Plan for Success
The first question I see asked by people on social media or at events is "What should I plant?" I normally pause for a moment before continuing. I then either email or ask the person several questions to get a better handle of what they are working with. I want to get a handle on their needs and goals. The result would be a vision for long term success.
Seed is a start, but seed's importance is from when one plants it until it germinates. At that point their job is done. That is when roots become the "engine." As the forage grows, there are various factors that come into play as to the success of the planting. Here is what I want people to consider, beyond the seed.
1) Geographic location in the US.
2) Physical location and description on one's property.
A) Is the area sloped?
B) Is the area shady?
C) Is the area in a wet area?
D) Is the area an open field?
3) How large of area is intended to be planted?
4) What are the surrounding properties like?
A) Do they plant ag fields?
B) Do they plant food plots?
C) Do they manage their properties?
5) What equipment do you have?
6) What experience level do you have with planting?
7) What are your current deer density numbers?
8) How much surrounding deer hunting pressure is there?
9) Have you taken any recent soil samples?
10) What are your goals?
After getting answers to the above questions I try to rewire people's brains. I get them to try to create a vision. I help my clients establish a short term and long-term plan. That plan might involve bringing in other team members and specialists in the areas of water quality and forest management. The process begins.
Anything one plants has pros and cons. Any forage has a certain level of growth potential under ideal conditions. Every forage has a maturity. Every forage has a desirability at different points during its growth cycle and time of year. What I want people to do a better job is learning about how forages grow and how they affect future years plantings in that area.
All wildlife need 365 a year nutrition. In some areas of the US we have challenges such as snow depth and frigid temperatures. In the deer south we can have heat and drought challenges at times during the year. Mother nature always comes into play no matter where one lives. We cannot ever assume perfect growing conditions throughout the year. That is rare. We might experience a series of swings. We could see periods of cold, followed by a period of dry and then ending up with a period of extreme wet or floods. This is why mother nature always needs to be considered when one plants the selected species you plant.
There are cool season annuals and warm season annuals. Each doing better during those times of year. There are perennials that are cool season as well as perennials that do handle the warmer seasons as well. There are both annual and perennial forages that are colder tolerant than others. Knowing your forage and its traits really helps in the planning. So many people make mistakes in mixing cool season annuals with warm season annuals. I am not saying it won’t work at all. I am saying you are not being efficient in accomplishing your goals.
Here is a tip most overlook. What grows the fastest, tends to be more desirable and nutritious early in that forage’s growth cycle. What grows the slowest tends to become more desirable later as that forage moves into the late vegetative stages. The key with managed intensive nutrition (MIN) is to plant a variety of species with different maturities so there are always desirable forages at any time in that planted area.
You always want to plant a blend of forages that can handle whatever mother nature throws at us. That means including forages that handle wet with forages that handle dry. We want forages that handle cooler temps with at least one forage that can handle heat. This is the concepts that I have lived by since the early 90's in the grazing community. This is what keeps farmers in business. Imagine a grazer having any day where there are no available desirable forages to feed their cattle because they didn't plan for mother nature. Yes, I know you’re not farming but do you want deer to potentially move from one area of your property to the neighbor’s land because he has desirable forages and you ran out of yours?
My plans I set up for my clients are based on a 3-year plot rotation plan. You never want to plant cool or warm season annuals in the same block for more than 1 year. What can happen if you plant soybeans two years in a row in an area? What happens if you plant turnips, and various brassica or bulb heavy mixes in the same area too many years in a row?
My yearly goals in an area are simple.
1) Fixate nitrogen to help soil health by reducing dry fertilizers.
2) Maintain soil surface residue/build soil organic matter.
3) Smother weeds naturally.
4) Reduce tillage
I attached a picture of a 3-year plan if I turned my main research plot into a food plot. In the end I want you all to stop asking your buddy or someone on social media what to plant. Create a plan or get a consultant such as myself to help you formulate a plan for reducing the effects of mother nature as well as reducing weed pressures, plant diseases and insect pressures. Short sighted solutions have long term ramifications. Don't be forced to react. Force yourself to plan for success.