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The Season for Planting Fall Food Plots has Arrived...

8/10/2013

Just a little over a month ago there were still fields that were being planted with corn and soybeans here in Southern Iowa.  With such a late arrival of summer this year and lingering spring rains, local farmers and food plant planters alike really struggled to get crops planted.  So it is really hard to imagine that the time to plant fall food plots is already here.  Never the less, here we are.  I spent the majority of last weekend working with friends to get food plots in the ground and I know several other hunting buddies that worked hard all week getting their plots planted. 

If you are planting any variety of brassicas in your fall plots, now is the optimal time to get the seed in the ground.  These plants grow rapidly during the hot temperatures of late-summer, as long as they get adequate moisture.  So if turnips, radishes, rape seed, kale, etc. are on your grocery list for the fall you need to get to work.  This is also a great time to plant some forage soybeans and cow peas.  You will not get a high yield on your pods but the deer will readily consume the new green growth.

If cereal grains such as oats, rye, and wheat are what you intend to plant it is my personal opinion that you should wait a few more weeks.  These plants grow very quickly under the right conditions.  When planted too early the forage will be very tall come the fall hunting season.  My observations have led me to believe that deer prefer these plants when they are young and tender. Once they approach 12 inches in height they begin to get a little more fibrous and less palatable.  If I were to pick an ideal time for planting these grains for hunting purposes in the Midwest it would be right before the last rain in August or the first rain in September.  Just keep your fingers crossed for a well timed rain.

The last plant variety that I will discuss for the fall is clover.  The fall is a great time to establish a perennial food plot such as clover or a clover blend. I would use the same timeframe as stated for the cereal grains to plant. The cool temperatures and increased rainfall before winter will provide great conditions for the plot to take root with minimal risk of “burning up” that can occur with a spring planting.  The downside of planting clover this time of year is that perennial plants are usually slow starters.  So if you are relying on them for a fall hunting food source you may be stuck with a plot that produces a small volume of feed.  To mitigate this issue I always use an annual cover crop of brassicas and/or cereal grains.  The cover crop will help protect your loose soil, take pressure off of your young perennial plants that are trying to establish, and give you a good supply of food to hunt over.

Fall food plots are a great addition to any property and will greatly increase your odds of catching a glimpse of a trophy whitetail.  If you have not yet begun planning your fall plantings here is your reminder.  The window for planting a successful fall plot will be closing fairly soon so time to put some ideas into action.  With the majority of our plots in the ground I will be spending the remainder of my summer watching the weather and hoping for rain. 

Corey J. Wilkinson

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2 Comments on "The Season for Planting Fall Food Plots has Arrived..."

Re: The Season for Planting Fall Food Plots has Arrived...
Corey Thanks for your advice. As you know Iowa has not had a lot of rain this fall. I have been wanting to do a food plot this fall with some clover, rye grass and some turnip mixture. (No plow/till). I have implement equipment and have worked the ground. I think the ground is ready but I've been trying to wait for some rain because I can't get water on it everyday. Am I too late to get my plot planted? I am only doing about 1/2 acre and there is already about 100 acres of corn this year. My plot quite a bit of sun too. Do you have advice for me? Should I wait till next year? Thanks.
Posted by Rob on 9/6/2013 11:16:49 AM
Re: The Season for Planting Fall Food Plots has Arrived...
Rob, I would go ahead and plant your food plot. If we don't get much rain in the next few weeks you may have little results this fall. However, the clover seed will take hold and grow well next spring. I would however take Rye grass out of your plans and switch to oats. If we get some rain the oats will grow rapidly and provide some attraction this fall. The turnips will likely not produce very large plants at this point in the growing season but should grow enough to provide some browse and ground cover. Im not sure when you worked the ground but if it has been a few weeks I would consider working it lightly again before seeding. Being exposed to the sun and extreme heat for the last few weeks will have hardened the dirt quite a bit and make it harder for the seed to germinate when we do get some rain. I still think there is time to get some results but we need rain soon. Just to insure a solid plot next year, I would frost seed some additional clover seed on in March next yea
Posted by Corey W. on 9/6/2013 8:31:19 PM

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