By Bob Humphrey
By now you should have all your warm season food plots in, and if you’ve had sufficient rain they should be greening up nicely. You might think there’s nothing left to do until it’s time to start planting cool season annuals. And there isn’t, if you’re willing to accept what comes up as good enough. But if you want to maximize your spring planting efforts, there’s more that can be done.
Liming – Remember: lime takes time to react with the soil. Now is a good time to lime for your fall plots. Hook up a broadcast spreader to your Side-by-Side (SxS) vehicle and spread palletized lime. Apply during dry conditions. Some post-application rain will work lime into the soil, but heavy rains may wash it away; so check the forecast.
It will be incorporated into the soil more quickly if you disk or plow it in; but you can lime over an existing crop. Many SxS implements have discs with spreader attachments. If you have the disc attached, you may as well put it to good use.
Mowing - Periodic pruning of perennial plants like clover will maximize growth, nutrition and palatability. Young, rapidly-growing plants contain the most protein and thus are the most nutritious. Mature plants become more fibrous and less digestible. Keep them from maturing by mowing in June and in August. If you’re not sure when to mow, a good rule of thumb is to keep plants from growing beyond 8-10 inches tall. Mowing also reduces competition from undesirable weeds and allows sunlight to reach your intended plantings.
Spraying - Applying selective post-emergent herbicides, you can target invasive plants without harming non-target crops. What you should apply will depend on what you’ve planted, and you should consult an authority like your local extension service for recommendations.
Watering – In temperate regions this probably won’t be necessary, unless there’s a drought. Arid regions are a different story. Irrigation is the easiest way, if you have it. Otherwise, you may have to use your herbicide sprayer. Just be sure to rinse it thoroughly to remove any herbicide residue before watering.