Starting from scratch and have to get it right the first time.


Active Member
Guys, I need your inputs on a food plot project. I live in Tidewater Virginia, halfway between Richmond and Norfolk. I finished a 40 acre clear cut late August and Plan to put in a couple small shooter plots to concentrate activity as the cutover regrows, The timber crop was pines. The soil test comes back (not surprisingly) at 9.5 tons lime per acre recommended on a soil pH of 4.2. That massive amount of lime dictates small plots, maybe 50 feet square.
My math says: 1 acre = 43,560 sq. feet. A plot of 50 ft square = 2500 sq ft or .0574 acre. 9.5 tons at 2.000 per ton = 19,000 pound recommended/acre times .0574 = 1090 (1100#) of lime per plot. Not having a bulk lime capability, I'm afraid I'm looking at spreading 40# bags; or 28 bags. Locally, a 40# bag of lime is about $5 a bag. That looks to be about $140 of lime per plot. Can anyone confirm that I haven't made a massive mistake here? Yeah, that's a whole bunch of work for growing some clover and ??.

My plan is to break up the dirt using a walk behind tiller because there are too many stumps for a disc and harrow. Then I'll apply the lime, breaking the treatment into 3 or 4 separate applications. (I'm on the wrong side of 80 yrs old.)
I can get the lime to the site in the bed of my buddy's truck and then put down the lime from a walk behind spreader.
Then comes the 10-10-10 fertilizer, followed by whatever seed I decide on and a weekly rain dance.
What could possibly go wrong?
Again, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this project.
I have applied lime by the sack and I sure don’t like it, but sometimes that’s what you have to do. I put out pelletized lime with a three point spreader because I don’t have a drop spreader and can’t justify one. I do put out bulk lime from the local feed store in my bigger plots by using their buggy and pulling it with my truck. My grown strong-as-an-ox grandson rides the tongue and engages/disengages the lever when it needs it. I didn’t do the math, but I’m sure it’s correct. I get my soil tests done by Whitetail Institute and they give lime recs by the acre and square foot. I use the Hunt Stand app to draw out my plots and get the acreage. It may not be spot on, but it’s close enough for lime and fert. Good luck with your plots, it ain’t near as easy once we pass the three quarter century mark.
It sounds like a great plan on a budget for small plots. I'm hoping that at 80 years old you aren't working full time, so hopefully you have some time to put into this, and can do it a little at a time.
One trick with the lime application is to put several bags of hydrated lime on each 50 x 50 plot first, plus several more bags of regular lime, for a total of maybe 6 bags per plot. The hydrated lime works much faster than regular lime and will be making an impact on your clover right away, and in the meantime the regular lime is slowly raising PH for the long run.
Just to save the initial labor of you having to do all the work at one time and "spread" the work out a little, I'd put on a half a dozen bags of lime per month after the initial liming, until you reach the 28 bags, then retest the soil next fall to see how much is needed for the following year.
If you are growing clover 10-10-10 fertilizer is less than ideal, although much better than nothing, for straight clover you should get 0-20-20, which your local feed mill won't stock, but probably can order. If you are growing an oats and clover mix which would be good because clover does better with a nurse crop anyway, then 10-10-10 is ok. I'd put several bags of fertilizer on to start, then add a bag every now and then right before a rain.
IMO, the whole success of this plot hinges on how early you get it out this spring. Ideally, if you could skip the tilling, put the lime, fertilizer, and seed out in late February the frost would bury the seed to get an early start on the spring. If this plot isn't established and covers the soil pretty good before it gets hot in the summer on that sandy soil the sun will shrivel it up to nothing.
Mennoniteman, Thanks for the good practical info. Do you have a feel for the cost difference between the 10-10-10 fert and the 0-20-20?
And what do you think of making my initial crop a clover - buckwheat mix? This soil is so unlike the sandy loam in the fields, I feel I need to put down something to build it up. I've heard buckwheat is "grow it on a sidewalk" easy to establish and builds soil well. Your thoughts?