Nov 28, 2016

The Art of Timing

By: Steve Jordan

The timing of planting certain varieties of plants in food plots is an art.  The summer of 2016 was a very moist season with nice rains in most places every 3 to 4 days.  The rain allowed for really concentrating on the best time to plant without worrying about enough rainfall to germinate the seeds.

I like to plant corn mid-May to July 1st with a mixture of 82 day to 110 day maturity seeds.  This method has some corn ripening early and some late in the same patch.  If broadcasting seeds, adding 10% to 20% of soybean seeds to the mix is very productive.  The deer will seek out the young soybean plants and leave the young corn alone for the most part.

If you are using a row planter, you could stagger rows with corn and soybeans or lightly broadcast soybeans and work those seeds in ahead of time before row planting your corn.

Sunflowers can be planted right up to the 4th of July.  I prefer later plantings to work on weed control in May and June.  The dove hunters like their sunflowers planted as early as possible so they ripen for the dove season opener in early September.  My plan for next year is to stagger different aged groups of sunflowers so plants seed out at different times starting in late August and into October.

Winter rye and winter wheat can be planted successfully from mid-July up until October.  The farmers like to plant it late so there are just little green spears sticking up going into the winter.  In the spring, these little spears shoot straight up and uniform to make a great crop that all ripens about the same time.  Planting for deer, I like to plant it earlier so it grows more mass for grazing in the fall and throughout the winter.  In my experience, winter rye is sought after 2 to 1 compared to winter wheat.

Turnip mixes should be planted in a window of mid-July through August.  Planting earlier than mid-July makes for a weedy patch of tough and hard to eat plants in the fall.  Very often I will run into a guy in June or July or get a call from a guy looking for advice and he will say, “My turnips are a foot high already.”  I usually answer with just a simple, “Oh” or “That's nice,” but I'm really thinking it is not so good.  If we were in a butcher shop, and he just bought a quarter of beef from a 9-year-old 1700 pound cow, while my order was for a quarter of beef from an eleven month old steer at under 1000 pounds, that somehow he would think he was way ahead of the game.  But my quarter of beef will be more tender and tastier than his.  In other words, young, strong, healthy plants are much more desirable in the fall compared to old, mature, tough plants.  Don't rush to plant your turnip mixes too early.

Timely mowings of alfalfa and clover are very productive.  Depending on the year and the amount of rainfall, late August is a good time for the last mowing.  The new growth should grow to about 10 inch sprouts of young, tasty leaves.  These plants are sought after well into winter.

My wife and I are blessed with three grandsons, ages 10, 8, and 6.  They all planted their own food plot this year.  Our ten-year-old, Connor, is featured in this article.  All of our grandsons really enjoy the outdoors and working on food plots is a great way to teach them the importance of appreciating and benefiting wildlife.  We all should bring youth into all of our outdoor activities whenever possible.

I hope your fall and winter are going great!  Start drawing up a plan for your food plot or plots this winter thinking of diversity, variety, and the timing of the planting of your crops.  You can be an artist with your own food plots.