Wildlife Management / Food Plots This forum is about all wildlife management including deer, food plots, land management, predators etc.

Small food plot

Old 04-25-2012, 12:57 AM
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Default Small food plot

I would like to start a small food plot. probably 20'x20', I'm not doing a soil test,I was wondering can i plant anything and have it grow?
Because everyone is saying i HAVE to test my soil,but can i plant anything and have it grow?
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Old 04-25-2012, 05:13 AM
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Yes, you can grow anything if you are lucky and your soil has the physical properties necessary to germinate and support the plant you want to germinate and grow. However, if you are not lucky and your soil does not have the those properties required for growth, then you will have spent a lot of time, money and probably frustration when the plot either fails or struggles to grow.

Let me give you a real example of why it is important to know what your soil can support. Here in southern Michigan, our soils are generally pretty good for most crops. Typically our agricultural soils are relatively fertile, drain well, have levels of nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium that are relatively easy to regulate with moderate applications of fertilizers. I live near a nature center that recently received a donation to develop an organic community garden with about 50 individual garden plots (20'x20') for members to rent for vegetables. Being an avid gardener for the better part of the last 30 years and an involved member of the nature center, I was interested in a plot the first year it was opening and asked if a soil analysis had been taken. It had not and no one was even aware that soil conditions were even a factor since farming is common in our county. So, I decided to sample it myself and sent the soil to our agricultural extension service. It showed the rates of nitrogen phosphate, and potassium I needed to put on my plot in the numer of pounder per square foot and it wasn't too bad. However, one part of the soil analysis popped out as a red flag. The soil's pH is 5.8 (7 is neutral). Most of our agricultural soils are around 6.5-6.7 so a 5.8 means we have "acidic" soil conditions.

What do these acidic soil conditions mean? Every plant has a range of pH it needs for germination and promote healthy plant growth. Too high or too low and the seed may not germinate and if it does germinate the plant will struggle and may not survive. Having received the information and presented the importance that pH plays in healthy plants to the nature center garden committee, the they more or less ignored it since they had received the money, had already picked out the site and layed it all out. But the crazy thing was that they left those 50 garden plot renters in the dark and didn't tell everyone. Many of the seeds sat in the ground and wouldn't germinate and if they did germinate they only grew a few inches tall. Some plants that tolerate more acidic soils did ok. A lot of transplanted vegetables struggled...some died, others grew a fraction of their normal size. And the unsuspecting gardeners were frustrated thinking that they just were a failure at this whole gardening thing (many were urban people who had never gardened before).

There are ways to alter pH just as there are ways to alter other components of the soil so that it will support whatever it is a person wants to grow. A 20'x20' plot is relatively easy to manage. A 1-5 acre food plot is more difficult, but depending on its limitations, may be feasible. But the real question I always ask someone planning a food plot or just a garden in their back yard, why wouldn't you get one?? It is so easy, very cheap, and so important to your success that it doesn't make sense not to do one. I think that the advice you have received from others that have given it to you is pretty good advice.
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Old 04-25-2012, 03:31 PM
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Lime regardless of soil testing. Seed and fertilizer, pray it rains. A soil test would be helpful, but not necessary for a plot that size.

If it is a deer plot that is 20'x20' it may not produce well if the deer hit it when young. A fence around the area until the plot can take hold may be necessary. If the deer population is high don't expect too much out of the plot.
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Old 04-25-2012, 04:07 PM
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Grasses tolerate poor soil better than most broadleaf plants. If you plant oats, winter rye, or winter wheat you will most likely get some good growth. One 40 lb bag of lime on a 20x20 plot is equal to 2 tons/acre and would probably not hurt, but it may not be enough for clover, alfalfa, or other perennials that need a pH of 6.5+. I agree that it may not last very long.
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Old 05-13-2012, 12:04 PM
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Late advice - I have a pH test kitat Wal Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot, etc. It's was cheap. I am not sure if these have any tables to assist in determining how much per acre it'd take to correct. I figure you could find that info on-line somewhere if needed. For sure it would be best to pH correct, and then select the food plot plant that will grow best in your area.

Downn our way Iropn Clay peas in summer ... and 50-50 Wheat-Oats mix in fall is a simple mix that does a pretty good job of attracting deer.
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Old 05-16-2012, 09:19 AM
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Im also doing a small food plot about 1/4 acre. I am posting all of my progress and results on huntingeastcoast.com
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Old 05-28-2012, 06:08 PM
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Everyone has different abilities when it comes to food plots. Some plant small and some plant big plots. All depends what you have to work with for tools and the time. Got to start somewhere.
There is alot of good info on the forums and great people to get you started.

If you are interested, check out the Antler King mega food plot starter pack. 20$ and comes with small seed packs, a Ph soil test, how to DVD, and some spray products.

Good luck with whatever you end up trying.
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Old 05-28-2012, 08:39 PM
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On a 20x20, maybe a corn feeder.
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Old 05-30-2012, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by HUNTINGEASTCOAST View Post
Im also doing a small food plot about 1/4 acre. I am posting all of my progress and results on huntingeastcoast.com
Checked out your progress, looks like my hunting area. Can't wait to see the end results
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Old 06-02-2012, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by thelukai1100 View Post
I would like to start a small food plot. probably 20'x20', I'm not doing a soil test,I was wondering can i plant anything and have it grow?
Because everyone is saying i HAVE to test my soil,but can i plant anything and have it grow?
It is pretty simple to get a soil test but for a plot that size may not be worth the effort. I put in over 50 plots a year, mostly small ones, and do not test soils on every one. You can get a good idea how good the soils are by looking at what is growing there. If there is robust growth of broadleaf plants, grasses, etc., you can probably grow food plot stuff.


There are some no-brainer things you can do like just growing rye the first year.

I like the try it and see what happens approach. It sure beats not having anything in most cases.
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