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Food Plots New plots

JCDEERMAN

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Tellico - I'm not familiar with dolomite. We have wayyy too much going on right now on our place to think about soil tests/liming/fertilizing our new plots. Definitely not BSK, but I would say if you are able, I'd get pelletized lime out asap, and it will likely be fairly effective this fall - that's 5-6 months out for it to kick in.

Our plan for our new plots is to just plant elbon rye and crimson clover into them, since they will grow virtually anywhere. Let those get established, fertilize and lime late fall/early winter for our spring/summer crops. Just another option to throw out there.
 

BSK

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Mar 11, 1999
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Already have dolomite scheduled next month for all our other plots & these will get it too, but that's not going to do anything for this fall...Thought I'd go ahead and hit them with pellitized now as well. Have never doubled up before though.
This is exactly what I'm doing. Have already spread 3,600# of pelletized lime in these new plots for a jump start, and will hit them with dolomite in fall.

Unfortunately, I bought my local Co-op out of pelletized lime last week and have to search around for more.
 

JCDEERMAN

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Looks great! I can't wait for ours to look like that. I walked a newly logged area for a food plot this weekend. It's going to be about 2.5 acres, but right now it is just tree tops and stumps. It's ready for the big equipment.
 

BSK

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Looks great! You need to get a no till drill now that you have enough acres of plots to justify the initial cost.
Never going to happen! Although I won't go into it in too much depth (because I'll take so much criticism), ever since I started breaking all the "new rules" of food plotting, I've started growing the best plots I've ever had. But I'll also be the first to admit the way I'm food plotting is based on my local conditions. If I had better soil to start with, I would be a seed-drilling no-till monster.
 

megalomaniac

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Never going to happen! Although I won't go into it in too much depth (because I'll take so much criticism), ever since I started breaking all the "new rules" of food plotting, I've started growing the best plots I've ever had. But I'll also be the first to admit the way I'm food plotting is based on my local conditions. If I had better soil to start with, I would be a seed-drilling no-till monster.
Im curious... your plots on are steep ridge tops, correct? How do you avoid erosion? Just get something in the ground asap to germinate before erosion? And how do you stay ahead of the weeds when you are bringing up new ones all the time to the surface? Those would seem to be the biggest 2 advantages of going no till in your situation.

For me, the biggest advantage of going no till is not having to deal with nearly as much weed competition. It's taken 2 consecutive fall drillings, but now I have almost zero weed competition in any of my plots (but I'm still using a LOT of herbicides prior to planting to ensure I don't have competition)
 

BSK

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Mega,

My place is all steep ridge-and-hollow. But to reduce erosion, the only places we'll make food plots is where it's almost perfectly flat. This leads to lots of long narrow plots along ridge-tops. Most are 150+ yards long by less than 30 yards wide. For one of my new plots, I used the widest ridge-top I've got on the property and the plot came out to 180 yards long and 60 yards wide. But keeping plots only on flat ground reduces erosion considerably. We still have some, but so far, not a major problem.

After many, many years of burning down all the plots with Roundup in August, we have few weeds in the existing plots. What used to grow 5-7 feet high with weeds and grasses over the summer now only have knee high foxtail and a few other broadleaf weeds when let go fallow for the summer months. This is our first attempt at warm-season annuals in a long time, so only time will tell how weed competition goes this year. In fact, as an experiment to see the worst case scenario, I did not herbicide the exist plots before tilling. Just tilled under the crimson and wheat. I'll be interested to see how much weed competition we get in those plots over the summer. IF it appears we have enough acreage to get forage soybeans up tall enough that deer can't wipe them all out right after germination, I'll probably switch to an all Roundup Ready mixture of summer crops in the future. But this first year is just an experiment, mixing buckwheat as a cover crop in with Iron and Clay Cowpeas and RR forage soybeans.
 

BSK

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The primary reason I've gone back to heavy tillage practices is because of our local conditions. The ridge-tops where most of our plots are located are pure chert gravel held together like concrete by a little clay in between. Go down 6 to 8 inches and you hit 4-6 inch layers of solid chert rock (which tends to break into grapefruit-sized chunks). The two biggest problems with trying to food plot in this soil is lack of actual soil profile and the surface hardpan's inability to allow rainwater to percolate down into the soil and carry any nutrients with it. Even after a torrential summer thunderstorm, an inch down the ground is bone dry. Water runs right off. To get water and nutrient transport downwards, and to produce an actual soil profile, we HAD TO break the surface hardpan.

In late summer, I've tried everything to break the surface hardpan, and nothing works. Not discs, no chisel plows, not tillers. Perhaps a dozer with rippers would work but that would bring up a huge amount of rock. The only way I've found to break the surface hardpan is to try it the first time in early spring when the soil has its maximum water absorption from winter rains, say sometime in early to mid March. At that point a very heavy disc like a forestry disc would be able to turn the ground enough for a rotary tiller to work with it.

For years I tried the no-till method of soil-building, where biological matter is mowed down onto the ground and allowed to build a humus layer. However, after years of doing this I found I was building up about an 1-2 inches of humus, but that was sitting right on the hardpan. Digging up growing plants showed me their roots were running sideways right along the top of the hardpan. That won't get plants through a droughty summer.

Now that I've tilled the plots for 3-4 years, I've got 4-6 inches of nice humus. It's STILL sitting on a hardpan, but at least the hardpan is 6-8 inches down. Plus I've found 4-6 inches of tilling allows rainwater to really soak in. I THINK the soil will finally hold enough moisture over the summer to grow summer annuals. But we shall see...
 

megalomaniac

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BSK, just curious... why not make some plots down in the valley as well that have the better soils and more moisture? Are all the vallies too narrow and have running water? Been a long time since I went thru your place to Dr Phil's.

Regardless, I would think once you bust up the hard pan a couple years and get roots in the ground, it would respond well to no tilling... but no reason if you arent having trouble with weeds or erosion.

My farms have similar problems but for totally different reasons. We have about 12inches of soil before hitting solid limestone in most places. When it's wet, it's standing water. When it's dry, it's BONE dry. All my success the past couple years on the new farm I've bought were because of well spaced and timely rains. I have no illusion it will be that that every year.
 

BSK

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Mar 11, 1999
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Nashville, TN
Mega,

All my valleys are "V"-shaped. Steep hill straight down to a stairstep rock creek, then straight back up the other side. I have one very narrow long flat valley bottom, and I have a 150 yard by 15 yard food plot in it. Awesome soil too!

When it comes to no-tilling, it would be very interesting to find out whether or not the hardpan reforms if I stop tilling a plot annually. I have no idea, but worth an experiment.

I hear you on the well-timed rains. Luckily my schedule allows me to work food plots when I need to, and I try and time my tilling and planting to within 2-3 days after a good rain so the soil is moist, then I need a good rain 2-4 days after planting to germinate the seed. Hard to find that combo. Two years ago, waiting for that combination of events to plant my fall plots meant I didn't get them in until mid-October. I was lucky last year in that we had some good, closely spaced rains in August and I got everything in during that period. Best plots I've ever had.
 

BSK

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Mar 11, 1999
Messages
68,680
Location
Nashville, TN
The only flat-bottomed valley on my entire property. In places, the plot is only 10 yards wide, but 150 yards long.
 

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