The Food Plot Plans

Just the act of performing a soil test was enough to make me feel like a food plot professional; that is, until I got back the results.

But before the test results showed up in the mailbox, I was pleasantly optimistic. After all, I worked my butt off the previous spring to clear the field, which had been a mix of cherry, aspen and birch trees, laced with sticker bushes. Every day, I’d pushed myself to work through two tanks of gas in the chainsaw.

truck spreading soil
If the soil needs lots of lime, the cheapest course of action may be to hire a company to use a truck to deliver and spread it.

It had been a rewarding project, since it had also provided lots of firewood for my outdoor wood burner, which heats the house. I’d chosen soybeans for the first year’s crop; I anticipated a battle with loads of weeds, and wanted to choose a “Round-up ready” crop.

But the beans had performed poorly. The results of the soil test told me why.

Could it be possible? According to the test results, I needed to amend the soil by adding from 4,000 to 8,000 pounds of lime per acre! When a soil test reveals a pH reading which is below 6 that means that nutrients in the soil are less available to plants. Lime, or calcium carbonate, must be added to raise the pH so that the soil is not acidic. The ideal pH number is 7, neither acidic nor basic.

Even going with the low end of the recommendations, I’d have to fill the hopper of my 80-pound ATV spreader 50 times. It was do-able, but was it wise to do it that way? I decided to make some calls — the local farmers, a hydro-seeding company and a feed/seed mill.

green forage
After lime amends the pH of the soil, your food plot will respond with lots of green forage. This is the same field that the lime truck sprayed.

Prices for a bag of pelletized lime were around $5 for a 40-pound bag, available in the garden supply area of the big home improvement store chains. Since I’d have to buy 100 bags, I’d be spending $500 to lime an acre. In addition, I’d be spending a lot of time in that new food plot field, driving around on the ATV and operating the spreader.

The hydro-seeding company, which had a primary business of working on reclaimed coal lands, had equipment that was too big for my small fields. The feed/seed mill has a 10-ton lime truck, and would charge $400 to come to the farm, drive around in the field and spread the lime. I called two local farmers to find that they use the feed/seed mill lime truck.

When you’re working to create a food plot, you put in lots of time and labor, and the end result involves a lot of pride. Although I always enjoyed driving my ATV, I knew the fun of that would wear off quickly as I spread a zillion bags of lime. Plus, financially, it made more sense to hire out the job.

You can’t scrimp on lime. But, by making some phone calls, you can find ways to scrimp on how much to spend on lime.

Make sure you visit Sportsman’s Guide for the latest selection of food plots and seeds.

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