Early Spring Frost Seeding: Do It Now!

If you have food plots with bare soil, then now is the time for frost seeding clover.

Early Spring Frost Seeding: Do It Now!

In my household, early spring is a time for both work (lawn and garden chores) and play (turkey hunting, fishing, etc.). That said, there’s one project that can’t be put off for two or three weeks because you’ll miss a critical window of opportunity.

Many times the ground is too soft during early spring for running a tractor or even an ATV with a disk. No worries. As long as you have exposed soil, you can broadcast clover seed and expect decent results. Frost seeding is a method of planting spring food plots without the need for working the soil. Prime locations for frost seeding are those food plots from last year that were planted in annuals such as brassicas and soybeans. Assuming whitetails hit these fields hard last season, they should be 90-plus percent exposed soil.

The key to success is getting the clover seed on the soil while your area is in the freeze/thaw/freeze cycle so common during early spring. If you tap maple trees for sap to make syrup, you know these conditions well. In my opinion, the best time to frost seed is the same time maple sap is running.

Don’t be afraid to broadcast clover seed on a couple inches of snow if you expect it to melt within a week or so. The night/day/night cycle of freeze/thaw/freeze, which causes creases in the soil to open wider, then close, then open again, will benefit from the added moisture. This essentially sucks the small clover seed into contact with the exposed soil, and after that the presence of moisture (spring rains) and sunlight takes care of the rest.

Four Frost Seeding Tips

  1. Read the directions on your clover seed bag for coverage recommendations, but understand these guidelines are for a prepared seedbed. Frost seeding requires a heavier application for success. In my opinion, you don’t need to double the recommended pounds-per-acre rate, but increasing it 50 percent is a good idea.
  2. Set your hand-held broadcast spreader on the smallest setting (probably No. 1). It’s better to spread the clover seed a bit too thin and have to walk the plot twice than run out of seed too soon.
  3. Knowing where you’ve walked in combination with the side-to-side distance covered by your broadcast spreader is important for proper seed application. Wear rubber boots because the soil will likely be muddy, unless you get in the field during the early morning when everything is still frozen. It should be easy to see where you’ve walked because you’ll see your boot tracks in the mud, snow or frosty ground.
  4. To aid in this proper coverage, I recommend choosing a food plot seed manufacturer that colors its seed for increased visibility. An easy-to-see clover seed I’ve used many times is Imperial Whitetail Clover from Whitetail Institute. As you can see in the photo below, its seed is bright blue, which I can see hitting the ground as I walk. This gives me confidence I’m broadcasting the right amount of seed and overlapping my back-and-forth passes without being wasteful. To my knowledge, Whitetail Institute is the only company that sells colored clover seed. Of course, you can have success with natural-colored clover seed from brands such as Antler King, Boss Buck, Evolved Habitats, Deer Creek, Frigid Forage, Hunter’s Specialties, Lucky Buck, Mossy Oak BioLogic and Pennington, just make sure you’re achieving proper coverage as you walk.
The blue-colored clover seed shown here is easy to see, which helped the author spread it evenly and thoroughly while frost seeding during March 2020.
The blue-colored clover seed shown here is easy to see, which helped the author spread it evenly and thoroughly while frost seeding during March 2020.

If you live in the Midwest, North or Northeast, then now is the time for frost seeding. Don’t delay!

Photos by Dave Maas

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