A small amount of fresh snow creates prime conditions for broadcasting seed.
The cold truth about frost seeding
by Jarrod E. Stephens
Cold weather months are typically when land managers make plans for spring and summer food plots, but the coldest days of the year can be the best time for hunters to get an early start on planting successful legume plots by frost seeding.
Frost seeding is an old-fashioned technique where seeds are applied directly to the soil and the freeze/thaw cycle helps seedlings work into the soil and germinate.
Once you throw the seed, you don’t have to cover it because nature does the work as the ground thaws. Continued freezing and thawing pull the seeds into the soil. Clover and alfalfa can be successfully frost seeded for food plots.
Prepare the soil
One advantage of frost seeding is that you don’t have to turn the soil completely. The most effective way to prepare soil is with a disk and tractor. If you live in a region with harsh, freezing weather, work the ground lightly when the ground is not frozen. Expose a shallow layer of soil for the seedbed.
If you don’t have access to a disk and tractor, choose a location where there is little or no vegetation. If dead vegetation covers the ground, remove it by mowing or a prescribed burn. When you cast the seed, ensure they have direct contact with the soil.
You can plant plots on hilly or rough terrain that may be too rugged to reach with your tractor or ATV . Ensure the seeds have direct contact with the soil.
Soil preparation is the key regardless of when you plant.
Cast the seed
When sowing small legume seeds, choose a time when there is little or no wind. Even the slightest breeze can result in less than desirable coverage. Sow early in the morning to put the freeze/thaw cycle immediately to work for your food plot. Pay close attention to the distance at which you broadcast the seeds. As you arrive at the end of the field and begin to return, allow the edges of the seed line to overlap. Sow the seeds in a grid pattern for the best coverage. You can use a handheld seed sower or one on your ATV, but a handheld model will best help you monitor coverage when sowing small seeds like clover and alfalfa. Apply 8 to 10 pounds of red clover seed per acre for a strong stand once the plants mature. If you use alfalfa, 10 pounds per acre will be sufficient. Or plant both and create your own special blend.
A small accumulation of fresh snow creates prime conditions for broadcasting seeds. Light snow will help you see where you’ve walked, which helps ensure even coverage. Clover and alfalfa seeds are quite small so you won’t have to worry about birds feasting on your hard work. Avoid sowing the seeds on snow more than an inch deep because a quick melt will wash them away.
Apply a low- nitrogen fertilizer immediately after sowing the seed. However, the fertilizer will immediately benefit the seedlings if you wait for warmer weather and for the seedlings to emerge.
Maintain your plot
After the seedlings in your plot emerge, they will have a few weeks to grow before any formidable competition arises from weeds. Weed control is important and getting good seed coverage during planting limits the success of weeds.
Roundup Ready alfalfa seed gives you the upper hand since you can apply herbicide directly to the plot without harming the alfalfa. Trim competing vegetation for best results.