the ground. Lime is effective for 2-3 years but it is recommended that your soil is analyzed each year to ensure no loss of nutrients due to planting.
Many hunters don’t bother to fertilize their plots. If you want the best advantage for the deer feeding on your plot, while you are disking and seeding why not give the plants the optimum conditions for producing the best nutrition possible. After all, good nutrition will help to ensure some potentially trophy worthy bucks are grown on your land.
It is becoming increasingly popular for hunting lands to use native plants for the feeding of deer and other wildlife. You may be asking what a native plant is if not a “weed”. Native plants are considered those plants that were observed and recorded by early European naturalists in the 1500’s.
A natural habitat consists of many components, each dependent upon the other in maintaining a functional habitat that sustains life. Native grasses provide food for wildlife and control erosion. Other native plants feed birds, mammals and pollinators. Bees, butterflies and other insects pollinate plants and food crops, and with the decline in bee populations, a healthy natural habitat is even more important than ever before in order to provide the best advantage to the remaining bees. Establishing a natural and healthy habitat for hunting lands through the planting of native plants will depend upon the region it is located in. A good source for information and seeds for locations in the southeast is at www.southernhabitats.com
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