Wildlife Habitat & Food Plots Planting Guide | Ernst Conservation Seeds

Wildlife Habitat & Food Plot Sites Planting Guide

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Wildlife food plot sites are generally small clearings in wooded areas or farmland.

While planting dates differ between annual and perennial mixes, most are designed for spring or fall planting. Examples: Woodland openings, remote areas of large residential lots, abandoned fields, or timber harvest and loading areas.

  • Well-drained or moderately well-drained sites in woodland openings (ideally near water sources); typically in full sun for at least half the day; upland species may be planted.

  • Check soil pH and fertility; adding lime can improve the nutritional value of vegetation beneficial for wildlife. If a soil test has not been obtained, a starter fertilizer, such as 200 lb per acre of 16-16-16, should be applied. If uncertain about the soil pH, add 1,000-2,000 lb of lime per acre which will provide plants with essential nutrients without pushing up a lot of top growth. Lime and fertilizer may be incorporated into the soil using a tiller. After incorporating amendments, smooth the soil to develop a good seedbed. If broadcasting the seed, run a spring-tooth harrow or ATV over the site to incorporate the seed into the soil 1/4”-1/2” deep.

  • Hand seed, broadcast seed, or drill seed.

  • If the site was previously a lawn or crop field to which herbicides were applied, it is important to allow the appropriate interval for the herbicide residues to break down prior to planting. Some herbicide residues can prevent seedling germination.

    A young deer whitetail deer in Andropogon virginicus (Broomsedge)

    Eradicate existing vegetation by having a licensed spray technician apply an approved herbicide, such as glyphosate (Roundup® or Rodeo®), or by tilling the weeds into the soil. Hand pull or spot spray problem weeds. Perennial weeds not addressed before establishment will be difficult to remove later. Good pre-seeding weed control may require repeated tilling or spraying two applications of glyphosate at least two weeks apart.

  • General Maintenance

    It may be necessary to mow some mixes to 4”-6” in order to keep plants young and tender. Annual food plot mixes must be planted yearly.

    ERNMX-184 Fall Sweets Wildlife Mix. Credit: Elicia Winner.

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DISCLAIMER: The information in this review of practices is the result of more than 50 years of experience in seed production. Ernst Conservation Seeds has been supplying seeds and consulting in the reseeding of tens of thousands of acres of roadsides, surfacemined lands, conservation and restoration sites in eastern North America, as well as growing and supplying seed and consulting in the planting of hundreds of thousands of acres of CRP/CREP-related areas for erosion control and wildlife habitat. All of these practices are opinion only and our best advice as a result of these experiences. These recommendations do not cover all of the conditions that will be encountered in the field. All of the information is for individual consideration. Ernst Conservation Seeds is not responsible for conditions that will be encountered in individual situations. The use of brand names does not represent our endorsement of a specific product; rather, it represents our experience only and has not necessarily been replicated in peer-reviewed research. The use of chemical pest control agents is subject to manufacturers’ instructions and labeling, as well as federal, state and local regulations.
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