When preparing to plant a deer food plot always start with a soil test. Next, it’s time to determine the food plot size. You need to determine how big your food plot is going to be so that you can get the appropriate amount of lime, seed and space to make sure it works. Plot size can be increased or decreased based on the number of animals that you intend to supplement. The easiest way is to use a GPS to determine the exact acreage.
You can also walk the field and multiply length by width to get the total square feet (an acre is 43,560 square feet). Another good frame of reference is a football field without the end zones (300’ X 160’) or (209’ X 209’), roughly an acre. Looking at your first soils report can be a bit confusing. I will give you a few of the basics here so you can figure out what you are looking at; however, you will want to talk the results over with your local fertilizer and lime distributor to work out the details.
Somewhere on the soil test document, you will find the pH of your soil and the recommended amount of lime to put on your plots (the recommendation will likely be somewhere between one to three tons per acre). If it does not say, you need to ask if the recommendation is for a 6.5 or 7 pH. Lime is most effective when it is incorporated into the plot for increased direct soil contact. By doing this in the summer, you will achieve the most benefit for your fall plots. Bulk Ag lime is the most cost-effective for large amounts, but if access is limited you should consider pelletized lime, which comes in 50-pound bags.
Pelletized lime is more costly but may also have greater neutralizing ability, so less is needed per acre in your whitetail food plot. Deciding between Ag lime and pelletized lime is something you should discuss with your distributor. The texture of your soil will greatly affect how quickly changes can be made and how long they last.
Sandy soils need more frequent liming/fertilization due to leaching, so food plots in sandy soil will require more maintenance. Clay soils need liming and fertilizer less often but require more per application to effect change. This is one reason why it is important to locate food plots on the best soils available.
The next set of numbers to look at deals with the fertility of your soil. Soil amendments will differ depending on what you plant, and the recommendation listed will be specifically tailored to what crop you indicated when the sample was turned in. There will be three numbers listed on your report that represent (N) nitrogen, (P) phosphorus, and (K) potassium, the main components of fertilizer.
When you buy fertilizer it will have three numbers indicating the percentages of NPK contained in the mix. The report will indicate how many pounds of each are needed per acre. For example: if the report indicates that you need 50 pounds per acre of nitrogen and you pick a bag labeled 13-13-13 at the store, you will need 385 pounds of bagged fertilizer per acre (50 divided by .13) to meet the recommendation. It is a good idea to group food plots with somewhat similar prescriptions for simplicity. Hopefully this information will get you started on the path to more successful deer food plots and may just give you a reason to get out in the field a little earlier this year.