First Attempt at no-till/no-plow food plot

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
Good morning, all. This may have been discussed here (numerous times, I'm sure) but being a newbie, I ask for your patience and tolerance as I stumble through this site.

I live and hunt in SC. I have begun my first attempt at creating a honey hole food plot. I don't own or have access to planting equipment or land-working equipment. The arsenal of equipment at my disposal consists of a lawn mower, backpack spray, rakes and an over the shoulder seed spreader. I have done a fair bit of research and I believe I've picked a seed blend I'm going to plant and I've begun prepping the site. It's an old logging road that is in great condition (not all rutted up). The area I'll be planting is roughly 10' x 225'. When I first started, the lane had about 10"-12" of native broadleaf grasses growing on it but it wasn't very thick. So far, I have burned those grasses down using Glyphosate and after everything had died off, I mowed it very tight using a push mower but now I'm indecisive about what to do next.

I've read conflicting information about what to do with the thatch. I've read to completely remove all of the thatch to fully expose the seed bed and I've read that I should leave the thatch. It's not a very thick layer of thatch (1/4"-1/2"). I won't be planting until mid-September so I have some time to decide but I could use some guidance on what to do with the thatch... clear it or leave it. Also, I was planning on applying a soil amendment (going with PlotStart) so another question would be, if I decide to leave the thatch, how will that affect the application of my soil amendment?

I have attached two pictures of the plot (in the making). These pictures were taken standing in the middle of the plot, looking back towards either end. It is right after I mowed so the thatch looks thicker than it actually is right now and any and all vegetation growth has stopped.

I appreciate any guidance and feedback y'all are willing to share.
 

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omicron1792

5 year old buck +
Good morning, all. This may have been discussed here (numerous times, I'm sure) but being a newbie, I ask for your patience and tolerance as I stumble through this site.

I live and hunt in SC. I have begun my first attempt at creating a honey hole food plot. I don't own or have access to planting equipment or land-working equipment. The arsenal of equipment at my disposal consists of a lawn mower, backpack spray, rakes and an over the shoulder seed spreader. I have done a fair bit of research and I believe I've picked a seed blend I'm going to plant and I've begun prepping the site. It's an old logging road that is in great condition (not all rutted up). The area I'll be planting is roughly 10' x 225'. When I first started, the lane had about 10"-12" of native broadleaf grasses growing on it but it wasn't very thick. So far, I have burned those grasses down using Glyphosate and after everything had died off, I mowed it very tight using a push mower but now I'm indecisive about what to do next.

I've read conflicting information about what to do with the thatch. I've read to completely remove all of the thatch to fully expose the seed bed and I've read that I should leave the thatch. It's not a very thick layer of thatch (1/4"-1/2"). I won't be planting until mid-September so I have some time to decide but I could use some guidance on what to do with the thatch... clear it or leave it. Also, I was planning on applying a soil amendment (going with PlotStart) so another question would be, if I decide to leave the thatch, how will that affect the application of my soil amendment?

I have attached two pictures of the plot (in the making). These pictures were taken standing in the middle of the plot, looking back towards either end. It is right after I mowed so the thatch looks thicker than it actually is right now and any and all vegetation growth has stopped.

I appreciate any guidance and feedback y'all are willing to share.
Is this your property? If you have access I would hinge cut some trees around the road to get some sunlight to the road.
 

Wind Gypsy

5 year old buck +
The second picture looks like you’ve got a pretty good mat of leaves that might make it hard to get seed to soil contact.

It also appears that this area doesn’t get much sun, a lot of seeds may struggle with that little light.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
The second picture looks like you’ve got a pretty good mat of leaves that might make it hard to get seed to soil contact.

It also appears that this area doesn’t get much sun, a lot of seeds may struggle with that little light.

It's not that thick at all. As I mentioned, the picture was taken immediately after I mowed so the clippings were fresh. That was a couple of weeks ago and the thatch layer now is roughly 1/4"-1/2" thick but not tight or matted.

This area gets plenty of sunlight, as is evident by the standing growth in both pictures. Some of that growth is knee high. This picture was taken around 0900 so the sun wasn't close to being overhead yet. The first picture is facing west and the second picture is facing east.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
Is this your property? If you have access I would hinge cut some trees around the road to get some sunlight to the road.

It is. I have considered doing some hinge cutting but in all honesty, this area gets plenty of sun light, as is evident by the standing growth bordering the lane. Some of that stuff is knee high. The pictures were taken early in the morning so the sun hadn't had a chance to get overhead yet. You can't see it in this picture but the south and west sides of the lane are considerably more open than the north and east sides of the lane.
 

omicron1792

5 year old buck +
If thatch is dead I would do thick cereal rye with shade tolerant clover. Landino does pretty well in some shade, with some annuals.

It looks pretty flat but if you remove all the thatch your seeds could wash, especially since you don’t have equipment to bury the seed. If it hasn’t broken down some by planting time, I may rake a little to expose some dirt but not remove all of the thatch.

Btw, I plant all my logging roads too. I just love how they look. I still would consider taking some trees out right next to road, called day lighting.

In future I would spray, spread seed, then mow so thatch is on top of seed and pushes down to soil. Can be hard to get seed to ground after thatch is down. I still bet heavy rye would do well.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
If thatch is dead I would do thick cereal rye with shade tolerant clover. Landino does pretty well in some shade, with some annuals.

It looks pretty flat but if you remove all the thatch your seeds could wash, especially since you don’t have equipment to bury the seed. If it hasn’t broken down some by planting time, I may rake a little to expose some dirt but not remove all of the thatch.

Btw, I plant all my logging roads too. I just love how they look. I still would consider taking some trees out right next to road, called day lighting.

Yeah, it's very flat so the seed being washed away is definitely a concern with removing the thatch. This area is the high spot in this creek bottom.

With the thatch layer only being 1/4"-1/2" thick now, what would the preferred thatch layer thickness be, if the plan is to not remove the thatch layer?
 

omicron1792

5 year old buck +
Yeah, it's very flat so the seed being washed away is definitely a concern with removing the thatch. This area is the high spot in this creek bottom.

With the thatch layer only being 1/4"-1/2" thick now, what would the preferred thatch layer thickness be, if the plan is to not remove the thatch layer?
Thatch is a good thing. You just typically want it on top of seed not under it.

Go to food plot section and read sticky post at top called throw and now. It’s a fun read and will answer most or all of your questions.

Also, you can reply to one of crimson n camo posts and he will usually reply. Has lots of knowledge on this and is also in the southeast like us.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
Thatch is a good thing. You just typically want it on top of seed not under it.

Go to food plot section and read sticky post at top called throw and now. It’s a fun read and will answer most or all of your questions.

Also, you can reply to one of crimson n camo posts and he will usually reply. Has lots of knowledge on this and is also in the southeast like us.

Yeah, I'm torn on what to do with that thatch. I was watching a video on no-till/no-plow food plots buy the folks at Whitetail Institute (can't remember the biologist's name on the video) and he said to broadcast seed on top of your thatch (assuming the thatch layer isn't matted and/or thick) but then I've read/watched other articles and videos that say to clear it completely. I guess this debate is like every other debate in the hunting world. Lol!

Thanks for the feedback and the tips! Greatly appreciated.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
Leave it. Go find more

It'll likely be almost gone by the time you wanna plant. If it's not it'll be pressed flat to the soil and not be an issue. Roots will punch right through that little bit of thatch, especially if it's not leaves. Exposed seed, especially on a trail, is at high risk of being eaten by the wildlife.

If you can get your hands on some small square bales of straw or alfalfa, I'd put down bought thatch after you spread seed. Free fertilizer and improved and reliable germination. 4-5 bales would go a long way on a spot like that. When I started, I had spots like that. I did everything I could to push output on small spaces. A few bags of lime and a bag of gypsum would be a good idea too if your pH is low.

Thank you for bringing this up. It gave me a reason to dig out some old trail food photos. ***Keep in mind, these are not hunt access trails.

q3.PNG

q.PNG
 

Someday isle

5 year old buck +
I too use old logging roads as food plots. When starting out I used the LC cereal grain mix (plenty of info on that on this sight). For the trails I use white clover. I started with Ladino and kopu 2 mixed together at 6 lbs per acre. I know lots of guys swear by Durana and I’d like to try that in the future. I then frost seed in the late winter and over seed a little rye every fall. It’s been mostly successful. Over the last few years I’ve opened them up a little more and worked at 2C8622FB-F953-4AA9-AE0C-E9FE47F0AF02.jpeg63F7AC9C-FE89-4301-91FC-2A6F294582AC.jpeg93722DA3-7EBD-4AA6-A18D-CBE1A265ED01.jpeg89D6DBAA-3EBA-4CA5-87E1-22CBFF936B29.jpeggetting more sunlight to them but it works well enough for it’s intended purpose.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
Leave it. Go find more

It'll likely be almost gone by the time you wanna plant. If it's not it'll be pressed flat to the soil and not be an issue. Roots will punch right through that little bit of thatch, especially if it's not leaves. Exposed seed, especially on a trail, is at high risk of being eaten by the wildlife.

If you can get your hands on some small square bales of straw or alfalfa, I'd put down bought thatch after you spread seed. Free fertilizer and improved and reliable germination. 4-5 bales would go a long way on a spot like that. When I started, I had spots like that. I did everything I could to push output on small spaces. A few bags of lime and a bag of gypsum would be a good idea too if your pH is low.

Thank you for bringing this up. It gave me a reason to dig out some old trail food photos. ***Keep in mind, these are not hunt access trails.

View attachment 45104

View attachment 45106

Great info!! Thanks for sharing!

Leaves aren't much of a problem. I was just wondering about the thatch. I've even considered running over it one more time with the mower (self-mulching) just to grind it up a little finer but like I said, the thatch layer is no more than 1/2" across the entire plot.

Yeah, pH was definitely low (<5). That's why I was going to also treat the lane with PlotStart and also the seed blend I'm planning on using has a pH booster in it.

If I can get my little plot to look like the ones in your pictures in this first year, I'll be ecstatic!

Thanks again!
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
I too use old logging roads as food plots. When starting out I used the LC cereal grain mix (plenty of info on that on this sight). For the trails I use white clover. I started with Ladino and kopu 2 mixed together at 6 lbs per acre. I know lots of guys swear by Durana and I’d like to try that in the future. I then frost seed in the late winter and over seed a little rye every fall. It’s been mostly successful. Over the last few years I’ve opened them up a little more and worked at View attachment 45108View attachment 45109View attachment 45110View attachment 45111getting more sunlight to them but it works well enough for it’s intended purpose.

Very nice!!!

I'm trying not to get ahead of myself with regards to frost seeding but it's definitely a bridge I plan on crossing later this year. I'll keep your info for future reference because I'm sure I'll have questions about that when the time comes.

Thanks for sharing!
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
Good morning, all. This may have been discussed here (numerous times, I'm sure) but being a newbie, I ask for your patience and tolerance as I stumble through this site.

I live and hunt in SC. I have begun my first attempt at creating a honey hole food plot. I don't own or have access to planting equipment or land-working equipment. The arsenal of equipment at my disposal consists of a lawn mower, backpack spray, rakes and an over the shoulder seed spreader. I have done a fair bit of research and I believe I've picked a seed blend I'm going to plant and I've begun prepping the site. It's an old logging road that is in great condition (not all rutted up). The area I'll be planting is roughly 10' x 225'. When I first started, the lane had about 10"-12" of native broadleaf grasses growing on it but it wasn't very thick. So far, I have burned those grasses down using Glyphosate and after everything had died off, I mowed it very tight using a push mower but now I'm indecisive about what to do next.

I've read conflicting information about what to do with the thatch. I've read to completely remove all of the thatch to fully expose the seed bed and I've read that I should leave the thatch. It's not a very thick layer of thatch (1/4"-1/2"). I won't be planting until mid-September so I have some time to decide but I could use some guidance on what to do with the thatch... clear it or leave it. Also, I was planning on applying a soil amendment (going with PlotStart) so another question would be, if I decide to leave the thatch, how will that affect the application of my soil amendment?

I have attached two pictures of the plot (in the making). These pictures were taken standing in the middle of the plot, looking back towards either end. It is right after I mowed so the thatch looks thicker than it actually is right now and any and all vegetation growth has stopped.

I appreciate any guidance and feedback y'all are willing to share.

Thatch will be the least of your worries. Sunlight will be likely be the primary limitation regardless of planting technique.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
Thatch will be the least of your worries. Sunlight will be likely be the primary limitation regardless of planting technique.

As I mentioned previously, sunlight isn't an issue in this area. The picture was taken in the morning so the sun is nowhere near overhead in that picture. The south and west side of the area are very open and get plenty of sunlight, as is evident by the knee high growth surrounding the plot. The right edge of the first picture and the left edge of the second picture is the east side of the lane. The native growth stops pretty just beyond the edge on the east side but the growth on the west side (left edge of the 1st picture and right edge of the 2nd picture) goes well beyond the field of view of the picture and is knee high.

We're good to go on the sunlight. 👍
 

yoderjac

5 year old buck +
As I mentioned previously, sunlight isn't an issue in this area. The picture was taken in the morning so the sun is nowhere near overhead in that picture. The south and west side of the area are very open and get plenty of sunlight, as is evident by the knee high growth surrounding the plot. The right edge of the first picture and the left edge of the second picture is the east side of the lane. The native growth stops pretty just beyond the edge on the east side but the growth on the west side (left edge of the 1st picture and right edge of the 2nd picture) goes well beyond the field of view of the picture and is knee high.

We're good to go on the sunlight. 👍

I question how 10' wide will get sufficient sun for many crops. Some shade tolerant clover may do OK. Certainly when the sun is overhead, if it is oriented right, you will get sun during that period, but the angle of the sun changes as the seasons changes. Leaves will be another issue. I've done some small micro-plots in the woods like that and found them problematic. Either I get leaf build up, or I'm out dealing with leaves and creating human activity at just the time I need to be hunting and not disturbing the area. If I wait until after the season to deal with leaves, they are on the ground long enough to acidify the soil.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying a plot like this is impossible. I've done them, I don't want to discourage you. My point is that I don't want you to give up on no-till based on tis plot as it is going to have special challenges regardless of planting technique.

Best of Luck,

Jack
 

omicron1792

5 year old buck +
Agree Jack.

There are plants that will do ok with less sun. There are some that do ok no till. There are some that do ok with low ph.

But there aren’t many that do ok with all three factors.

Those knee high native plants seem to do ok. I would pick things similar to them.
 

SD51555

5 year old buck +
Great info!! Thanks for sharing!

Leaves aren't much of a problem. I was just wondering about the thatch. I've even considered running over it one more time with the mower (self-mulching) just to grind it up a little finer but like I said, the thatch layer is no more than 1/2" across the entire plot.

Yeah, pH was definitely low (<5). That's why I was going to also treat the lane with PlotStart and also the seed blend I'm planning on using has a pH booster in it.

If I can get my little plot to look like the ones in your pictures in this first year, I'll be ecstatic!

Thanks again!
That sub 5 pH may be a big limiter to your output. One 50lb bag of lime on a 10 foot x 55 foot segment of trail is a 2-ton rate of lime. I might think about getting a few bags and getting that down as soon as you can. That will help with your thatch concerns if it seems like it's lasting longer than it should.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
I question how 10' wide will get sufficient sun for many crops. Some shade tolerant clover may do OK. Certainly when the sun is overhead, if it is oriented right, you will get sun during that period, but the angle of the sun changes as the seasons changes. Leaves will be another issue. I've done some small micro-plots in the woods like that and found them problematic. Either I get leaf build up, or I'm out dealing with leaves and creating human activity at just the time I need to be hunting and not disturbing the area. If I wait until after the season to deal with leaves, they are on the ground long enough to acidify the soil.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying a plot like this is impossible. I've done them, I don't want to discourage you. My point is that I don't want you to give up on no-till based on tis plot as it is going to have special challenges regardless of planting technique.

Best of Luck,

Jack

The lane I mowed is 10' wide, not the entire area. The area I chose to build this plot is roughly 50-60 yards wide on the south side of the lane and very open. There aren't any large leaf-bearing trees on the south and west side of the lane and the trees on the north and east side of the lane that do possess large leaves are a little further back from the lane so the leaves that drop will fall mainly outside of the lane. The lane itself gets very little in the way of fallen leaves.

While this is my first attempt at this type of food plot, I have years of experience on this piece of property and I am very familiar with the area this plot is being made in. There's a reason I selected this site. If it was an area that didn't get ample sunlight or got too choked out with leaves or held too much standing water or was too rocky or too sandy or whatever obstacles that stand in the way of successful food plots, I wouldn't have selected this area to create a food plot.

I'm not discouraged at all. Like I said, my expectations for this plot in its first year are extremely low. I plan to use this area as a test lab, if you will. I will learn what to do, what not to do, what to do different before formulating a proven process/approach and going to different parts of the property to create more small food plots. We already have large destination food plots on the property and they do very well. We try to hunt those plots as little as possible and typically only take youth/new hunters to those areas. I'm a bow hunter so I like to get back into the woods and that's why I'm looking to create these little "kill plots." I am aware of and have accepted the challenges that lie ahead.

Truthfully, while I've gotten a bunch of responses, I was really only looking for input on what to do with the thatch. Lol! I appreciate the constructive criticism and differing perspectives though. Thank you, Jack.
 

archer8030

A good 3 year old buck
That sub 5 pH may be a big limiter to your output. One 50lb bag of lime on a 10 foot x 55 foot segment of trail is a 2-ton rate of lime. I might think about getting a few bags and getting that down as soon as you can. That will help with your thatch concerns if it seems like it's lasting longer than it should.

Yep, definitely already have a plan in place to address the low pH.
 
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