Clover Food Plots: Pros and Cons of Spring vs. Late-Summer Plantings

As a whitetail hunter, you’re already thinking about ways to help your deer herd. But is spring the best time to plant clover food plots?

Clover Food Plots: Pros and Cons of Spring vs. Late-Summer Plantings

Planting food plots are fun projects to tackle with hunting buddies, and there’s no doubt the time, money and effort spent to provide whitetails with outstanding nutrition benefits the entire deer herd. That said, I’ve always found it difficult to find time during spring to dedicate toward food plot building/planting. I enjoy spring turkey hunting, and fishing is a passion of mine, too.

Frost seeding with clover, as I’ve detailed before on this website, is best done in late winter or very early in spring. The only problem with frost seeding clover is you can’t easily control weeds in that field. Sure, you’ll grow some clover, and you can do a bit of weed control by mowing, but a frost seeded clover field will always have more weeds present than you’d want under ideal conditions.

The very best way to plant a clean (i.e. weed-free) clover food plot is during late summer. Where I deer hunt in the upper Midwest, this means approximately August 1. At this time, weed growth is waning, and prior to planting clover you can aggressively control weeds with a herbicide, namely glyphosate. My method is to spray glyphosate (2 quarts per acre, mixed with water in a tank sprayer mounted on an ATV) around July 1 and then wait 2 weeks for the weeds to turn yellow/brown. Next, I’ll disk or till the soil with a compact tractor, then level the soil with a fence drag pulled by an ATV. Because this action will bring dormant weed seeds to the surface, I’ll wait another two weeks, which brings me to August 1-ish. Yes, some new weeds will be growing in the field, but because glyphosate won’t affect clover seed, I can broadcast the seed over the soil and then spray herbicide one final time to kill the weeds.

Tip: Clover planted on August 1 won’t produce much, if any, food for whitetails that fall because almost all of the plant’s energy goes toward root growth. However, you can add brassica seed (an annual) to your broadcasting efforts and you’ll have a wonderful attractant for late September and into October, November and December. And the following spring, you’ll have a weed-free clover plot ready to flourish. Because clover is a perennial, it will attract whitetails for a few years. Mowing the clover plot to a height of 6-8 inches during the summer will help control future weeds.

Check out the video below from Jeff Sturgis of Whitetail Habitat Solutions; he discusses the pros and cons of planting clover in spring vs. fall.


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