Frost Seeding Food Plots
Frost seeding is a form of planting a perennial food plot that many overlook and more should consider. Frost seeding is where one takes a broadcast seeder and spreads seed on the soil surface. This is typically done mid February until Mid to Late March. The freezing and thawing action of the soil is how the seed gets into the cracks in the soil surface. The expansion and contraction from the freezing night time temps and the above freezing day time temps is the process. There are pros and cons with any type of planting and I will walk you all through both.
Frost seeding allows a person to not disturb the soil. This is great for soil health. You also save on fuel, labor and equipment costs. You experience less soil compaction and you also are able to get your seeds out of the ground faster. You take advantage of the moist spring soil. You see earlier germination of the seeds. This also allows for your plot to canopy faster. This has an advantage of reducing weed pressures. You are also not bringing up weed seeds in the seed bed.
One practice that I advocate for with frost seeding is to use dry or liquid humics the fall on any areas you are going to frost seed. Humics naturally help loosen the soil. This is especially beneficial for frost seeding. Humics are relatively inexpensive and ad organic matter to the soil, increasing soil microbial health, as well as helping to chelate nutrients.
Some disadvantages with frost seeding are an increase in seed costs. You need to seed at a 20-30% higher rate then conventional seeding. If you have an area where there is a lot of organic matter, crop residue or other trash on the soil surface, you might not get as effective of germination. You also might have some seed lost if you are frost seeding on sloped areas of land.
Not all seeds frost seed as effective. Some people say you can't frost seed alfalfa but that is not true from my own experiences. Yes, you can frost seed alfalfa but you need to frost seed a bit later. I usually tell my clients to wait until March 15th to frost seed alfalfa and forages like chicory and trefoil. Forages like cereal grains, brassicas and annual clovers are best to not frost seed. Brassicas would work but you typically are not wanting to be establishing your brassica plots first thing in the spring. Annual clover blends would be best to overseed before a rain in the spring versus frost seed. Many annual clovers might establish by frost seeding but many are not cold tolerant. A killing frost after a warm spell could potentially spell doom for frost seeded annual clovers.
In the end, there are most advantages to frost seeding than to conventional. It also is a wise practice to always scout out your perennial plots late in the fall to see how thick your stands are. You might only need 2-3 pounds of clovers every year per acre to keep your perennial plots lasting many years. Frost seeding, an overlooked but highly successful food plot practice.