I hope you are one of the hundreds of people who planted a home garden this year. The weather has been cooperating and the plant damaging bugs have been minimal.
The Master Gardener office frequently receives calls from large property owners, some of which have hunting camps, wanting to know what crops to plant for deer. To address this question I consulted Dirk Shorter, Emmet Conservation District director and owner of Wycamp, a hunting camp here in Emmet County.
“To know where you’re going, you first need to know where you are,” explained Dirk, “get a soil test.” This is always the recommendation of MSU Extension, too.
Take several random samplings of soil approximately 6 inches deep that will truly represent the area you plan to plant. Mix your samples together in a bucket, collect two cups, place in a Ziploc bag and take it to your nearest MSU Extension office for processing. The report you will receive will tell you what nutrients your soil is lacking or what is in excess. It will also provide recommendations to balance your soil based on what you intend to plant.
“Balancing your soil will help achieve optimum growth,” explained Dirk.
He went on to say it is important to add the nutrients recommended as soon as possible so they have time to work in.
The next step is eliminating the competition, either by spraying or his organically preferred method of tilling the ground on hot sunny days. Dirk tills once or twice a week for a month to do a good job, without chemicals.
Your seed bed will now be ready for planting near the end of July or early August. What should you plant? Dirks favorite summer time deer planting is a mix of 20 pounds buckwheat, 2 pounds purple top turnips, 6 pounds red clover and 4 pounds sweet clover per acre. Dirk went on to explain his method of planting.
“I just broadcast the buckwheat and till it in. Then roll the area with a cultipacker (tractor) or 4 wheeler tires also do a good job of packing. Then mix the turnip and clover along with clover inoculant, broadcast lightly and roll in a cross pattern.”
Then just hope for a little luck and a little rain.
Deer will start on the quick starting buckwheat, giving the clover and turnips time to get started. Then they will eat the clover and turnip tops leaving you turnips for late season, unless you have a lot of deer in the area. In this case Shorter said, “You’ll need to get harvesting deer.”
The clover is a great cover crop that comes back the following year and can be plowed in to provide nitrogen for corn planting.
Dirk cautioned, “You don’t want to plant brassica (turnips, rape, kale) in the same plot two years in a row as this can perpetuate plant disease.”
Other great deer crops recommended by Dirk include winter wheat, forage oats, and rape.
He added, “It’s best to experiment a little to see what works best for your area on your soils.”
Cydney Steeb, Advanced Master Gardener, can be contacted at Emmet Conservation District, 3434 M-119, Harbor Springs (231) 439-8977 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Gardening Wit and Wisdom column runs every Wednesday.