New member here looking for some advice on my property

John D

This summer I ended up purchasing a 36 acre parcel of property for me to build a new house and barn on. I've always wanted a piece of recreational property and finally was able to put buy something. This is a pretty urban area in Northeast Ohio and 36 acres is considered a big lot around here. The property is in Auburn Township, Ohio.

The property was put in as a sub development in the eighties. The road was cut in and it has ditches just like a normal development would have. With the earthwork that was done, seems like all these ditch areas and flat areas are clay. They stripped all the topsoil off to create this development. The problem is the property has wetlands on it so it's no longer able to be developed in cooky cutter lots. I've included some pictures of the aerial of the property along with some pictures of the areas.

I'm nearing completion of the house and trying to figure out what to do with the grassy ditch areas. My plan is to have an acre of nice grass around the house that I mow with a lawn mower. The rest I want to be some type of food plot. Preferably something that comes back every year on its own and doesn't need much maintenance. I'd like to plant something that doesn't grow too tall as I want to be able to use it as a shooting range.

I've included a picture of the area we cleared for the septic area. I'd like to plant some something there that's a little more special than the rest of the areas. This area was forest so the I imagine the soil is much better here. I also have to do elevated leach fields here so I'll be importing topsoil. This area is about an acre and was cleared so it gets sunlight.

I'm an excavating contractor by trade and probably won't have all the earth work done till fall. The septic area will be done this spring and will be ready to plant in May sometime. I was thinking of doing some test runs with food plot crops this spring and see what grows well. I haven't done any soil samples yet so have no idea what I have to work with.

I can use all the help I can get with this project. I never really planted anything other than a simple garden. From a rough measurement, I have 6 to 7 acres of open areas for food plots. The deer population seems pretty good in this woods and I don't think I'll have a problem keeping them around. Looking to create decent habitat for all game animal. I have woods, swamps and hopefully some open areas with good food plots. I've got track loaders, excavators, a side by side and a four wheeler. I have a brush hog for my track loader that I did the initial cut with before built. Was thinking about buying a rototiller to cultivate with.

Suggestions please :)

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Sounds like a perfect setup for white clover mixed with chicory, flax, and a mix of cereals. Just a little mowing and a cheap overseeding each fall or spring should do ya. Run about 300 lbs/ac of gypsum each year and that should last for the rest of time.
Ladino clover meets all of your requirements. Grows in poor soil, doesn't get too high, is high in protein so wildlife like turkeys, deer and rabbits will thrive on it. It's best to establish it in early spring or fall, hard to establish in summer. Plant along with 100 lb acre of cereal grain for a nurse crop, oats in the spring or rye in the fall. It should be sprayed for grass weeds once a year with Thunder herbicide, and mowed high once a summer. My favorite strain is regal Graze, seeded 10 lb to the acre.
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I guess I mentioned I'm very green at this? From reading I should probably start with a soil test? Is cultivating with a rototiller attachment on a skid steer a good idea? I see most people on here using a disc and I'm not sure a rototiller turns the soil too much. I'm pretty sure clover fits the need in the large areas along the roadside/driveway, but should I plant something first before clover in the spring or go right with the clover? I want to get something planted this spring for sure. I have an area where I dog for the utilities that's all loose dirt. I need to regrade the area and prep that for some type of seed.
A tiller on a skidloader is just fine. To do a perfect job on planting clover you till the soil, roll it to firm it up, broadcast the seed, then roll again to give the seeds good seed to soil contact. Clover seeds shouldn't be buried but need fresh soil contact. But clover grows in poor soil conditions and is like a weed that is pretty forgiving under less than ideal conditions. I'd plant clover with a nurse crop of brassicas or cereal grain, grass does not work as a nurse crop because it grows to thick and chokes the clover, grass isnt a good wildlife planting, and if you seed grass you will have to spend a lot of effort to terminate it again. I consider ryegrass as grass, it's totally different than cereal rye, which is a good wildlife planting. I'd pick to start oats, clover, and radishes, or clover and buckwheat and chicory this spring as soon as possible. Second choice is to seed the nurse crops without the clover and do clover in the fall. A soil test is needed at some point, but not necessarily to get started. I'd put all the lime and 10-10-10 fertilizer on that I can afford to get started, and test the soil in the fall.
Where can you purchase lime and how can you spread it? I've got a fertilizer spreader that I tow behind my four wheeler. Is this good to spread the lime? Instead of rolling can I track pack the dirt with a rubber tired skid steer?
Where can you purchase lime and how can you spread it? I've got a fertilizer spreader that I tow behind my four wheeler. Is this good to spread the lime? Instead of rolling can I track pack the dirt with a rubber tired skid steer?
Yes, guys use wheels to pack the soil. Fertilizer spreaders with a spinner will only spread pelletized lime, and that costs 4 times as much as powdered lime for the same ph value per lb. I spread powdered lime out of buckets by hand on an acre or less. Also, a fertilizer drop spreader will work for lime.
Tractor supply has lime, they had been running a sale... I'd check ag supply places and feed mills to buy fertilizer lime and seed, much cheaper and better than other places. Ask your local farmers, they can have a wealth of information on local lime spreading trucks that can do it cheaper and better than buying bags. One 20 ton truckload of lime for $800 is great for several acres up 6 or 7 acres, you will be good for many years. If you have 6 or 7 acres you will be buying bags and spreading for a long time.
Better, get your local coop to bring their truck an spread your lime. Best money spent. I agree with mix of grain, RC, WC, and maybe oats.
Problem is the areas have ditches. No way they're going to spread it with a large truck without rutting everything up. I'll just have to do it slow and steady. Probably only going to do an acre or two this spring.
If you are going to disc then I would spread lime first. Bu based on my experience one doesn’t need to disc it in despite what some recommend.
Not sure your ph bit I’m suspect it’s near 5.5 if top soil was removed. which means could need 2-3 ton/ac. Lot of work.
And if that is true prob gonna really have to work on improving OM and CEC. If available chicken litter could be good option for you. Good luck.

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Also, does the lime need to be applied first before the soil is diced or tilled?
It's ok just to spread the lime on top. Lime works so slow that by the time it's actually lowering the PH it's percolated into the soil. I wouldn't worry about spreading it before or after, I'd spread it whenever I have the time to do it.
Everything you asked about will work, it just may be a little more time consuming. If you can’t get a lime truck in, use that drop spreader in the pic. If you disc or till the lime in, till no more than 4”/6” deep, because that’s where most of your roots are gonna be to start with. I do my soil test somewhere between the first and second planting mostly because I know from experience about what my ph is before I start. I will take a swag at the lime based on square footage, put it out early (or along with the fertilizer if I have to) and then seed. That’s usually a spring plot and before I plant the fall crop I’ll test the soil again to see how close my swag was. I don’t usually have to add much lime but I’ll add it when I plant the fall crop. Next spring my ph will be in good shape. Even crops that grow pretty well with a poor ph will be better with a ph of 6.5 to 7. Good luck Sir !