This post was originally published on May 2, 2016, and updated on December 5, 2019.
Years ago, I purchased some ground in eastern Kansas for deer hunting. The first thing I wanted to do was get some food plots planted to attract and hold deer on my property. I did not have access to large farm equipment and was a novice at food plots. I learned a lot from the research I did and a lot via the school of hard knocks. This article is by no means a complete guide to food plots, but I think there is some valuable information that can be learned. Below I have put together a list of advice and tips for DIY food plots that can help if you are wanting to save some time and money.
8 Tips for DIY Food Plots
1. If you are buying some land, look for land that already has food plots in place or at least some ground cleared for food plots. Another option is to look for land with some tillable ground where you can convert a few acres into food plots of your choice.
2. If you do not have farm equipment and will be using a 4-wheeler and implements for the ATV, it’s a good idea to keep your total food plot acreage to 4 or 5 acres max – unless you love riding your 4-wheeler for hours upon hours at very slow speeds. Don’t overthink it, small food plots can yield big results!
3. If you are putting your food plots into previously unplanted ground, it is a good idea to plant fall food plots. Break the ground in the spring and wait for weed growth. Spray with RoundUp. Do this routine a few times over the summer. Then, plant in the fall. This will keep your food plots from being overtaken by weeds. I made the mistake of planting my first food plot in the spring. I did everything according to the seed company’s guidelines and had a beautiful food plot overtaken by every type of weed imaginable. I couldn’t keep up with them.
4. Be sure to have your pH checked. Lime is pretty cheap and your plots won’t grow if your pH is out of whack. Find a local lime spreader because if your pH is off, you will typically need thousands of pounds per acre.
5. If you do not have access to a fertilizer cart, be prepared to fork over some cash for your fertilizer. When I first got started, the local co-op allowed me to bring large heavyweight lawn bags to shovel my bulk fertilizer into. Then, the Department of Homeland Security changed the laws and stated that co-ops could not sell bulk fertilizer to anyone without a fertilizer cart. Pre-bagged fertilizer is expensive, especially when you typically need 400-450lbs/acre. It is going to be cheaper at the co-op, but still much more expensive than bulk fertilizer.
6. Annual food plots are great but require yearly replanting. Perennials are overall less expensive but require more maintenance.
7. When I bought my property it was classified as agricultural land. When I filled out the required land use report, I stated that I did not have cattle on it and had no row crops, haying, etc. occurring on the property. My taxes went up 6 1/2 times because it got reclassified as “vacant land.” So, you may want to plant some alfalfa and have a local farmer come in and cut and bale it. Or, hay a portion of your land. Keeping it classified as agricultural land will save you a lot over the years in taxes.
8. Last but not least, keep in mind that whatever you do on the property will always cost you more than you planned on. It’s not a bad idea to try to find your dream property that has some income coming in on it from crops, hay, etc. to offset the costs of upkeep on your property. Also, if you have your property leased to a farmer for crops or haying, when that tree falls down over the road, or your road gets washed out from a big rain, or your shooting house gets blown over during a 60 mph wind storm, the farmer typically has the equipment to take care of these issues and might not charge you because he has to get his equipment in there to get his crops out – and most farmers don’t mind helping out the owner of the land.
These are just a few things I hope can help you save some time and money if DIY food plots are in your future and your budget is limited.
Good luck hunting!