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I put this question in the message board segment(deer camp- food plot choices), and hopefully Beekeeper has an answer for me, bu

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  • I put this question in the message board segment(deer camp- food plot choices), and hopefully Beekeeper has an answer for me, bu

    I put this question in the message board segment(deer camp- food plot choices), and hopefully Beekeeper has an answer for me, but does anybody know anything that grows well in loose sandy/gravely soil for a food plot? I'm in Michigan and it is pretty cool/cold from October on.

  • #2

    My forage crop expertise lies in the southeast. I have a colleague who provided the link below on frost seeding. Might be getting a little late for that depending on your weather. You make the decision. He has had excellent luck with this approach in Michigan and Wisconsin. I have another colleague who is digging up more info for you. When I get it I will post it on your message board thread.


    • #3
      The problem you will have is water, sandy gravely soil does not hold water well. Anything will grow there but you need to water it regularly and that most likely isn't feasible, you want to plant it and forget it. For example, modern golf course greens are 100% sand and we grow very nice grass on it, but we have to water it on a daily basis. Sandy gravely soil just doesn't hold water.


      • #4
        Contact your agriculture dept. There are small offices in most communities.


        • #5
          try triticale it will grow anywhere, it is a hybrid between wheat and rye. Canola might work the soil type isn't the best though. Like jim said go talk to the nrcs staff at your local usda office they can tell you what would work best. you might also look further in the message boards I have a post about food plots under deer camp also.


          • #6
            oh and also if you can get some manure or even incorporate some straw it will help retain water because of the increased organic matter then it won't be as limmiting of a factor. I'm a crop consultant in the sand hills of nebraska, I have a little idea of how to keep water where I want it to be.


            • #7
              I tired talking to my ag department and they won't return my calls. I could add some peet/bog soil, would that help hold the water also?


              • #8
                I tried talking to my ag department and they won't return my calls. I could add some peet/bog soil, would that help hold the water also?


                • #9

                  Sand or sand gravel soils can be tough to deal with. Here is the southeast we have areas with the sandy soil type "Lakeland". It is a deep sand and being such is very well drained. Without frequent rains such soils become droughty and don't offer much growth potential in drier times of the year, ie, summer. These soil types also tend to be on the acidic side thus limiting the utilization of clovers and other legume forage crops without liming, in some cases heavy liming.

                  One can amend such soils with organic materials such as manures, composted sawdust, or other composted organic material, even clay if you can get it. Adding such materials will boost the water holding capacity and the cation exchange capacity (ability to hold fertilizer) of these type soils. This process can be costly on the large scale, not to mention the difficulty of hauling a large volume of said amandments to the site. Dump trucks, lime and fertilizer don't fit into wooded hunting areas very easily. You must also have equipment capable of tilling the amendments completely and effectively into the soil. This tilling should be to a depth of 6-8 inches.

                  Deep rooted crops like Chicory can be utilized effectively on such sites with adequate preparation. Chicory will send a tap root to "China" if you have decent soil prep. This characteristic helps it keep up with moisture in well drained soils. It will grow on slightly acidic sites. I have had decent luck with it here in the south on sandy soils with a pH of 5.6 to 5.7. It will grow well in the north (I've seen the common form on road sides in Michigan). There are many forage varieties available from many different seed sources. Pennington and Cooper are typically good companies to deal with. As with any crop you need to soil test first to ascertain soil pH and fertility levels.

                  It has been my experience with chicoy that it tolerates close grazing very well. It is highly attractive to deer and is very nutritious almost 90% the value of alfalfa. Stands in my research plots lasted 3-5 years before disease and grazing pressure took thier toll. chicory will require about 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre per year for good growth. That is best split into 50 lbs at planting, 50 in the late summer/early fall then 50 in the spring. In the south we plant Chicory in the fall (9-15 to 10-15) I can be sucessfully planted in cooler climates in the spring.

                  The seeding rate for Chicory is 5 pounds per acre.
                  Prepare site by tilling as deeply as possible. Chisel Plowing in two different directions (cross ripping) is very effective.
                  8 to 10 inches in depth is necessary for sufficient tap root development assuring drought tolerance.
                  Harrow to break clods and smooth site.
                  Drag or culti-pack to assure an even, level seed bed.
                  Spread seed evenly then drag or culti-pack again to assure good seed to soil contact.
                  Plant no deeper than 1/4 inch.

                  If your soil pH is adequate (7.0 to 7.5) Alfalfa can work as it will root quite deeply given adequate soil (read deep) prep and proper pH. Follow the soil prep recommendations above. The recommended Seed Rate for most varieties is 25 lbs./acre. Cultipac and cover seed 1/4 inch deep. You must inoculate seed before planting. Establishment and maintenance costs for alfalfa are very high. It is highly susceptable to overgrazing in small plots.

                  Wall this is the best I can do for you. In real life I am a professional agronomist, but as I stated my expertise is centered in the southeast. I see no reason the above forage crops won't work in your area. Results as always are dependant on preparation, weather and a cetain amount of luck.

                  Also, if your local extension agent has been unresponsive to your questions I bet thier boss would like to hear about it! Helping you is thier job...

                  Good Luck!


                  • #10
                    Beekeeper- thank you! I will add some sawdust from my father-in-laws mill and some leaves in the fall. Do you think that beets/turnips will do well here? I will get a soil test and go from there. THANKS AGAIN!!


                    • #11

                      Remember when you add raw unrotted saw dust or uncomposted leaves to add a nitrogen source such as 34-0-0 or any other high nitrogen fertilizer (the first number is nitrogen, the second phosphorus and the third potassium). Manure will also help. During the breakdown process of such amendments soil microbes will need all the nitrogen they can get and will bind up most of the available nitrogen making plant growth difficult. The extra nitrogen helps ease up demand and will be slowly released back into the soil as the material decays.

                      Sugar Beets and Mangel Beets work very well as forage crops. (Check Buck Lunch site at for info on thier seed and how to tips. Beets are biennials and will last for 2 seasons, forage can be renewed by mowing. Some organic gardeners use such beets to add organic material to the soil. To do so the beets are left after maturity and allowed rot in the soil then tilled. Turnips can do the same thing in one season. They should grow in your area.

                      Check you Message Board thread for my contact email.


                      • #12
                        Oh, sorry I forgot my manners, You are welcome!


                        • #13
                          Agreed with Beekeeper answer above and A + 1 for you sir!!!




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