Planting native grasses in your food plot provides many advantages to turkeys and other wildlife using your land. These hints from the NWTF's wildlife biologists will help you get the most out of your planting.
1. Don't mix native grasses with food crops. Instead, plant native grasses around the perimeter of a plot of food crops such as corn, sunflower and chufa, and run several grass strips through the center of the plot.
The two types of plantings offer complementary benefits to wildlife. For example, native grasses provide turkeys with cover against predation, while food crops like chufa and wheat provide fall and winter food sources.
2. Food plots are not the only areas to plant native grasses. Utility rights-of-way, thinned pine stands and roadsides are excellent places to plant.
Native grasses are well-suited to steep slopes. They grow extensive root systems that hold soil together, making them better suited to reduce erosion than most other plantings.
3. If weeds take over your food plots, mow the weeds growing in the food crops to allow sunlight to reach your plantings, but don't mow the strips of native grass until the third growing season after you plant them. If weeds start overtopping the grasses, go ahead and mow, but mow high enough so as not to cut the native grass below the weeds.
Keep in mind that native grasses take time to establish. If you mow native grasses during the first season after planting you're reducing their ability to produce a strong root system.
4. Save some of the seed and plant it in a flowerbed or garden. This will allow you to identify the native grasses in your food plots.
It's a good idea to know what you're planting. When you mow you'll be able to know what to mow and what not to, and you'll also be able to tell invading weeds from plants you're trying to grow.
5. When mowing a field, mow strips in the field every other year to ensure cover is always available for turkeys and other wildlife.
Mow the strips in late winter or early spring, but finish mowing prior to when turkeys nest (usually April through July) to avoid destroying turkey nests or those of other ground-nesting birds.
6. Don't get discouraged. Keep in mind that you probably won't see much above-ground growth the first year you plant your native grass.
During their first year of growth, the grasses focus primarily on establishing roots. Look for above-ground growth during the second or third year after planting.
For more information on native grasses or other land management and habitat conservation topics, visit the NWTF's Land Management Tips web page.
To help you plant your food plots, view Moultrie's seed spreaders.