Locavore Blog: My first food plots

Spring may be late this year, but it’s definitely here to stay. And it’s about time since we have a garden to get ready and food plots to plant. Our property is bordered by a variety of flora and fauna and the landscape varies from field to brush to forest to pond, so we’re hopeful that some carefully planned food plots will help us out come fall deer season. While I’ve been able to keep tabs on the wildlife via some handy trail cameras (see prior posts: Stealth Cam and Browning), it was an even better surprise to see this deer walking right in front of my house around 10:00 a.m. last week, heading for the very spot we plan to install one of the food plots.

A doe walks down the dirt road in front of my house.

A doe walks down the dirt road in front of my house.

Prior to even getting our garden and food plot areas tilled, we sent off a soil sample to the Whitetail Institute. I contacted them because they are one of the main companies that specialize in food plot blends aimed at bringing more deer onto your property. Submitting the soil sample was pretty easy and our results were emailed to me within a few days. I mailed the sample in on a Friday and had the results by Tuesday.

Soil sample bagged and ready to be mailed to Whitetail Institute.

Soil sample bagged and ready to be mailed to Whitetail Institute.

Now the tricky part for me is figuring out organic solutions to improve overall soil fertility based on Whitetail Institute’s recommendations. Organic farms and gardens do not use bagged nitrogen (N) fertilizers and we also plan to steer clear of commercial fertilizers, aiming to plant quality cover crops to naturally increase soil fertility like legumes (also known as green manure). Alfalfa and red clover can also assist in providing natural N during the growing season, too, which will most likely be some of what we plant as food plots. I think a blend of perennials and annuals will be a good mix for our property.

We also figure that our first year gardening and installing food plots will also be a bit of trial and error since there hasn’t been an established garden here in many many years. Our previous experience with a few raised garden beds for herbs and tomatoes doesn’t even begin to compare to what we’re installing here — by both size and plant selection. Because no one has gardened here in years, the ground is as grassy as the rest of the yard, meaning that we needed the help of a friend’s tractor to till our 25 x 50 garden plot as well as the areas for the food plots.

This is after the second pass. He ended up going over the garden spot about four times.

This is after the second pass. He ended up going over the garden spot about four times and each food plot area three times.

My that's a big tractor!

My that’s a big tractor!

The food plot areas are located far from the garden, but I imagine we will have a bit of crossover and hope that we don’t find too many deer in our garden! The locations we selected already show some deer presence so we hope that planting some suggested food plot crops will increase our odds come deer season this fall. Based on discussions with local Vermonters, we decided to start off this spring with Whitetail Institute’s No-Plow (annual) and Chicory Plus (perennial) with additional planting of Wintergreens this fall (annual).

Have you installed food plots in Vermont? What have you planted? How has this improved the number of deer on your property?

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