How and When to Lime Food Plots
No matter what size food plot you like to plant on your property, you owe it to yourself to get familiar with soil pH. Can you ignore it all, toss some seed out onto bare dirt, and get something to grow? Sure. You might grow something that will interest the deer and turkeys, especially if there aren’t many food plots or ag fields in your area. But wouldn’t you rather plant a deer and turkey magnet that really produces high quality food to attract wildlife? In many cases, lime can be a useful amendment. Here are some tips for how and when to lime food plots.
Poor Food Plot Soil pH
Starting off, pH is basically the level of acidity in a substance. Low pH values (0-7) are acidic, 7 is neutral, and high pH values (7-14) are basic or alkaline. When your soil pH is off, it causes many effects to the soil and the plants growing in it. Most soils tend to be on the acidic side because rainwater leaches calcium and magnesium out of the soil over time. This hinders the plants from being able to access all the nutrients they need to grow well.
To counteract the acidity (low pH) in the soil, you need to apply something alkaline, such as lime (often calcium carbonate). Unfortunately, traditional lime takes time to affect the soil chemistry, often a few years. It won’t help you much in the here and now. It’s also not easy to spread traditional agricultural lime. For many small, hidden food plots, you might not even be able to get heavy machinery in there to help spread it efficiently. In that case, you’re talking about hauling individual 50 pound bags of lime in and spreading it by hand. Not an easy or appealing option for most people, including Jeff Sturgis from Whitetail Habitat Solutions, who did this very thing for several years. Check out his perspective on why April is a great time to apply PlotStart.
Food Plot Lime Alternatives
As an alternative to applying lime, you can take a different approach with DeerGro PlotStart™. This product consists of liquid calcium, which essentially provides many of the benefits of lime with a much easier and faster application process. Just mix PlotStart with water into your favorite backpack or ATV sprayer, and spray food plots with the solution. Only 2.5 gallons of the product (enough to cover up to one acre) has the equivalent pH-changing power as 1 ton of traditional lime, which may be enough to raise the pH a full point (i.e., from 5.5 to 6.5) in certain soils. This solution not only influences the pH, but it helps improve plant growth and yield by releasing more minerals and nutrients that the plants can then uptake. In acidic soils, you throw your money away on fertilizer costs because the plants can’t utilize the nutrients. But when you combine fertilizer with PlotStart, you can essentially double down on the impact because the nutrients are more soluble in the soil.
When to Lime Food Plots
Now you know some options for how to do it, but what about when to lime food plots? The whole idea behind PlotStart is that it works immediately upon spraying. So regardless if you want to plant summer food plots in the spring or hunting food plots in the late summer, you can use PlotStart spray to quickly change the pH and prepare your soils for planting. You can apply PlotStart before or at planting time on tilled or untilled ground. It really doesn’t matter. The one caveat is that you shouldn’t apply it in heavy rain or saturated soil conditions, as the calcium solution may run off the food plot area before soaking into the soil.
Here’s a quick example of when to lime food plots: after killing the weed competition, you can spread your food plot seeds and spray a solution of PlotStart and water over the top of the plot. This will immediately start working on the soil, plus it will give the seeds some moisture for germination. If you time this application process ahead of some steady rain, you can be sure your food plot will jump to life quickly.