Questions for a Beginner - Good Clover Seed & Soil Test?

Discussion in 'Food Plots for Wildlife' started by Winesburg Duroc, Jan 30, 2019.

  1. Winesburg Duroc

    Winesburg Duroc New Member

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    Location:
    Holmes County, Ohio
    Hardiness Zone:
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    I plan to put in my first food plots this spring on a 100-acre property. It's in SE Ohio, so very hilly. Soils are decent. For now, I'm planning to start with clover - probably 2 acres in 3 different plots, which I'm hoping to frost seed in late February or March, depending on the weather. I have a few questions:
    1) Has anyone had success with typical ag seed for their clover? I don't doubt that the seed offered by the various food plot specialists has benefits for the deer, but it's about 4 times more expensive than the stuff I can buy at the local feed and seed mill. If anyone has experience with ag seed - is there a specific variety of clover you would recommend? My preference would be one that fills in gaps well.
    2) I have a good pH meter, so I can check the soil pH. Is a soil test for nutrients essential? I say that because I'd need a separate test for each of the plots (they're at some distance from each other), and tests run about $20/each, so that's $60. A bag of fertilizer is a lot less.
    Thanks for the assistance!
     
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  2. Chainsaw

    Chainsaw Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    northern New York
    Hardiness Zone:
    literally on the line of 4b/5a
    Welcome to the forum Winesburg. Yes many of us use clover seed not offered by food plot specialists and it can be less expensive although good clover is pretty pricey. Many of us though mix varieties of clover together and buying say four fifty pound bags (one each of four varieties ) is very costly. For people planting only an acre or two the food plot mixes can sometimes represent a very economic alternative while providing the benefit of growing different clover varieties in a plot.
    Possibly putting unneeded fertilizer on a clover plot does more harm than simply wasting a bag of fertilizer so yes a soil test at $20 is a wise investment.
     
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  3. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I wouldn't do a thing unless you do it right. There are a few ways to go cheaper, but they are very foolish. Clover can be a fickle thing if your soil isn't set up right. It may grow, but it may be very bitter to the deer, go unused, and get taken over by weeds far sooner.

    Get a complete soil test, one with a buffer pH reading, base saturation %, and micros. Its gonna be the difference between an unused weedy plot, and something that is an absolute deer magnet. Whether you own that land or not, don't let $100 hold back the quality of your hunt for the next five years.

    I like perennial white clover. Ladino has been good to me, and I've recently put in medium white clover to try to do some interseeding during the summer. Track down a cover crop seed dealer just getting in the business, and they may hook you up with "cover crop" clover that is about a quarter the price, and only sell you what you need.
     
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  4. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    A soil test will be the cheapest investment you'll make. PH is very important, but so is P&K for clover

    Some clover seed looks expensive, but you have to look at the number of pounds per acre that you need to use. Ladino clovers, you likely would only need to use, less than 5 pounds per acre. So, for your 2 acres, you might only need 10 pounds, however, I'd like to see some medium red clover thrown in there too, along with 50 lbs/acre of wheat or cereal rye.

    Acidic soils.JPG
     
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  5. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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  6. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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  7. dogghr

    dogghr Well-Known Member

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    Welcome aboard. Check with your county agent, most places have university soil testing services that are free. My CA even provides the bag for the soil samples all at no cost. Post office looks at you a little strange when you bring in a bag of dirt for mailing but they are used to it. Good luck, I agree with what you been told already. Read the Lickcreek/LC thread on here and you can pick up some great advice quickly.
     
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  8. SwampCat

    SwampCat Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    SW AR
    Hardiness Zone:
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    I have planted a lot of CO-OP generic ladino clover - usually about $4 a pound and five lbs per acre. It does pretty well - but in my opinion, is not as robust or hardy - in my area - as durana. Durana costs me $175 for 25 lbs - $7 per pound. So the durana basically costs $15 per acre more. But, for me, the main thing to consider when planting clover - you cant just figure the cost at the time of planting. It might be $35 per acre the year of planting - but if that planting lasts five years, then that planting cost spread out over five years only makes it $7 per acre. Probably one of the most inexpensive food plot seeds. Not sure how durana does in you area.
     
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  9. j-bird

    j-bird Well-Known Member

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    #1 - cow food is fine. Your local seed co-op should have varieties that will work well in your area. They will not be the fancy "for deer" varieties, but the deer don't read so they don't care about the fancy bag. I would suggest you get a mixture of a few different clovers. This will give you some diversity. I typically mix a ladino variety of some sort (which is a perennial white clover) as well as some sort of variety of a perennial red clover (there are several). The red clover seems to do a little better in the summer when the white clover can weaken from heat stress. You can also add chicory, alfalfa or even treefoil to the mix, but these can limit herbicide use. You can also mix in some of the BOB (buck on bag) seed if you want for some piece of mind - just don;t buy as much to keep the costs down. You will need to know what sort of soil you have to select the proper clovers as well because things like soil type (loam or clay) and how well it hold water all make a big difference. 99% of my plotting is with cow food!

    #2 - a soil test for each plot is money well spent. You will find specifically what each plot needs to reach it's optimal conditions and thus provide you the best result. pH is a measure of how well the soil will transfer nutrients...so you can apply all the fertilizer you want, but if the pH is screwed up...your literally throwing money away! A soil test provides you the info you need to form the best foundation possible for your plot.
     
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  10. FarmerD

    FarmerD Active Member

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    I'll just add that when you do your soil test, tell them what type of clover you want to plant (red ... perennial white, etc.). They then will tell you exactly how much lime, potassium and phosphorous you need to add to amend your soil. Then do as they say and you can do another soil test in 3 years to see where you are. You might not have to add anything more, for another few years. Soil test is a good investment!

    I'll throw this in, to make sure you buy pre-innoculated clover, or buy innoculant and do it yourself, prior to planting. I'll also add that you will battle less broad leaf weeds, by doing a fall planting. A fall planting here in the south, is much preferred.

    inoculants.JPG
     
  11. j-bird

    j-bird Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I have never frost seeded clover. I tend to use the first year to kill off all existing vegetation with the intent to plant in the early fall. Fall planting won't produce much for you right away (you can add a cereal grain like wheat or oats as a nurse crop) but will come on strong the following spring. Reducing any and all competition will be very advantageous for establishing the plot.
     
  12. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I'm going to fly into the face of tradition and suggest you can be successful without a soil test when we are talking about three acres of food plots. Having said that, I hope you do get curious and test at some point, but if funds are a short I think we can make an educated guess about your soils' pH and fertility. A little more information would be helpful. Are your proposed plots now cropland or in forest or something else? Do you know if any lime has been applied in the last three years? Same with fertilizer?

    Since you are new to this, if I interpret your opening correctly, your odds of success are narrow - frost seeding into an unknown bed.
    But, it you want to give it a shot I don't think you will be too far from the right answer if you put down the equivalent of half to three-quarters ton of lime per acre. Then add 30 to 40 lbs of actual P and 50 - 75 lbs of K. Knowing a little about the soils you are working with is invaluable. The image below displays the natural soil pH in Ohio. If you are in that narrow 6.1 band you might choose to skip the lime although half a ton won't hurt anything.
    Picture1.jpg
     
  13. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    Like I said, if u can’t do it right why do it at all? I have two plots on flat ground 200 yards apart. I soil tested both and found such a huge difference in composition that I had to get two different kinds of lime.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  14. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    Who's to say what's right? I know you probably think your way is the only way....and if we were talking about production agriculture then i'd be much more inclined to agree with you....not that I disagree. I'm just saying the outcomes between your way of "right" and my hip-shot are probably inconsequential on three acres. And If we were to put money on the table, how would we measure the ultimate outcome? Look, I'm no rookie when it comes to taking, interpreting, and offering fertility recommendations to real farmers who kept coming back.

    My other problem is with soil sampling technique. You can take a sample and I can take a sample. Odds are good, we'll get two different answers. It's very difficult to get one pound of soil to be a true representation of the fertility levels of 2 million pounds of soil in an acre of land. If you did do it right, as I'm sure you would know, the pH and nutrient variability across any give field would leave you scratching your head. So, we end up with an imperfect solution even though we went thru all the steps in the checklist.

    And yes, Mark, I admire your dedication and pursuit of perfection. I just don't think it always pays dividends.
     
  15. j-bird

    j-bird Well-Known Member

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    Where did you get that image from? You just missed me! You got 1/2 my county but not the far western edge of it!

    I will also agree that a soil test isn't 100% required. I can make things easier or better, but obviously seed will grow to some extent regardless of how poor the soil is. The trick is getting the soil fertile enough that the crop you want grows thick enough to shade out or out compete the weeds that tend to like poorer soils.
     
  16. X-farmerdan

    X-farmerdan Well-Known Member

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    Try this:
    http://www.bonap.org/2008_Soil/pH20110321.png
     
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  17. j-bird

    j-bird Well-Known Member

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    Thanks... Interesting seeing the different soils across the country. In my regional area of IN, IL & OH, you can see almost exactly where the glacial ice sheet ranged that created the flat fertile farm ground of those states.
     
  18. MarkDarvin

    MarkDarvin Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    It's absolutely the only way, cause I said it. :D

    In all seriousness, I have grown clover for 15 years, and I never saw such a dramatic change in deer usage as when i got the fertility right. I spent years arguing with guys about how I felt clover was absolutely useless in a food plot. Before, when I winged it and did nothing, I had about every kind of failure you could imagine from bald spots, immediate grass invasion, picture-perfect but ignored and more.

    I get real worked up about soil fertility because when it's done right, it's magical the change that can be had. When it's done wrong (along with total managment) it can be a disaster. When it comes down to $30 for a quality soil test vs a failed plot and spoiled hunting season, I start pulling my hair out over a decision like that. So my position is now, "If you don't have time or money to do it right, when will you have time and money to do it again?"
     
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  19. Drycreek

    Drycreek Well-Known Member

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    I'm on this train ! Lots of good info in all posts, so all I will add is the Whitetail Institute clover has been good to me, and the deer love it. When you can divide your total expenditure by four or five years it just ain't that expensive.
     
  20. Winesburg Duroc

    Winesburg Duroc New Member

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    Location:
    Holmes County, Ohio
    Hardiness Zone:
    6
    I love a good debate! This is exactly what I was hoping for. I know pH is essential - the map from X-Farmer Dan is great...and helpful. I checked my pH and in the bottom land - where my uncle planted corn and sorghum over 10 years ago - I'm getting about 6.1. Up on the hill where there was some cleared pasture, it's coming in at 5.65 - pretty close to what that map predicts. I'll probably spread lime on both areas. Any recommendations on lime application are appreciated!

    The rest of the nutrient picture seems to me to be less essential, although I know that's up for debate. One thing I tend to think about is a load of hay I bought a few years back from a crusty old local farmer. I can't say it was alfalfa, clover, or what... or what he intended for it to be. It was a little of everything, and a lot of weeds. But, my goats loved it. His planting and fertilization schemes weren't up to date and would likely have made the county extension agent throw up in his mouth. But, my goats couldn't get enough of it. And they did well on it. Unfortunately, that farmer passed on about a year and a half ago. The nice, clean, alfalfa and clover I've bought since then from modern farmers who do all the soil testing isn't nearly as attractive to my goats.
     

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