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Extend Life of Plots with Frost Seeding By Craig Dougherty Photo by Charles J. Alsheimer

hen my son and I design food plot programs, our staple has always been clover — Imperial Whitetail Clover to be exact. We’ve been running it for years, and it feeds the deer we hunt. It greens up early and stays late. Ever see a deer paw through the snow to chomp down on clover? I have. We’ve learned a few things about clover through the years. Mostly, we’ve learned that if you take good care of your clover plots, they will take good care of you and your deer. 18 WHITETAIL NEWS

/ Vol. 26, No. 3

Replanting your food plots every couple of years is an amateur move. It wastes time and money. The real pros can get many more years than that out of a clover plot. That means keeping it relatively weed free and freshening it every so often. Herbicide applications and strategic mowing will help handle weeds, but the freshening-up part will require some effort — very little, actually — especially if your food plots are planted in a part of the country where the ground freezes in winter. Frozen ground opens the door for what we call frost seeding. It’s one of the simplest food plot procedures you will ever do. If you can walk a food plot and figure out how to spread seed, you can master frost seeding. All you need is winter temperatures that freeze the ground for extended periods, a spring thaw and, of course, some seed. Each winter, water in the ground freezes and then thaws in spring. Typically, spring thawing occurs when night temperatures are still at or below freezing and daytime temperatures warm. The freezing ground expands (because of ice forming), and the thawing ground contracts as the ice gives up its form. The continuous cycle of freezing and thawing forces the top few inches to open and close regularly. This cycle continues until nighttime temperatures typically remain above freezing. This expansion and contraction allows particles of matter (including seed) to enter the ground and make contact with the soil. This opening and closing action allows seeds to enter the ground and be planted. The time to frost seed is when the frost is leaving the ground in early spring. Typically, across most of the North, this lasts for two to three weeks. The ground often takes on a honeycomb appearance during the frost-leaving phase of the spring thaw. Walking on the morning ground typically sounds like walking on cornflakes or potato chips. The freeze/thaw cycle allows the seed to penetrate the uppermost layer of soil and gives your seeds a reasonable chance of germinating and surviving. The open ground allows the seed to work into the earth and make contact with the soil. The soil contact will result in seed germination. No special equipment is required, and the results can be satisfactory. Not all ground freezes in winter. Don’t confuse a frost with a frozen ground. You need frozen ground for frost seeding. An overnight frost or light freeze is different. Frosts and light freezes are temporary events that often leave a thin coating of ice on anything containing moisture. Frozen ground refers to a condition when the first few inches (or feet) of earth freeze for extended periods. I live in an area of New York where the ground freezes a foot or more during most winters. Our plots are concrete-hard in winter, but sometime in April, the sun gets higher in the sky, and the spring thaw and frost seeding can begin. If you don’t want to work with the freeze-thaw cycle, you can spread your seed directly on the snow. We like to do it in spring so the seed www.whitetailinstitute.com

Whitetail News Volume 26 Issue 3  

Wtn Vol 26.3

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