OK, hope to make this thread an ongoing experiment in the food plotting on my place. I am not experienced, have no history of doing this, and have only read on multiple sources of what other folks have done, so bear with me, feel free to ask questions or comment or give tips.
My first year food plotting: 2017 fall season
materials: rented zero turn mower, a rented tractor with rotary tiller, a 6x8 drag/spike/chain harrow, a pull behind 31 gal sprayer, and a seed spreader (capacity approx 25#).
area in plot: 1 acre with some small tree islands; 1/2 acre; 1/3 acre with adjacent 1/8 acre 'throw and go'; 1/4 acre 'throw and go'. total in plot approx 2.5 acres. Property is 400 acres so ultimately I would like to have between 25-40 acres in cultivation of some sort. It will take some time to get there. Baby steps. I will need some serious equipment to get to that level...baby steps.
Seed used: whitetail institute whitetail oats as nurse crop for all plots other than no till sections
1 acre plot got whitetail institute double cross
1/2 acre plot got whitetail institute edge
1/3 acre plot got whitetail institute extreme
no till plots got pennington rack master texas complete
Fertilizer used was 17-17-17 from local feed store (they provided a free ground driven buggy cart) for all plots except 1/2 acre and 1/4 acre no till plot. I ran the fertilizer heavy from the buggy so I ran out. Planned on 400#/acre but probably got closer to 600#/acre and then had to use my spreader for 150# 13-13-13 on the 1/3 acre plot and 50# on the 1/4 acre plot.
1 acre plot
This was after mowing down, then two weeks later spraying with glyphosphate. After waiting two weeks, I came in and used the tractor with rotary tiller to turn some dirt and get a soil bed. It was super dry so my effort wasn't great but it did create a soil bed.
I then spread fertilizer and then seeded the oats. I then ran my drag harrow over the ground to work the fertilizer and oats in the soil a bit. I then spread the double cross and hoped for rain.
the drag harrow did a good job of stirring up the dirt and burying the oats and fertilizer as shown from the top of the picture (dragged area) compared to the bottom of the picture (non-dragged area with all the oats and fertilizer still visible)
Repeat process for each of the other "till" plots.
I was asked by a member to try a no till 'throw ad go' plot for experimentation sake....why not. Aside, from the tiller I rented, I simply used equipment available to anyone with a truck or atv/utv, so I figured this would be a good trial as I have a few other spots that would be amenable to such a no tractor plot. I did one of these right next to the 1/3 acre plot to get an idea if it really does make a difference and is the ground prep worth it. (I would post pictures but they keep turning out upside down despite me editing them to be upright)
The other throw and go plot was in a very deer rich area, but would be tough to get a tractor back to with implements, so it is a perfect place for a throw and go plot. Sprayed both with gly, then ran the drag harrow through it several times to get the dirt worked and try to get some of the grass knocked down.
I know it is upside down, but wanted to show what spraying, then dragging a spike harrow through would do. The native grass in this area is 3-4 feet tall. The spray did a good job but dragging made a difference too. Spread the fertilizer and then spread seed. I seeded heavy for the size, and hope to get a good take. The bag of seed used (pennington rack master texas complete) was for a total of 1/2 acre, so it wasn't double the seed rate, but it was a little heavier than recommended.
Couple take aways so far from my experience:
1. a mower is a lousy way to mow native grass/pasture. A tractor would shred the area much quicker and more effortless.
2. a tractor with a cab would be a huge plus. I rented an open station tractor and aside from getting completely covered in dirt, I was blowing dirt out of my nose for two days after using the tiller. Sure, the dryness had a lot to do with it, but a tractor with cab would mitigate the issue altogether.
3. Seed rates are misleading and you almost need to double the actual seed amount to a given acreage. Maybe I am just an aggressive seeder and I am sure it had a lot to do with my inexperience using a seed spreader, but especially with mixes that had larger seed mixed with small seed, in order to get the seed to flow I had to open the seeder up and it allowed way too much seed to fall causing the seed to run out too quickly.
4. Rain. Rain. Rain. Now that the seed is out, I need rain. I initially planned on seeding this thursday, but with the changing weather patterns I saw rain coming before that so i jumped on the opportunity to get it done prior to my plans.
5. I don't know why pictures won't upload correctly. I can't even get them to upload from my phone anymore (iOS 11 glitch?). So once I figure out how to upload pictures, I can send more...
6. I will update as growth/use/kills take place with comparisons between all the plots given as well.