Having Trouble with Food Plot Plant Selection?
Here are some general concepts that may help you out:

The legume list is the longest.

Legumes are almost always mixed with something else and if not they are usually planted “beside” something else. AS a matter of a fact, in most cases food plots are a mixture of plants.

It is important to remember that mixtures do not all have to be seeded in the same area as premixed. For instance I plant rapeseed and chicory a plot of each one in front of the other and my small grain I also do monoculture in some locations. Mixes were created for you to help ease the burden of decision making and improve your success but they are not necessary.

The something else that is planted with legumes in deer food plots is:

1. small grains (oats,rye,wheat),

2. annual grasses (annual ryegrass) , corn, Milo or grain sorghum

3. brassicas (rapeseed, turnips, kale)

4. other: plants like buckwheat and chicory, vetches,

The legume and “other” choice is based on

1. season planting

2. soil conditions(upland, bottomland, pH, moisture, wet lands, shady )

3. when peak growth is preferred

4. level of browse

5. weed competition

6. winter conditions

7. equipment availability

8. size of plot

9. need for quick growth, recover crop, or targeting specific seasonal stresses.

Although some legumes can stand acidic conditions, shady conditions, wet conditions, sandy soil etc in general legumes do better in near neutral pHs in well drained soil.

Overgrazing and small plots

Both soybeans and lab lab are susceptible to overgrazing and therefore should not be used on small plots unless you have the ability to fence the areas off until they get established as deer tend to eat them immediately after germination and the weeds take the plot over.

Cool Season Legumes are generally planted in the fall (sept-nov)

Warm Season Legumes are generally planted in the spring (Feb-June)

Both cool season and warm season plants are mixed together depending on the goals of the plot.

For example: buckwheat, alyceclover, American jointvetch are often combined with rape and forage turnips even though the last two are considered cool season annuals. The mix itself is considered warm season mix because it is predominantly warm season forages. It is planted early summer and will provide feed for early fall before mast is available.

Even perennials mixes often contain annual grains and rapeseed (Brassica) because of the benefits of these plants for protection and cover while establishing alfalfa and ladino clover.

Most legumes grow both north and south but sometimes perennials and biennials become annuals depending on location and conditions.

The further north or south you go and the more severe temperatures are then the selection of plants can become narrower.

The Deep South

The Deep South is the most difficult area because of the heat and moisture stress.

The far north only creates a problem when needing plants to overwinter and become active in the spring. In extreme far north conditions (when there is a lack of snow cover or inadequate cover crop protection, or prolonged severe temperatures) there may be some limitations if wanting to choose perennials or biennials. Successful deer food plotting in some regions is limited to cool season annual with rapid growth phases for late fall hunting or summer annuals for early fall hunting.

Here are some good combinations:

Upland sites:

Arrowleaf clover, AWP, annual rye (Australian Winter Pea needs to be seeded deeper than legumes)

Crimson, AWP, ryegrass (Australian Winter Pea needs to be seeded deeper than legumes)

Red clover, sweet clover, chicory, rape, oats rye or wheat

Ladino, red clover, rape, oats rye or wheat

Loamy perennials mixed with annuals

Ladino Clover, alfalfa, rape, oats

Alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, rape, oats wheat or rye

Bottomland perennials mixed with annuals

Alsike Clover, Birdsfoot trefoil, rape, oats rye wheat

Alsike Clover, ladino Clover, rape, ryegrass annual


Check out our online tool for selecting cool season plantings for your food plot (planted in fall, spring, late winter)


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.