Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tiny Plots Big Results

Doe at my hi tech feeder. Mineral lick is by her rump. What is she looking at?

After the great response on Growing Local I decided to revisit food plots to show some pics of how I do mine. I am, by no means, an expert, this is simply how I have done mine from the first till now. At first I added some of the big commercial brands but it didn’t take long to realize at least half of each bag wasn’t germinating while seed I purchased for our area did. All of the big plots had some fertilizer added since I had no way to add manure and compost over time to build the soil naturally. Fertilizer does make plants grow rapidly but is hard on soil doing damage by killing good bacteria which plants need. Don’t believe it?

Think about how many times you hear someone say, “I just fertilized and I will have to go back and do it again in a month or two when the plants slow down.”

The reason is the soil is being damaged and the plants are basically addicted to fertilizer to live. Soil amendment through natural means on larger scales is beyond most of us so use your fertilizer sparingly when you can to keep damage to a minimum while still providing for your plants. Ok, enough of that, on with the pics

This is my first plot in Rutherford county TN, I used 200 lb of fertilizer on 1/8th acre since we had it and this spot hadn’t been amended in 20 years. It was planted in brassicas, clover, Austrian peas, and a few others I can’t remember. It wasn’t big but looked good.

Left side of plot.


And finally right side. This plot is about 1/8th of an acre.

These plots were in Cheatham county TN, they were planted only using seeds bought from our local Co-Op and Hooper’s Supply with a little fertilizer added since the soil was so poor and they were last minute plots. It was only the second time I ever had a tractor available to till my plots. These turned out ok. I planted four on 26 acres but lost one to flooding which also damaged a second. The other two which were on top of hills did pretty well.

This shows the size of the biggest plot at Cheatham. I shot my doe at the upper right corner of pic.

Happy turnip greens. Purple top and 7 top were in this spot.

View from blind. Yardage to the big tree is 30 yards.

Tiny plot in corner. Might be 50x50 feet

Next are plots that I plant in a lot of areas, small hidden away places that I work with very few tools. Most never see a tiller. I go in with a line trimmer, rake and limb saw to clear a spot. These are in Marshall county TN. First I remove branches for sun to get in and make shooting lanes. Do your shooting lanes now so you don’t have to come in later and disturb anything. Take out more than you think you need to, it will pay off. Then trim all weeds as close to ground level as you can. I use a garden rake to scratch the ground where I can then broadcast seeds. In these spots I use a lot of wheat, rye and turnips. Chicory, rape or kale might work in your mix, too. Try to plant when rain is expected in a day or two so seeds germinate and birds have less time to eat your investment.

Views from my stand. Plots are just across the creek. Longest shot is 35 yards.

For mineral licks I use blocks I buy at Co-Op or TSC for $6.50 for a 50 lb block. They contain all of the trace minerals deer need at a fraction of the cost of name brands. I know folks don’t like this part but just read the labels and compare, I did. Either chuck them out whole or whack them with a hammer to make smaller chunks to spread in several locations. I don’t dig holes although some folks do but the deer will dig one for you soon enough if you just put blocks on the ground. I like putting them on a stump if I can find one, the minerals leach into the wood and deer will chew on the stump.

Replacing a block where deer have finished my first attempt at a mineral lick on this property.

One week after placing a new block deer have started a hole.

Except for mineral blocks I won’t offer any advice on what you should use. Where you live, where you plant, what you expect are all factors you need to consider. The simple ideas I use work no matter where you are and I wanted to give folks a second look at plots I have done to show it doesn’t take huge budgets or equipment. Most of us aren’t big time hunters getting handouts from sponsors to show off products. We are people that have very limited time and budgets that simply want to improve our hunting where we can.

If you have the tools I mentioned, a little spot to plant and in many cases no more than $50 plus some sweat equity you can do these plots and get results.

My first crossbow deer. 20 yards 2 minutes of shooting time left at food plot in Cheatham county.


LB @ BulletsandBiscuits said...

Boy, all your hard work looks like it paid off...your plots look good! This is our second year of planting food plots so we've been learning as we go and your post has re-assured me that we are doing something right!

Turnip greens are real popular here so we will be planting more plots of those. We will be starting spring plots soon and cutting paths, general maintenance....hopefully before the chiggers come out!

We also use mineral lick and don't bury them either. As you say, the deer will dig and tear up the area. We do split them in half if they are near a food plot though. It helps stretch the dollar

A lot of our friends make fun of us because we are in the woods all year round working....but I firmly believe that all this hard work pays off when deer season comes in. They all wonder why they see a handful of deer during season when we have dozens coming in. Hhmmmm....who's laughing now ;)

Nice looking deer too....I have been DROOLING over crossbows. Last year was the first year our state allowed crossbow hunting.

Jon Ballard said...

Nice post Tommy. It's rewarding for this city boy to see my plot grow in after all that hard work. I'm working on a few new smaller plots of my own this year!

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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