5 Steps to Successful Fall Planting of Whitetail Food Plots
Picture One: This is a chicory (foreground) and rapeseed (background) plot. This beautiful plot can be yours, even in your first season.
Picture One: This is a chicory (foreground) and rapeseed (background) plot.
This beautiful plot can be yours, even in your first season.

Rapeseed comes up quick and can provide for an almost weed-free crop if soil preparation is done right. If you are planting in northern regions be sure to plant no later than late June to assure maximum production before first hard frost. Deer typically don’t use it until after a couple of hard frosts, but for late-season bow hunting deer; phenomenal.

I routinely use chicory as an annual even though it is considered a perennial. Chicory can be planted both in the spring and fall in most parts of the country. Northern planting times range from July thru September in the fall.

Consider an annual food plot fall planting strategy in the following conditions:

Weedy and New Deer Plot Sites

After choosing the correct plant for your area, weed control is the single most important factor in getting a productive food plot. Planting aannuals allows for additional time to address weed control issues and do soil amendments.

Beginners

Beginners are often overly optimistic about the amount of time and effort involved. Using annuals can shorten the season, allowing for better success in the first few years.

Minimal Time and/or Equipment

Using annuals concentrates your maintenance efforts. Once you have at least one successful annual plot, it is definitely time to consider perennials to round out your deer food plots.

Fall or Late Season Hunting Plots

The annual choices are well suited to remote locations and hunting plots where you are often limited to hand tools or ATV equipment

Step 1: Soil Testing

Most of the no-till blends are cereals, grains, and clover mixes (+/- brassicas) and most of these plants really like near neutral pH. If you don’t know the pH range of your soil, you may be wasting your time and money.

Step 2: Mid May

Let the weeds grow 3 to 4 inches, then spray the field with Roundup (glyphosate). If it is taller than 3 to 4 inchers, cut it down first so you get better contact.

Thick thatch after round up has been applied.
Picture 2:Here is an example of thick thatch after round up has been applied.

This patch was cut first using a gas powered weed wacker to get better contact with new growth underneath.

Step 3: Late May-Early June

Remove the dead thatch. Manual removal or controlled burning (with permits and qualified personnel) are both good options. If your soil test shows that your pH is below 6.5, use lime at recommended rates, or if no soil test is available add a minimum of two tons of lime per acre. Cheapest form of lime is bulk. Disk in lime to a depth of 4 to 6 inches

Thatch has been mostly removed
Picture 3: This is the same plot after the thatch has been mostly removed.

If you are planning on using an ATV to till the plot or using no-till seeds, you need to really clean the thatch off prior to tilling so you don’t wear out your equipment.

Step 4: Late June or early July

After 3 to 4 inches of new growth do a second spraying. Two sprayings will usually do an adequate job of weed control. If you have a particularly problematic plot it may take an additional spraying after next new growth.

Regrowth showing up prior to tilling and after spraying

This is the same plot with new regrowth showing up prior to tilling and after spraying with roundup and cleaning up thatch.

Step 5: Late July Early August

Final Preparation of Seed Bed, Planting and fertilizing according to soil test.

Add fertilizer as recommended in your soil test. Harrow drag the fertilizer into the top 1-3 inches of soil.

BEFORE SEEDING

Smooth the seed bed with a weighted, fence-type drag. If using hand tools rack until cracks are removed.

A firm seedbed is mandatory to remove any cracks that may cause these small seeds to go too deep. Broadcast your seed onto the surface of the plot (under good moisture conditions) . Do not cover these small seeds after placing them onto a seedbed prepared by the harrow drag method.

Dr. Judy McFarlen www.diydeerfoodplots.com/ Veterinarian, Alberta Rancher, and publisher of Deer Food Plots Made Easy, Dr. Judy McFarlen has helped a large number of novice and experienced deer food plotters establish and improve their whitetail deer food plots.

From deer food plot location strategies to seed selection, this text is a nuts and bolts kind of reading. It is guaranteed to make sense to even to the most inexperienced grower.