Spring Food Plot Maintenance

Spring is the ideal time for some of the most important, yet often-overlooked food-plot chores. If you’re not performing these spring-time tasks, then it’s time to start. Here’s your checklist:

 Soil Test

If you’ve never done it, or it’s been three years or more since you have done it, you need to pull soil samples from your food plots. Grab a shovel and a plastic 5-gallon bucket and dig a slice of earth 6 inches deep. Scrape into the bucket a 1-inch wide profile from the sample and place in the bucket. Only place soil in the bucket. Walk a zig-zag pattern across your entire food plot, stopping in 12 to 13 evenly-spaced locations to take a soil sample. Once you’ve collected all your samples, mix them thoroughly in the bucket. Then pour/scoop enough of the soil into a sandwich-sized Ziploc bag, seal and write the food plot name on the bag with a Sharpie marker. If sample is too wet, spread it out over a newspaper and let dry overnight in the garage.

Contact your local NRCS office to find out where to mail your samples. Print the online form and fill out all the information, with contact info and the food plot names that are labeled on the bags. You can mail your samples in one shipping box along with the soil-test sheet. Be sure to include email or mailing address so they can send you the analysis.

 Spread Lime

Once you receive your soil analysis, it will show each plot’s pH level and fertility. This is important because most crops need a pH range around 6.0 to 7.0 to thrive. If your pH is too low then your plants are only utilizing a ¼ to ¾ of the fertilizer that you paid full price for. The remainder is leached out of the soil and wasted over time. This keeps your crops from reaching their potential, meaning less food for wildlife. Many soils that have never been limed will be too acidic with a pH in the 4.5 to 5.0 range.    

Crushed limestone will fix this problem. Your soil analysis will tell you how many tons of limestone you’ll need per acre to bring the pH back into the neutral zone where food-plot crops thrive. If you have larger food plots that are in flat to relatively mild terrain, then you can buy lime from a local co-op or feed store by the ton. They’ll most likely rent you a buggy that will haul and spread 4½ tons of lime. This is the most cost effective way to lime your fields. Some co-ops have large lime trucks that can haul and spread 20 tons of lime for even more savings. However, if you have smaller honey-hole food plots that are tucked away in tight cover or steep, hilly terrain that can’t be reached with a large lime buggy, then you’ll need a Moultrie ATV Spreader. The plastic hopper is ideal for spreading granular fertilizer or dry pelletized lime and will hold up to two bags of both. The spreader is ideal for sowing food-plot seeds as well and has a manually-operated feed gate for varying sized seeds and rates. Moultrie offers an electric gate for even easier application.

 Herbicide Application

It’s hard to achieve consistent food-plot success without an ATV sprayer. Weeds can take over a plot in no time if left unchecked. The Moultrie 25-gallon Boomless Sprayer allows you to spray both herbicides and liquid fertilizer. The boomless nozzle will cover a 10-foot-wide swath, which allows you to spray a lot of ground in less time. Here are a few ways to use an ATV sprayer for maximum food-plot production.

 Summer Food Plots: Summer crops, such as soybeans and other legumes, provide lots of tonnage of nutrient-rich forage. To ensure a lush field of desirable crops, you’ll want to spray a non-selective herbicide, such as glyphosate, three to four weeks prior to disking and planting to kill off existing grass and weed competition. Selective herbicides can be used early in the summer plots growth stage to control broadleaf and grass weed competition as well.

 Clover Maintenance: Perennial-white-clover plots provide a protein-rich food for deer and turkeys on your property from late winter through early summer and again in the fall and early winter. While these plots can last for several years at a time, spring is also when you’ll see an increase in weed competition. There are selective herbicides that can be sprayed over clover to control both broadleaf and grass weeds. You’ll get a higher kill rate on weeds in the early spring before plants mature and become more resistant.

 Fruit-Tree Plots and Hunt-Camp Maintenance: The Moultrie 25-gallon sprayer is equipped with an adjustable 45-degree spray wand that allows you to hand-spray around areas where spray drift can kill or damage fruit trees. Spray glyphosate from the base of the tree out to 3 to 4 feet around your fruit trees to kill weed and grass competition. This can help newly-planted and up to 10-year-old fruit trees reach maximum annual growth and fruit production. Grasses and weeds steal moisture and fertilizer from these young trees. The spray wand is also excellent for spraying fence rows or around buildings on your property. These often-overgrown areas can attract rodents, insects and snakes, which aren’t necessarily welcomed guest at the hunt camp.

 Don’t delay in getting your spring food-plot chores done. You’ll be way ahead of the game if you do!