These tips will make your late summer food plot efforts more productive.
Summer weather, temperature and environmental conditions vary widely from region to region. For the purpose of this article we are going to split the United States into a Northern and Southern zone. The dividing line runs from the North Carolina – South Carolina line in the East, westward and slightly south crossing just above Dallas, Texas and continuing west where it crosses near Riverside, California.
Local geographic features such as elevation should be considered in order to compare your average summer temperature and rainfall to the majority of the States in each zone if you are unsure which zone best reflects your area.
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The food plot typically needs to be limed and fertilized before planting takes place. It is imperative to achieve and maintain a PH range of 6.0-7.0 for a summer food plot to reach its maximum potential. Soil testing can typically be conducted by a County Agriculture Extension or by a private entity like the Whitetail Institute of North America.
The proper location of a food plot is essential to its effectiveness. Southwest facing sites are hotter in summer and are prone to drying out. An area with afternoon shade will have more production than an area that is exposed to direct sunlight constantly.
If your summer food plot is completely separate from food plots that are intended for fall production, they should be loosely connected to the fall plots by narrow break-ways, sparse woodlots or thin pines. There also needs to be adequate cover to provide animal concealment and protection when traveling from the defunct summer plot to the active fall plot.
In some cases, a summer food plot will also serve as a fall or winter food plot. If the food plot is intended to be a multi-season food source, it is important to rejuvenate in the middle and again towards the end of the summer season. Rejuvenation includes conducting another soil test and reaching the optimum PH level as well as re-fertilizing. Depending on the condition and density of the summer growth, it may be necessary to thin it before planting new fall specific seeds. It is sometimes necessary to plow a summer food plot and plant a new, fresh fall plot. If this may be the case on your property, you will want to stagger the food plots so that one is active while the other is a growth stage.
In the Northern zone of the United States, the most productive early summer plantings are legumes, perennial clovers and ladino clovers. These are typically planted in May-early July. Late summer food plots in the Northern zone will do well with white clover, chicory or durana.
The Southern zone early summer planting time-frame is going to be June-early August. During this time soybeans, cow peas, buckwheat, sorghum. brown top millet, proso millet, and iron clay peas should be productive. The late summer planting time-frame in the Southern zone is August-September. The best plantings for this time frame will be hardy peas, brassicas, sweet peas and some high-protein clovers.
A product that seems to work well in both the Northern and Southern zone anytime in the summer is Birdsfoot Trefoil, a perennial legume that is relatively hardy once it takes hold.
Water is essential for full growth potential to be reached. If your area is experiencing low rainfall or drought conditions, especially in the Southern zone, consider supplemental watering if possible. Supplemental watering may require a pump and generator to move water from a nearby lake, pond or stream to the food plot. In this case, you do not want to chase away the game with the noise and smell from the generator.
Although it is somewhat less effective to water mid-day compared to other times, it will be the time that will least effect the animals. Other options include having a tanker truck deliver water when it is most critical, or using a portable tank with sprayer that can be transported by an ATV or other vehicle.
To get the most out of your food plot, you must plan what you want to accomplish, prepare the soil, plant the right seed or mixture of seeds, protect it from direct sunlight and from drying out and provide alternate plots and travel routes for the game. Follow these tips and you will increase the amount of game utilizing your property.
What do you do to maximize your summer food plots?