One of our most frequently asked questions is “How do I plant Tecomate products and how should I manage them for best performance.” Of course, the answer depends on many factors, including what you’re planting, where you’re planting, your equipment and your level of intensity. Here, we are going to offer with some general step-by-step guidelines that should help you be successful with Tecomate products no matter what your situation. We want you to be successful with Tecomate products, and our staff of wildlife managers and seedsmen are always ready to help.
Here are the topics we will discuss in this two-part article:
• Site Selection and basic soil type
• Determining your soil fertility
• Fertility and inoculation
• Land preparation
• Weed Control
• Planting information
All plants require several components for optimum growth, among which are sunlight, water, nutrients and soil conducive to good drainage and adequate water-holding capacity.
When attracting and feeding deer and turkeys, this most often means planting in wooded areas. However, selecting your planting site in tall timber where sunlight is filtered at best through the trees is not the ideal. The process of photosynthesis is where the plant converts sunlight into energy. Less energy, therefore, means less chance for good performance. Plants will grow spindly and have wider leaves trying to capture sunlight if grown in shady areas. Tree roots can also compete for moisture and nutrients.
Look for areas where sunlight penetrates well if you plant in woodland areas. Obviously, the best area for site selection is in similar situations as farmers would use for planting their crops. Fields next to deer and turkey habitat are excellent choices.
The second component for optimum growth is adequate water. Unless you plan to irrigate, this component is left to natural rainfall. There are some additional points for you to consider which will help you in the long run. Your local weather service has historical records of rainfall patterns (your TV or radio station can get you in the right direction to find this information). If these records indicate periods of drought in September, but October historically has good rainfall, then choose the period where the time after planting will give you good water reserves for stand establishment and early growth. Good seedling establishment can aid in weathering periods of dry weather later on.
We will discuss this topic in more detail later in this article.
Soil Types and Drainage
All soils are made up of four components: 1) Sand 2) Silt 3) Clay and 4) Organic Matter. Organic matter is important and can be considered as an aid to fertility. But, we are only going to discuss the mineral components. As the percentages of each of these components vary, the characteristics of that soil change. This can be a very complicated subject and gets into soil chemistry and soil physics which agronomists study constantly. For our discussion; we are going to take the more simple approach.
When a soil has equal concentration of sand, silt and clay, it is classified as a loam. Soils can have all variations of these components and may include names like sandy clay loam or silty clay depending on the percentage of each component. Soil agronomists have classified most every soil type in the U.S. and have mapped where they occur. You can most likely find the exact soil type you have by checking with your county extension agent or soil conservation service. Here are some basic characteristics to give us the background we need.
Sandy Soils – when the greatest percentage of the four components is sand, then the soil is classified as sandy and as the percentage of sand decreases, the soil type moves more toward a loam or loamy sand. Sandy soils typically are very productive and well drained, but as a downside, they are also the worst for water holding capacity and for holding nutrients which can be leached through the soil profile by rainfall percolating down. If you live in areas where rainfall yearly totals are greater than 20 inches, then your sandy soils are most likely low in pH and liming may be needed to correct this problem. A good rule of thumb to remember on correcting pH is that the sandier the soil, the less lime it takes to raise the pH but the more frequently applications have to be made to maintain proper levels. We will discuss this more later. Sandy soils, therefore are usually good choices for planting your plots. Realize that the sandier the soil, the more water and fertility are going to be required for optimum growth.
Silt Soils - The best way to describe silt, is that, when it is dry, it feels like talcum power in your fingers. Silt and silt loam soils are some of the most productive agricultural soils in the world. Silt soils have high water holding capacity, usually fertile, good tilth or workability, good drainage, but, may still be low in pH.
Clay Soils - These soils can also be very productive but may have poorer drainage and require much more lime to raise the pH up to an optimum level if the pH tests low. Clay soils hold a tremendous amount of water due to the larger amount of total surface area on the smaller particles of soil. This surface area of the clay particles is a factor in holding strongly to residual nutrients and may mean more fertilizer must be added to maintain availably.
We don’t have much control over the soil types where we need to plant our plots. Having some basic knowledge of the soil and its characteristics can help us manage better, however.
Determining your Soil Fertility
There is only one good way to determine what your fertility levels are…soil testing. Take a representative sample of the field in a plastic bucket. Use a soil probe if you have one or small shovel if you don’t. Dig down about four inches and take the top couple of inches and discard. This has a higher concentration of organic matter and can give you false information. Soil testing supplies are available at http://www.gemplers.com . Mix the soil thoroughly and take about a pint to a quart in to be analyzed. Sample boxes are available from your extension service. There are some kits available which let you find out what your pH is and what levels of nutrients are in the soil. Our recommendation is to take the time and get an accurate assessment of the plot through a good soil test from your county extension service or other private laboratories equipped to give the best decision making information to you. Tell the testing facility you intend to plant legumes for wildlife plots for proper analysis to be done. If you are planting Max Attract 50/50, then request testing for small grain/clover mixture. Here are some basic things you will be able to find out from this test:
1. Soil pH – this is a measure of the soil’s acidity or alkalinity. It is based on a scale of 1-14 with 7 being neutral. Readings below 7, indicate acid soil and above 7, alkaline. For best production of the varieties in Tecomate Seed Company products, a pH in the range of 6.5 – 6.8 is optimum. Your soil test will most likely also tell you a buffer pH. This is related to your soil type. The higher the clay content the more lime required. Buffer pH helps determine amounts needed.
2. Major elements available – the major elements are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, N-P-K. When you buy a bag of fertilizer the three numbers are an indication of N-P-K. For example, 13-13-13 means there is 13% of each of the components N-P-K available to the plant in the bag and the remainder is inert materials. Sometimes, the amount of Sulfur is also shown on the soil test.
3. Minor elements available – minor elements are most often not tested unless requested. Go ahead and get this done. It will help you determine fertilizer selections later if you are deficient in these elements. Most often they are used in very little, but sometimes critical amounts by the growing crop. One of these elements, Molybdenum, is critical in proper nodulation of legumes. Tecomate Seed Company legumes are included in the components of all our products except Chicory. We will cover this in the section on inoculation.
4. Lastly, the soil test results will give you recommendation to amend the soil to optimum.
Join me next week when I will discuss fertility and inoculation, land preparation, weed control and planting information in the second article of this two-part series.