Fall Food Plots – What to Plant?
Here we are at the end of August and deer season is vastly approaching here in Illinois. The past couple weeks have been super busy prepping and planting food plots in preparation for the upcoming deer season. We still have a few more plots to plant for our clients that has purchased some properties from us. The main question I get asked frequently is ” What is the best thing to plant?” Most of the time I tell them I like to plant a variety of different things. I will discuss a few seed varieties to consider and think about before grabbing a bag of seed mix from the shelf at your local retailer, working up the soil , throwing it down and walking away.
My go to fall food plot seed!
Clovers – include ladino white clover, medium red clover, crimson clover, alsike clover, berseem clover
Cereal Grains – include winter wheat, bob oats, fridge triticale, cereal rye
Brassicas – radishes, turnips, forage rape
Other legumes – Austrian winter peas, alfalfa
Clovers- There are many different varieties of clover on the market today. Many seed companies that sell mixtures or blends in fancy packages have some fancy variety names of ladino and red clovers. I am not bashing these companies by any means. Many reputable seed companies have some fantastic proven products, but sometimes tend to confuse some people that may be new to planting food plots. In all honesty you can usually go to your local farm co-op or feed/seed store and by a variety of clover in bulk, usually at a better price. I will list a few differences between the more common clovers.
Perennial Clovers – Ladino (White) Clovers usually last 3-5 years with a single planting and proper maintenance.
Biennial Clovers – Red Clovers usually last 2-3 year with a single planting and proper maintenance.
Annual Clovers – Frosty Berseem and Crimson are good for about a year or less but will grow fast and the deer love it.
Cereal Grains- These winter grains are an excellent food source, easy to grow, and work very well when planted with clover, peas and brassicas. Cereal grains like winter wheat, bob winter oats, fridge triticale and cereal rye grain (not to be confused with rye grass) will provide a fall and winter food source and will withstand browsing pressure in small plots. Cereal grains are an excellent nurse crop with clover. Recommended seeding rates are 50lbs per 1/2 acre broadcasted or 50 lbs per acre drilled.
Brassicas- The brassica family include radishes, forage rape and turnips. They provide excellent mid to late season attraction. The deer normally start eating the forage tops when a good frost or two has been on the tops. The frost helps sweeten up the forage tops. Brassicas like radishes and turnips help pull nutrients from deeper in the soil by their root system. Late in the cold of winter the deer will then start eating the bulbs when other food is hard to find.
Other Legumes- Austrian Winter Peas are very attractive in the fall and work great in a cereal grain mix. Alfalfa is a perennial legume that is very attractive in the spring, summer and fall. Alfalfa is a little more hard to establish and needs good fertile soil, but once established and with proper maintenance will last 3-4 years or longer. Deer absolutely love alfalfa during the spring through late fall but deer will normally turn to other food sources in the winter time and not feed on the alfalfa near as much.
I will share some of my favorite mixtures I have used for many years.
50lb bag of Winter Wheat
50lb bag of Bob Oats
5lbs Medium Red Clover
3lbs Ladino Clover
2lbs Crimson Clover
This is for a 1 acre plot.
50lbs Winter Wheat
50lbs Bob Oats
10lbs Austrian Winter Peas
6lbs – Brassica Mix ( 2.5lbs rape, 2.5lbs radishes,1lb turnips )
This is for a 1 acre plot.
Mixture #3 Clover Mix
2.5lbs Medium Red
This rate is for a 1/2 acre plot.
Mixture #4 Brassica Mix
1.5lbs Forage Rape
This rate is for 1/2 acre plot.
I wanted to give you more ideas to try and I think you would be very happy with the results. The main key is planting a variety of food for attraction all through the hunting season and beyond. I know some people may have limited open space to plant, but hopefully this helps out.
Good luck this season!
Blog written by Curtis Rogers- Broker/Land Specialist/Habitat Consultant with Midwest Farm & Land Co.