The fertility of your food plot is everything. A well limed and well fertilized plot will not only look better, but it will also attract more wildlife to the plot. The plants taste better and are more palatable when fertilized properly. Lack of fertility is one of the most common mistakes that we see. Most people are not familiar with agronomy enough to know how important fertility is. Here at Backwoods, we enjoy the preparation, blood, and sweat that goes into managing the land and getting ready for season almost as much as we do the actual hunts. This is why we highly encourage our customers to get a soil test done before planting. The amount of fertilizer or lime that you need will vary from plot to plot. We do, however, have some recommendations on fertilizing without a soil test, although this is not our first recommendation. The goal should always be to grow the plot to its maximum potential. Better fertility means more forage per acre and the better your success will be during the hunting season. Healthy plants are also apt to recover better from browsing and drought conditions.
To start with, we recommend that you always check your soils pH first. If your soil acidity is off, then fertilizer isn’t going to be as effective. Lower pH levels make the nutrients less available to the plants meaning that if you add more fertilizer, a high percentage of it could be wasted. A pH of 7 means your soil is neutral, and this should always be the end goal. If your pH is less than 7, then that means that your soil is acidic. If your pH is more than 7, then that means that your soil is alkaline. An acceptable pH range for food plots would be from 6 – 7.
It depends on your soil type as to how often you will need to lime your plots. Sandy soil will need to be re-limed far before clay soils. It is also important to remember that lime can take a while to take effect on your soil. It can range from several weeks to months depending upon your soil type and soil moisture. We always recommend that you work the lime into the soil through tillage. Lime is the cornerstone of soil health and should always be the first priority in getting your plots fertility in the right place. Having said all of this, if you can’t put all of the lime out this season, you can put it out in stages. Put some out this year and wait until next year to put more out as long as that amount gets you back to a pH of 7 over time. The most economical way to lime your plots is to spread powdered lime, however, we find that lots of our customers use our pelletized lime due to its convenience of handling and application. Pelletized lime can be applied using a broadcast spreader vs. a belt-fed spreader buggy for powdered lime. There are pros and cons for both. Pelletized lime works much faster, but it doesn’t have the longevity that powdered lime has. Powdered lime is less expensive and longer lasting, but it is extremely hard to handle and apply. The type of lime that you choose should always depend on how big your plot is, how quickly you need the job done, what you plan to plant in the plot, and whether you have access to the right equipment and can access the plot with that equipment.
Now that you have your plot limed, and the pH is at 7, it’s time to talk about fertilizer. Fertilizer is the next biggest step and one that should be taken seriously. If you aren’t doing a soil test, we recommend that you just pick a small spot inside your plot to apply some fertilizer to. Watch over the next couple of weeks to see if the plants look healthier and if the wildlife utilize that spot over the rest of the plot. If they utilize that spot over the rest, then it’s a sign that your plot is not where it needs to be in terms of fertility. It’s very important to stay committed to keeping your plots in tip top shape to provide the absolute best nutrition possible for your herd. A soil sample is incredibly important and should be done for every plot at least every 2-3 years. Measure the area of each of your plots. This will be crucial in figuring out how much fertilizer you should buy. Measure the width and length of the plot and multiply those numbers together to get square feet. Divide the result by 43,560 to determine acreage. Make sure to apply the appropriate amounts of N, P, and K per acre based on your soil test results. If no soil test is done, we recommend applying 300lbs per acre of our Forage Boost or Econo Boost fertilizers. Both of these products contain lime and fertilizer making it an excellent choice for an all-around fertilizer blend. It is also important to note that your fertility needs could vary based on what was planted in your plot previously. For example, if you had our Revival Forage Soybeans planted in your plot in the spring and summer months, then it is likely that you will not need as much nitrogen as you normally would since legumes fix nitrogen in the soil. There are tons of variables when it comes to keeping your plot fertility right, but we just hope that you will give Backwoods an opportunity to earn your business and use our products to keep your plots strong! For more information, please feel free to reach out to us and tune into The Testing Grounds to see how we are managing our plot fertility!