April 23, 2012
Tips For Better Food Plots From a Farmer
By Scott Bestul
I learned something important about food plots last summer; if you want to learn how to make stuff grow, ask a farmer. The clover plot I’m kneeling in here is Exhibit 3203 in a file I keep titled, “I’m not slow, things just take me a long time.” I’ve been planting clover with varying degrees of success for the past several seasons. Last summer, I asked the guy who owns this property—who happens to be a neighbor and bowhunting buddy—for help in establishing a clover plot in this little field. Alan, a successful farmer, jumped right in with both expertise and equipment. Here’s what he taught me.
1.) Manure is your friend: There’s a bunch of fertilizer options out there, but dairy cows pump out a fine organic product. Plus, a lot of farmers are looking for places to spread the stuff. Alan’s dad backed up a spreader and loaded this field up--twice.
2.) Timing is everything: Alan decided to plant the clover late last summer. This insures most weeds are done throwing seed for the season, which reduces competition and lets the good stuff get a head start.
3.) Mowing: The clover jumped out of the ground last August, and was growing pretty well. Still, there were problem patches where weed seeds managed to sprout and succeed. Rather than spray these spots (expensive and possibly harmful to clover) Alan just brought in a mower in and clipped the entire plot. The weeds died, the clover bounced back, and when spring came, the clover did so well that it is now crowding out everything else. There are clearly a few dandelions in the field, but overall, this is one of the best pure clover stands I’ve ever been able to pull off.
The cool thing, of course, is that deer and turkeys are just hammering this spot. Several areas in this plot show signs of heavy grazing, and I’ve glassed a couple of strutters following hens around the clover, especially when the afternoon sun hits it. And you can believe this or not, but I honestly don’t care if I ever shoot a buck or a bird here. I just like knowing it’s there for wildlife whenever need be. Besides, it’s just pretty to look at and it’s fun to know I had a hand in producing it--with a lot of help from an expert.