-By Randy Cooper
It’s not even officially winter yet but my thoughts are on what lies ahead in preparation for spring. Lime is the key to a great springtime food plot or vegetable garden. The trick is that it takes about 3 months to affect any change in the soils PH level. Lime needs to be broadcast now to have the soil ready for planting by Easter week. I’ve always used this as a landmark date to plant my garden by.
This year's Easter week, the ground was still frozen so hard that my tiller wouldn’t dig. I like using my Moultrie ATV Food Plot Spreader to spread the lime. It will handle about 50 lbs. of pelletized lime at a time. I use about a ton an acre. It doesn’t take a lot to make a ton. This product is heavy. Pelletized lime comes in 40 lb. bags, or you can hire a lime spreader truck. They usually are equipped with 4-wheel drive and can get into a lot of out of the way places. I rotate lime applications on the food plots. I spread lime on the plots that are geared to spring time planting now. The plots designed for fall and winter food will get lime in May and will be ready for planting by late August into September.
During the last month prior to planting, use a good general purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10. Spread the fertilizer, and till it and the lime in together. I like to till in the lime and fertilizer at least 3 times before planting. This gives me a good loose seed bed and mixes everything evenly. Now all you have to do is pray for rain to wash the lime into the ground and sweeten the soil. The result will be plants that both you and the wildlife will enjoy.
One other chore I like to take care of during the mid winter is to fertilize existing vegetation and mast bearing trees while the sap is down in them. The way I go about doing this is to once again get a general purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer and spread around the base of honeysuckle, greenbrier and low lying browse that I’ve noticed deer eating during the season before the leaves fell.
Mast bearing trees and other fruit trees like persimmon, crabapple, muscadines and honey locust require a different approach. On these applications I take a 5-gallon bucket full of fertilizer and go around the DRIP LINE of the tree. This is the distance away from the trunk of the tree that the limbs stick out. Just get under the tree and look up. Put the fertilizer out even with the limb tips that stick out furthest from the trunk in a circle around the entire tree. You never want to put the fertilizer against the trunk of the tree as it could burn it up and kill it. Over the winter and into spring, the rain will wash the fertilizer into the ground and into the root tips that will take it straight to the trunk. The result is that next fall, you’ll have a much healthier mast crop and the tanic acid content in the acorns will be low. This means that the trees fertilized will have the sweetest acorns in the area and that’s the ones whitetails will seek out.
Your treated trees will be getting the most attention of any oaks or fruit trees in the area. Managing for wildlife is a fulltime gig. There is always something that needs to be done now or in preparation for an upcoming season. It’s always fun and satisfying to see the fruits of your labor come back to you in the form of a better deer and turkey population on your property. I look forward to learning more and more each season. Do like I do and make a list of what you need to do to make your property a higher quality habitat. When you’re sitting over a food plot in late season that is full of deer you’ll be glad you went to the trouble.